Kara Gordon

Returnings

A fortnightly letter to the people going at 100 miles an hour. We all have the things that keep us grounded: to-do lists, morning routines, communities, and rituals to keep us sane. But when things get tough, they often fall to the wayside. Here's a reminder to refuel.

How We Change

“We can’t have change without loss.”

Photo illustration by Eugenia Loli for New York Magazine

Photo illustration by Eugenia Loli for New York Magazine

A couple of months ago, I went through an unexpected, devastating break up. I was (am) mourning the loss of my favorite person and my very best friend. Our routines were gone: bedtime phone calls, afternoons in museums, and the friends I saw only when we were together. And this wasn't the only major change I was going through. Within a month, a close family friend passed away and my roommate and I unexpectedly had to fill our third room. I was distracted, it showed at work, and I had to step it up (with the help of my coworkers, I've been able to). It was a lot to work through in a very short timeframe.

In the middle of this, I came across a column in the Cut, Why is it So Hard to Change? (you should read it in full) and the Transtheoretical Model (TTM), which breaks down how humans change:

People generally don’t “Just Do It,” as Nike (or a New Year’s resolution) might have it, but instead tend to move through a series of stages before modifying behaviors they want to change. The five stages look like this:

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation
Stage 2: Contemplation
Stage 3: Preparation
Stage 4: Action
Stage 5: Maintenance

My ex and I were wonderful together. I still believe that. But while I was terrified of losing him, I eventually couldn't ignore the voice in my head that strongly felt that our relationship had to grow, or I couldn't continue justifying the effort and energy I was putting into maintaining it. 

You can think and think about change, but ultimately you’ll have to start. Yes, change is hard. Yes, it involves taking responsibility for your life. Yes, it requires you to give up the familiar, which no matter how unpleasant can still feel comforting. And yes, change will put you face-to-face with loss. But what’s beautiful about this loss is that while you might have to give up the hope for a better past or a less painful present, the future is squarely in your court.

Breakups suck. I've been through several and I swear they get harder with practice, not easier. At the same time, however, they're strangely familiar. I have systems in place: people to call and a life outside of any single relationship to go back to. Often, I leave town (New York will always be my place for healing so I stayed put this time) and I go to the yoga studio that has gotten me through three breakups. I called my mother and my college roommate excessively. I had a therapy appointment the next day (yes, I planned it that way). An old friend from Boston drove down that weekend. I cried a lot. I gave myself the space to grieve something that was beautiful and spectacular.

And yet, there are days that I look at the large space that I've overstuffed with work and friends, and I feel just as lonely as if I had left it empty.

When you say that it’s hard to let go despite wanting to move on, what you’re really talking about is grief. You’re grieving, but sometimes what we’re actually grieving is the future more than the present. 

Change—even the best change—is difficult, often painful. So here, I'll turn it over to you: How do you deal with change? What are the things that keep you steady when it feels like the change will knock you off your feet? What are you afraid of losing? These are big questions, but I think they're worth thinking about. Change is inevitable. You can go the long way and you can fight. You can speed through and not appreciate what you're giving up or what you're gaining. There's a happy medium somewhere in there, and I'm trying to find it.

Love always,
Kara

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