I’ve changed. You’ve changed. Sometimes we don’t notice the change until we’ve been separated for a time and upon reunion we say, “Wow! You’ve changed!” because gradual change is hard to spot when you’re in its presence.
Transformation is different than change. Transformation is when you can point to an outside event or influence that drives a deep, potentially permanent altering of your core being. Often triggers are recalled as “I’ll never be the same after that” and you can point directly to the catalyst; other times we have to search and grope in our experience to ask, “How did I get here from there?”
Transformation is when an event happens that turns the cart over and, after we put it right again, we’re not the same.
Here’s an example of two people on either side of the most common transformation:
Well intended 20-something, “Boy, I wouldn’t let my kid act like that, I would so not let them get away with that!”
Parent, “You have any kids?”
20-something, “No. Not yet…”
Parent, “Wait ’til you’re there before you start making fun of others.”
Having a child is a transforming event. Losing a child, parent or friend transforms you. But there is one tricky part and it’s best analogy is Star Wars. When transformation comes do you have to choose the light or the dark side. There are dozens of examples of people who, confronted with transformation turn one way of the other. In some ways it’s possible to not transform but that really is a negative; you don’t grow standing still.
We all know someone who has gracefully come through blood & violence, loss & anguish, or illness & despair. On the back side these people are better and stronger–transformed–and are the sort of people we hope to emulate. We also know others, perhaps unlucky or unsupported, who come out the other side bitter, angry & vengeful.
I’ve had a couple of transform events in my life. I got married. We had kids. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I realized that I wasn’t going to live in the coastal hills deeply embedded in the trees and fog. My Pop died. My brother suffered a brain injury that left him in long term care. At times during these events I dabbled with the darkness. I chewed on anger. I cursed fate. For a few moments I encased myself in me and I saw only my own loss and my own lack of success.
Somehow (mostly I blame my wife) I transformed. I went from what I had lost to what I had gained. Not being single meant there was always someone waiting for me. Children brought the challenge of rearing them but the joys of watching them do so. Diabetes? No big deal, take the shots, take care of me; one hundred years ago I wouldn’t have lived to see the birth of my third child. Dad was gone who would steer the ship? My turn to lead.
And on and on and on.
My Pop used to tell us that, “You can’t control what people do to you, you can only control how you respond.”
Best advice ever. Thanks Pop.