Change: It’s Not a Solitary Thing

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Six weeks ago I decided to make a change.  This change had been a long time coming as I had been doing research for some time (over two years).  Finally, I was ready to pull the trigger and go all in—I made the change to a plant based diet.  Essentially, I am eating a vegan style diet—no animal products.  I made the switch on a Friday right before hosting a party for my husband’s birthday the following night.  Our friends immediately noticed that I was eating differently and the questions started coming.  What precipitated this change?  What about getting all the vitamins and minerals you need?  What about the rest of the family? How will you eat out?  What will you eat when you travel?  Are you having a mid-life crisis?  All excellent questions.  And at times exhausting to answer.

Initially, I was feeling a little judged by friends and family.  I would leave conversations feeling like I had to defend my choice to change. Mike helped me reframe their questions by reminding me that they have known me a certain way for so long that this is a big change for them, too.  It might impact social gatherings and dining out.  It can create unexpected tension between you and the ones you love as everyone adjusts.  He also pointed out that anyone I meet going forward will only know me as eating a plant based diet so if I were to again suddenly start eating meat, they would seriously question that change.  I love this man for helping me see things in a new way.

I’m finding making this change really easy for me, however, it is challenging managing the external forces that impact that change.  For example, my oldest daughter, Caroline, was unhappy that I made such a sudden change.  She was not prepared for it.  I hadn’t considered that it would be kind to notify my older kids and explain myself.  I also find it difficult to discuss my change with my husband, Mike.  He’s not interested in making the change with me so I feel uncomfortable sharing my excitement with him about how great I feel and how much fun I’m having learning as I make this change.  (I’m a little like an evangelist about plant based diets and healing from the inside out, right now.)  To be fair, he’s been 100% supportive and has not tried to sabotage or make it difficult for me.  Quietly, I’m hopeful he will see me feeling better than ever and want to be a part of it.

The point I’m trying to make is that change isn’t something isolated.  It’s not an activity that occurs in a vacuum.  A great example is someone who is significantly overweight and suddenly decides to adopt a healthy lifestyle for themselves.  Everyone around them is impacted—those who have enabled the unhealthy behaviors suddenly are unsure of the role they play in your life.  Although unintentional, those around us are forced to change, too.  Those who have fed us great baked goods all these years, may feel hurt when we no longer eat them.  Our family may rebel as we introduce new recipes and debunk myths about our former habits.  The individual in our example starts exercising, looking and feeling better—this may create fear for significant others that we may leave or pursue someone “better.”

This same thing applies if you quit your job to pursue your dream; or sell everything and move to a foreign land in order to feel at home with your soul; and any other major change that you undergo—you’re not alone. Those who love you and are familiar with you are forced to change, too, and to see you in a new light.

You may be wondering, “okay, so what? How do I make my change in a way that honors the change in others?”

  • Get clear about WHY you are making the change.
  • Tell those closest to you about your change in advance of making the change. Be sure you communicate your WHY.  (I wish I had done this better.)
  • Be sure you find some new support, outside of your immediate family and friends, who are on a similar journey so you have a place to evangelize about how excited you are about your change. These new relationships will sustain you when the change gets hard.

Keeping this in mind will allow you to navigate your change and your relationships with greater care.  Change is definitely not a solitary thing.

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