The Crucible of Challenge and Change

It’s been twenty days since I began writing this blog. Also, in only 6 days, it will have been one month since I left the hospital and began my Wellness Quest. At that point, my aunt, uncle and I are considering making a few changes. We have had a few brief conversations about what those changes might look like, but we have all agreed on one thing: we aren’t going to change much.

That is a relief to me. You see, change scares me. Yeah, I know, I’m supposed to be this forward thinking person with a nifty blog who is making all kinds of radical changes to his life, not to mention not knowing a thing about what his future will look like…how can I be afraid of change?

Simple. Because I am.

Because I was afraid the day I left the hospital and moved in to this house here in Lake Oswego with my aunt and uncle. I was terrified that I might screw up or that we all would disagree, or that the restrictions and constraints of this challenge would prove to be too difficult… But the love, acceptance, and support that my aunt and uncle showed me the first few days (and in fact, every day since then) calmed my fear. I chose new behaviors, and I took decisive action to build a new routine. I made commitments, and I followed through on them. I focused all my energy on obtaining the seemingly unattainable goal of “optimum wellness”.

And as the days past, I grew more confident, and now, 25 days in, I am comfortable. That’s great, right?

Well, actually, for me, it isn’t. You see, when I am comfortable, I get complacent. When I am complacent, I get bored and I get lazy. When that happens, I begin to slack off and my routine disappears, and soon, my life reverts to chaos. And at that point it is just one straw away from breaking my back. I am so close to relapse or some other crisis that all it takes is a little push and I go spiraling off the edge.

That has been my pattern since I was a child.

One thing I know for sure is that when I am challenged I will apply myself. I will expend the effort needed to succeed, and if I don’t succeed I will regroup and try it again with a new approach.

I think my family and friends have seen me fail so many times in the past five years that they don’t even remember what I am like when I am truly driven. They probably can’t remember a time when I was able to live up to, much less exceed, the expectations set for me.

I think the key for me at this point in my life is that the only expectations that matter are my own. The only goals I care about are mine. The challenge before me is one that I have set for myself. While my aunt and uncle have helped me to formulate my approach, I have filled in the details, and I have taken hold of this Wellness Quest and thrown myself into it in a way I haven’t done with anything in my life since I graduated from college.

Back to the point I was trying to make: when I get comfortable, everything goes to hell.

That isn’t to say that I can’t be content. But comfortable is different. To me, comfortable means a lack of challenge or direction. I am nearer to contentment than comfort at this point in my life. But I am aware that if I persist too long without a challenge, I put myself in danger of losing all that I have gained.

So even though I look forward to the upcoming changes with some level of fear and trepidation, the dominant part of me (that is, the majority of my spirit, mind and body) believes that some measure of change will be good for me, and that I must keep challenging myself.

In the Bible, there is a verse that says something along the lines of “you have been purified by the fire”

To cleanse metal ore of its impurities you must heat it to its molten state, and then the impurities will float to the surface, where they can be skimmed off leaving pure, unadulterated metal. Once it has cooled, it retains its brilliance and strength, yet it is still flexible. And, it has lost all of the excess materials that had cluttered and obscured it.

I believe that challenge and growth are the key for me to move forward in my life. They are the key to purifying myself, to cleansing my body, mind, and spirit of all the filth and clutter and darkness that has built up over the years. I fully believe that this could take the rest of my life. But I have no doubt that one day I will stand outside the fire, having been poured from the crucible to emerge solid and pure on the other side. And on that day I will look forward and ask, “what next?”

-Nathan

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