Friday, March 11, 2011

The Courage to Change


And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

–Anais Nin

The second line of the Serenity Prayer asks God to grant us the courage to change the things we can.

As we discovered before, basically the only thing we can control, or change, is ourselves. But changing ourselves is often difficult. And scary.

I spent most of my life driven by fear. Einstein said that the most important decision we make in our lives is the choice to see the universe as hostile or to see the universe as friendly. I chose to see world as hostile, although I did not recognize it as a choice at the time.

Then one night I ended up at the hospital with a pain in my solar plexus that was so excruciating I thought I was dying. The doctor in the emergency room asked me to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being childbirth. Without hesitation (and clearly without ever having given birth), I gasped, “12!”

The suspected diagnosis was gall stones but tests revealed none. Ulcer? Nope. They drugged me and sent me home with instructions for follow up tests. But by the next morning I intuitively knew, and I was right, that the tests would reveal nothing. I understood that this was my wake up call from life. In case I missed the point, or was tempted to ignore it, I ended up in the hospital again ten days later in a deja vu repeat.

Life was telling me that the choice to remain tight in a bud was more painful than making the changes I needed to make in my life to blossom. It worked. The physical pain I experienced those two nights was so alarming that I was willing to do most anything to not suffer from it a third time.

So I changed the only thing I It didn’t happen overnight or without setbacks, but I made a different choice about how I saw the universe. I chose to see it as friendly rather than hostile. I reset my homepage, so to speak, to a happy place by developing habits to grow a joyful spirit.

If you are reading this, you are probably making some changes in your life, too. Or you made them long ago. Or you want to make them. Setting out to change ourselves takes courage. We are very brave.


  1. I am not brave. I am tough. I have had my fill of pain. I believe fear is a good thing. It keeps us alive. It prevents us from being foolish. Like you, I chose many years ago to see the universe as friendly. Little did I know it actually was. Galen, you are a gem.

  2. JJ--I don't know what is better than a gem, but that's what you are!

  3. " I reset my homepage, so to speak, to a happy place by developing habits to grow a joyful spirit" and that is truly what it is all about. Resetting our own way of thinking, rather than trying to change everyone else to suit our expectations.

  4. People can change but it's most difficult to do it on their own. They need a cacalyst to boost them along the way. Sometimes it's a deep misfortune where you hit rock bottom and there's no way out but up. Loss of loved ones who were their enablers is often a call to change or the help of a "good" therapist. You can change your habits or the way you view the world or the glass.... half full or half empty.
    Love and peace.

  5. I'm always open to making changes about myself. I realize I'm FAAAAR from perfect.

    I'm wondering if someone is genetically creepy or has genetic quirks like their father or mother had can those be changed.

    In other words, my husband is slowly starting to act like his mother. She's not right in the head sometimes.

  6. Amen, we have to make choices that makes us better people. It is all about perspective. Change can be hard, but God's grace is sufficient.

  7. Such a message of joy and hope for anyone who is currently going through [or has already gone through] the difficult process of change.

    We ARE brave!

    For "courage is not the absence of fear... but our triumph over it" [wise words from Nelson Mandela]

    It's just so very true.

    Thank you so much for your personal insight here Galen. A powerful and inspiring message.

  8. Mitzi--In spite of my awareness of this point, I still catch myself trying to change someone else from time to time!

    Manzanita--I think you are right. Something has to happen that makes the effort to change more desirable than the status quo.

    ryoko--Your comment made me think of the perfection of imperfection. As someone said, I'm not okay, and you're not okay, and that's okay!

    Toyin--A good dose of grace certainly helps us make the changes we want to make!

    Jean--Thank you for the Mandela quote--Now there is someone who walked his talk.

  9. Change, wow, where to start! lol I know what others mean when they say they had to hit rock bottom or something had to happen in order for the change process to begin. It's not an easy journey by no means but those of us who have experienced life altering change through baby steps know that it's more painful to stay stuck in the same rut, wheels spinning and not going anyplace.

    "Courage to change the things I can"... sure courage, but what's that? When my changes began I had to dig into my soul and did I ever have to dig deep to muster up even an iota of courage, but it's there! Today I still experience fear, the difference being is knowing what a healthy fear is and one which is unhealthy. My life is so fulfilled today, yes with ups and downs but thankfully there's so many more ups and when I fall it doesn't hurt anymore, not nearly as far to fall these days it seems. With the friends I choose today there's always a hand reached out to help me back up again.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post, I love coming here... it helps me to remember where I've come from. Enjoy your Sunday! :-)

  10. Thank God, I was able to have had the courage to change when I needed to the most. Like Manzanita said sometimes we need a catalyst, which could include finding ourselves at an absolute dead end...and there's no way to go except out. Which is what happened to me.

  11. darlin--I know from other things you have said that you have indeed worked very hard to have the courage to change the things you could. I'm so pleased that you enjoy your visits here!

    Corinne--Thanks for your comment. I suspect those of us who have made fundamental changes in our lives were motivated by finding oursleves at the end of our ropes, so to speak.

  12. I always wish I could see and recognize those set back earlier in the game, but I seem to need to suffer each step of a change.

    I can not remember who said this quote but it always comes to mind when I am suffering: "I will not let you go until I bless you." Suffering will not let me go until it blesses me.
    A friend once said to me "Why do you think you must always be stung by a bee to make a change? I do not know, but I do believe this is true for me and my efforts. Lovely blog background picture for your posts....I can smell them!

  13. Patricia--The quote reminds me of the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel. Jacob said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." Is that what you are thinking of? Thanks for your comment.

  14. Hi Galen,

    Change is a fearful thing. Since the status quo is familiar, there is great inertia when we try to change it. How often have you heard people who talk about returning to the way things were? Reading about your experience in the hospital, I am reminded by a quote by Kahlil Gibran that I love, "Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

    While I did not experience the pain you did, I was unhappy for a long time in my life until I learned to take responsibility for my actions and choices. Simply listening to others because I thought they knew better didn't cut it for me. What may have made perfect sense for them did not necessarily make perfect sense to me. Only when I had the courage to change, did my life take a turn for the better.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! :)

    Irving the Vizier

  15. Lovely article. Your story is very inspiring. I found it interesting that the doctor in the emergency room asked you to rate the pain. It's amazing that you managed to understand the life lesson to be gathered from your experience. Thank you for encouraging us all to have the courage to make needed changes!

  16. Irving--Thank you for sharing that quote from Kahlil Gibran. I love it, too, and it's a perfect quote for this post. Taking responsibility for yourself--that is the key, I think. Like you, I listened to others for most of my life, not trusting my own wisdom, needing validation from outside. Thank you for your comment.

    Evelyn--I think the doctor's question was interesting, too. For one, it assumed that I knew what the pain of childbirth felt like. I have five kids, but all are adopted or foster, so I don't know how to evaluate that pain. Second, I wonder how he asks men to evaluate pain! Hmmm. Thank you for your commnent.


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