I am learning in 2022 a very powerful lesson. It’s a lesson you don’t really hear much about out in the world. A lot is written about change – how to create it, manage it, navigate it. The risk, nature, and power of change have been as much discussed as the need for change…but what about after the change has occurred?
My own experience with humanity – both as a coach and person – has me pondering the human being after a dramatic change. What are the characteristics of the person in this place in the aftermath of great change? The image that springs to mind for me now is new skin.
I have a 14-year-old dog which has been my companion in life for many of the greatest changes I have lived through as an adult. About three months ago, I found him chewing on one of his toes (yes, paws have toes, and please don’t tell me to call anything other than toes or toe beans). He picked at it and picked at it until the wound was weeping. I have no idea how it started – a bite? a prickle? a scrape?
It looked awful, so I washed it, put antibiotic ointment on, and dressed it. He fussed and fussed and it still didn’t improve. I finally took him to the vet to get him looked at. The vet put him on a course of treatment to be taken by mouth, and we got a cone to keep him away from it. At the end of the treatment, he had new pink skin growing where the wound had been. Thinking it was time enough, I took his cone off.
Within a week, the wound was open again. The delicate new skin split open and wept under his constant worrying attention. Before it could be re-infected, I coned the little beast again. This time, no breaks – just cone. He has been a constant lampshade for weeks and the skin has healed beyond that fresh, delicate, newness. I am waiting for the skin to thicken, until he no longer wants to pick at it, and then I’ll take off the cone.
I suppose this is how I have been feeling about my own season of changes. In 2021, I was thrust into the wilds of entrepreneurship after a few bruising and wounding years of change. During the first and second weeks, I slept, cut off all thoughts of the future, and just grieved the past. But hard as I might try, I couldn’t go back to where I had been. I realized there was nowhere to go back to!
For the following two months, I worked on my well-being. I focused on my business, stopped being social, doubled down on creating a home office, and diligently worked on my practice. The focus and the wellness work felt like being coned or like putting on blinders and soon, I felt the pain of losing a lot less. The grief began to subside. It was only when fear crept in – and fear is an entrepreneur’s constant start-up companion – did the wound feel it was being reopened.
In recent weeks, I have become quite reflective, looking back at 6 months of practice. Six whole months!! But in six months after the greatest change I have professionally endured, I know I have only formed new skin.
After change as fundamental as a switch in career, a divorce, and/or migration, we often long for the comfort of the dead and gone familiar – even if the familiar was poison to us. Picking at that grief as my Julius picked at his sore toe can only fester the wound. And when we have adjusted somewhat and new skin has formed, it is easy to forget that the skin is delicate and the change needs to be given space, time, and healthy attention to fully form. Ruminating on what has been lost can only reopen the delicate “skin” and introduce the risk of “infection”, anxiety, and mental un-wellness all over again.
Many of us are facing huge changes or have already formed a healthy new layer of skin, adjusting to this new place that our comfort zone is expanding to include. Put on your cone of commitment, apply your salve of gratitude and healthy forward-facing action, and let us grow together. Not all change is pleasant, not all change is chosen, but change is constant and we are built for it. So is our skin.