This morning I found myself typing the following into a search engine: “when you’ve changed so much you don’t recognize yourself.”
I didn’t find much relevant in the results. They were mostly by people talking about something else entirely. They have fallen in love and are suddenly no longer interested in their old friends; they have lost trust in someone and wonder if they should give second chances; they regret their own actions but are no longer trusted by those around them. These are not what I’m talking about.
What came closer to it was a page about how major episodes of depression can change you; people think recovery is going back to their old selves and feeling the way they used to, yet it’s unlikely you’ll be exactly the same person you were. I know that feeling too, but it’s only part of the story here.
Surely most of us have these dizzying shifts in perspective as we go through life. It can happen quite quickly, over a few days… you go through a hard experience of some kind, and one morning everything looks permanently different. We might not understand what has happened, but our way of thinking has changed for some reason. What we are upset about is probably the realization we were mistaken in some way, are not who we thought we were, or don’t have something we thought we had or would have.
I miss that old comfortable groove where I could see the world in one particular way, rain and shine, day in and day out… but it was also a bleak groove, and was becoming bleaker as the years rolled by. I may have blamed myself sometimes, but have not been solely responsible for the growing chill in the world I thought I knew.
I said I changed, and I have, but it’s more as though I was lost and sailing in a mist, then the mist lifted and I could see my way and set a firmer direction. I always had contradictory views, but some started to make more sense and I stopped ignoring them.
My point is that these big changes in our perspectives don’t have to lead to loss of self and resulting depression; they can clarify and confirm parts of ourselves we didn’t understand before, which is beneficial and even healing. I would argue that they are always beneficial if we accept that such changes can lead us to a terra firma we would otherwise not have found.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog here, and I guess that the longer I’ve been blogging, the more distant I am from some of what I’ve written. Yet the old posts still describe how I was at a certain point in time. I’m not sure I can even blog the way I did before, because so much in me has changed. This is part of why I felt I couldn’t recognize myself any more.
I’ve talked about big changes, but small things also have the potential to affect our outlook. Not all do; you might be drifting placidly from day to day, thinking “I’ll have to try this thing, and change that particular habit,” then totally forget, and nothing happens. Then somebody or something comes into your life and upsets your boat, and you find yourself splashing about in the water for a while, spluttering up at the sky and thinking “I never noticed before how blue it was!”
Even if it’s a very short-lived thing, it’s not just a temporary experience… you learn something new from it and remember, and it’s all part of the change in your thinking.
As an example… two days ago, Storm Ali blew a baby pigeon out of its nest and into my house. That is, it fell from its nest and one of the cats brought it in. I tried to care for it but it died after two days — died earlier this afternoon. I tried to remain impassive about it but it was impossible. Yes, I knew I’d be upset, but was startled how hysterical I became.
Perhaps the pigeon tapped into something in me that was already there — an old grief as well as new. I had a similar experience when one of my cats died some years ago; normal grief overlying something much deeper.
Grief is about loss, of course it is, but there’s something more to it. There’s a cold wind blowing through the gap, and you’re reminded of the vast emptiness where we all end up. The heights of a cliff or a great bridge are terrifying enough, but petty when compared to the great void ahead of us. How can this happen? We must always be safe… and yet we’re not.
Perhaps ultimately we are, though, and we don’t know it. I was oddly comforted by a passage in a book I read years ago. I can’t remember the title and am not sure how accurately I’m remembering, but someone said he was dying out on the cold mountainside, and it felt as though he was becoming one with the stones. He was rescued, but I thought to myself it’s not so bad if we do become part of the world we’re being released into.
It’s small comfort at the moment, as I still want to protect and keep that brief little soul safe and warm, and have still not sent him out into the cold. Maybe his mother is grieving too… well that makes two of us tonight.