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Mindfully Mapping Change

November 6, 2012

Two weeks ago I thought life as I knew it was over.  I got braces.  Bottom teeth only, but from my reaction you’d think I’d been dismembered!

Here’s the cool part. My reactions were so intense and hilarious that I couldn’t not notice them.  (It also helped that they weren’t grounded in any form of reality.)

Here’s the process and accompanying thoughts that I observed:

First resistance/aversion/anger: “It’s too painful, I can’t chew, they look stupid, they’re inconvenient, braces are stupid, the orthodontist is stupid, he didn’t tell me I’d feel like this.”  To put the icing on the cake I walked out of his office and immediately put a piece of gum in my mouth because he told me I couldn’t.  Are you kidding me?!  I’m 12, right?!  Like he cares if I metaphorically flip him the bird with a piece of gum.

Next came projection:  “I’ll never be able to eat salads, or apples, or nuts, or anything healthy or good for me ever again.  I can’t stand it for a year.  I’ll have him take them off when I go back.  If I have him take them off he’ll think I’m ridiculous.  Every adult who lived through braces will think I’m ridiculous.  I am ridiculous!!”

Then regret/blame:  “Why did I do this?!  If I’d have done it like a normal person, when I was little, it’d be over.  It’s stupid at my age.”  (I noticed my vocabulary deteriorated to stupid as my primary descriptive word.)  “Why didn’t my parents notice and do something about it then?  Were they blind?!”

Shame:  As I started seeing it become a bit more tolerable, I had the thought that maybe I could live through it.  That’s when I noticed shame at having over-reacted.  So I was off and running with, “For heavens’ sake, there are people in a bazillion countries without houses or food or water—what’s wrong with you??!!”

Finally, openness/willingness/curiosity=acceptance=gratitude:  Did NOT see that coming!

I suspect that continuing to meditate every morning through this process may be part of the reason it was so easy to ‘see’.  And since it was sort of entertaining to watch, it livened up my practice.

What I learned from this and some other changes I’ve recently experienced is that it takes me about three days to adjust to any relatively significant change. That’s the big news.  Three days is totally workable, at least for me.

So no, the openness/willingness/curiosity didn’t come immediately like I’d prefer.  But given the reality that a few years ago it might have been three weeks or three months or indefinitely that I’d have stayed in resistance or shame, I’ll take three days.  And if I keep getting better at this stuff, maybe I can shave off another day or two.

And please, please don’t think I’m in any way comparing this to a real disaster.  I truly get the size of my dilemma here.  At the same time I suspect I’ve learned some things that may serve me if and when life does hand me something deeply challenging.

I’d love to hear if you’ve noticed that you too go through a somewhat predictable process in dealing with life changes, big or little.


  1. Dick says:

    Robyn, my first reaction to your “totally awesome” (to you others reading this:an inside family joke) share: how did you get inside MY head? Get outta there! I, too, wander aimlessly unless I start every day with prayer and meditation. Center, connect, accept, breathe, give thanks…now, go forth…and try to act like an adult. That sums up my mantra.

    Honestly, Robyn, I’m trying to say this better than you did, and there is no way that is going to happen. Here is all I really want to say in response to your seedling:THANK YOU.

    • robyn1001 says:

      Thanks Dick! I know, for me it’s been so affirming finding out that i’m not the only one having crazy thoughts ! So thanks for affirming. Love, Robyn p.s. Maybe you did say it better ! It certainly took you fewer words 🙂

  2. kdierk says:

    Denial. And anxiety. I always start with denial and anxiety. Then anger, because it’s not fair, no matter what it is, I determine that it’s not fair to me and that lack of fairness is unacceptable. Then hopelessness, like I’m being forced to do something I don’t want to do; like a 5 year old I whine at this phase. Next I try to either make sense of it or at least try to see the bright side, if there is even a tiny bit of a little one. It’s better than no bright side. Eventually I realize how upset and uptight I was and feel embarrassed. I wonder why I can’t just be more mature, sedate, or accepting from the start. I have a phone job interview coming up in about an hour. I don’t even want to leave my current job. I don’t know why I sent my resume in. I’m filled with anxiety and denial. Can I just skip to the last phase, please? Either that or skip the phone interview? How can I know the phases and still not be able to skip them? OK, I’m going to try. We will see how it goes. Great seedling, thanks Robyn.

    • robyn1001 says:

      Hey Kirsten, you’re 5, i’m 12–and we both fervently wish we could be more mature and, i loved your word, sedate–sounds so Grace Kelly’ish. I can picture it 🙂 So how can you know the phases and not skip them? Well, instead of trying to skip them, if they are as hilarious as mine you might be able to get some enjoyment from simply watching rather than believing them?! Love, Robyn

  3. Vicki Mills says:

    Robyn, kudos for the beautiful articulation of what I’ve gone through so many times! It only takes you three days? May I grow to that “aha speed!” You inspire me in many ways — thank you. Vicki

  4. becca says:

    thanks for this seedling. i am notoriously resistent to change (ESPECIALLY suprise changes) and usually go through a rejection period, even when it’s something i wanted! how hilarious. glad to see i am not alone. most recently i found i could more or less accept working for a boss who openly doesnt like me, but it did take a couple months of anger/confusion/etc to get used to it. now i have a baby coming in march, and know not to take those doubts and misgivings that almost always arise for new moms too seriously. (though i may need a reminder!) take care

    • robyn1001 says:

      First and foremost Becca, many, many heartfelt congrats–couldn’t have gotten better news. If ever there was a time when acceptance, willingness and curiosity were required, it’s the next stage of your life! Sorry about the boss. So glad you’ve got other stuff to put your attention on. And yes, I get it–the total irony of getting what we want and then realizing we have to deal with it!! Love, Robyn

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