Call to Change: This Isn’t Working
Countless, endless and quickly moving thoughts stirred in my mind as 2021 slowly began to make its way to a rightful close. One of the most common iterations was, this isn’t working. What we are doing isn’t working. What we aren’t doing is also not working.
This is a general, specific, global and local statement that’s truth has seeped into my bones: this isn’t working.
There is hardly an area in my life that I could not apply this statement to and it find some traction. This is not to say my life is terrible or awful, it’s to say that just because I can get away with it doesn’t mean the mismatch should be ignored.
I think that’s how Lowi and I landed on the construct of recalibration. We have discussed consistently and regularly the unease, the desire for normalcy, the desire to be able to return to life as we once knew it. I think what has finally and fully dawned on most of us is that life before March 2020 will never be recaptured. As Taylor Swift so insightfully sings, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” By which I mean to relay, we will never be the people we were before. We will never return to the life we once knew. Our innocence about some truths can never be reinhabited. This is how human life works. Bells cannot unring and toothpaste cannot be tidily returned to its tube. This is not to say our next incarnation of life is bound to be horrific and miserable. It’s to say let’s stop looking back with nostalgia for something that has ended and instead begin to look upon the horizon with clear eyes and an open heart. This is a chance to begin again.
As with most things, I like to be sure we are having the same conversation. Let’s start with what recalibrate means and since there is the prefix “re” let’s get to the root of calibrate.
Many of you may take this moment to breathe deeply, sigh and say a special prayer for my husband John as he lives with me and these sort of wordy analytics on the daily.
Here we go, friends.
“Calibrate is to check or adjust by comparison with a standard while recalibrate is to calibrate for a second or subsequent time.”
What caught my attention is that we adjust “based on comparison with a standard.” Now I suppose if you are following a recipe or increasing the air pressure in a tire having a standard that is agreed upon matters but for the purposes of this discourse let’s free ourselves.
I am no longer interested in meeting collectively agreed-upon standards for my life. Already the calibration or calibrating again has begun. The American standard of “live to work and make money and sleep when you’re dead” rubric has taken its last bit of joy from my life. I resolve (the only resolution I am making this year) to surrender the idea that my worth is measured against guidelines that to date I have never seen make anyone happy. I have seen these rules make people miserable, ever-striving, and incapable of contentment but never at ease or at peace.
Do I value hard work? Yes, I do. Do I value work as a substitute for self-worth? No, I do not. Or more accurately, I should say I no longer do.
Here we are friends at the precipice of the rest of our lives. If we stay awake in our lives, we’ll realize we are always at the precipice. It doesn’t show up dramatically every day but the little, imperceptible, seemingly inconsequential choices we make all day, every day are constructing this life. We are always on the edge of something. We simply don’t know what.
You may fear I have lost my way in this meandering but have faith, my friend, we are going somewhere. In the last two years we have been pushed, nudge, squeezed, and/or jostled in a hundred different ways that again and again request our attention. Another way to look at it is to ask, is this working? Am I effectively responding? Does it make me feel good about myself? Is this the style in which I intend to live? And by style, I mean the presence, the awareness, the purpose I wish to bring to this human experience?
I get it, the mundane and minutiae of the day-to-day can be so over- and underwhelming that it doesn’t feel there is time to take this sort of inventory, and even if you have the time do you have the mental or emotional capacity?
If you have been dropping pins while reading this missive in hopes of Hansel and Gretel-ing your way out if need be, we’ve arrived.
I submit for your consideration that if you routinely do not have the bandwidth to ever consider your life in any fashion that, in fact, may be the cue that you need to. If your life is ever running at a pace that you cannot manage, I offer you to ponder who is at the steering wheel? I pose these questions without judgment. I have to ask myself these same questions, too.
This is how I know that calibration and recalibration are in order. In some aspects of my life, a first-ever calibration is in order, and in others, a recalibration based on my values. In case you don’t already sense it, this will bring disruption to your regularly scheduled programming. It will be uncomfortable but if you have continued to read this far in then you may recall, you already were and are. You too felt the pang, the twinge, the flinch of, this isn’t working.
My intention is to ease into this new year and stay curious. Asking myself as often as I can remember, why do I do (fill in the blank) this way? Is there a way that feels better to me? Does any of this bring me joy ever? This day is a snapshot of my life, is it one I’d like to frame?
Recalibrating a life is messy work but choosing to NOT recalibrate when it’s needed, I imagine, is equally mucky but with far less promise for relief. Hanging in there just because you can isn’t always the wisest decision. We value the ability to persevere in this culture and it has its merits. There is also tremendous worth in knowing when to cut the line and move on.
As we continue to see played out in both our personal lives and our collective lives, this isn’t working. Whatever you perceive “this” to be is irrelevant. It’s not working.
We must be willing to let go of what has ceased to serve us, maintain what genuinely is, and have the discernment and the courage to suss that out every single day.
Recalibrating a new year
As we enter a new year we, like many of you, are thinking about making changes. You have probably heard the slogan, “New Year, New You” or “Best Year Yet” or one I just heard, “Let us do better than the past…. Let us make the coming year the best year.” All of these are great one-liners, but that is all they are. This year, we need to move past slogans and actually do something. We aren’t talking about transformation which is typically sweeping, dramatic changes that fizzle out by February, we are talking about small, tiny movements toward a better everything. We are talking about Recalibration; changing the way you do or think about something. We are talking about making a course correction, modifying how we do things, and altering our daily activities until we make a difference in how we are living.
I always begin each year optimistic, motivated, and energized, but real-life change always seems to elude me. Sure, I have accomplished goals like losing weight, running races, and writing a book, but I always seem to land back in familiar territory each December.
I have given the idea of recalibrating a lot of thought as I find myself in an interesting position this new year. My employment as a full-time mom has been phased out. I like to say I have retired and I’m currently doing consulting work, which feels accurate given the daily phone calls from my offspring. Now, if I could just find a way to get paid for it. I have let my coaching business take a back burner for the last couple of years as people weren’t needing a lot of life coaching while they were sitting on their sofas watching Netflix.
So, here I am almost at the two-year mark of this alternate universe we have been living in, I have no kids at home, a non-existent business, no weddings or big events to plan, I’m less than happy with my health choices lately, and unsure of my next step. I know that I need to think about things differently and make some changes.
Maybe you can relate or maybe you have just one area in your life that could use a little tweaking; recalibrating. So, what does that even mean? Let me give you a real-life example.
Two of my girls have Type 1 Diabetes and once upon a time they had to “calibrate” their continuous glucose monitors so that over time it would give them more accurate blood sugar readings. Every few hours they would have to repeat the process of taking their blood sugar and entering it manually and little by little, recalibrate their numbers. It wasn’t easy. The technology was new and it was frustrating. More than once they wanted to give up and just go back to the old way of doing things, but if they kept with it eventually they would get their monitor to work at an optimal level. Isn’t that what we all want? To be functioning at an optimal level in all areas of our lives? Sound familiar?
For so many of us, going back to our old habits and way of doing things feels easier, but is it really? Is it easy to be in the same place this year as you were last January? Is it easier to weigh more because you want to continue eating things that aren’t healthy for you? Is it easier to feel unfulfilled because you were too scared to try something new? Is it easier to live a life that requires nothing from you in order to take zero chances that you might fail? Is it easier to not know who you are because trying to find yourself would take so many tiny recalibrations that you fear you would never get there?
We have to ask ourselves all the tough questions as we begin 2022. Do you want anything in your life to be different next January? If the answer is yes, now is the time to start charting a new course.