Change is hard no matter what – whether you are prepared for it or not. Sure, being prepared can reduce the level of difficulty you experience but, no matter how well-informed you are about an upcoming change, you still have no idea how it will affect you personally until you are in it.
I lied to the air conditioner repairman. And, as I knowingly lied to him, I thought to myself, I was not prepared for this part. I had recently made the decision to stop working and stay at home with my children. The easy part was choosing my children over work. The hard part came the first time someone asked me about it.
(Enter – air conditioner repairman.)
The central air stopped working shortly after I did. A welcome distraction. I could think of nothing other than getting my house back to a reasonable temperature when the repairman arrived at my door. Suddenly, faced with another adult for the first time in weeks, I found myself hovering over him, following him from room to room – asking him all sorts of ridiculous questions: “What is the HVAC training process like?”, “How did you get into this business?” and “Who do you call when your air conditioner goes out?” Had I known his hourly rate beforehand I might not have bothered with all of the questions. Anyhow, he politely responded to all of my nonsense and, as conversations often go, he asked me some questions in return.
I will never forget it. There I was, standing outside my backdoor on a bright and sunny day holding my beautiful three-month old daughter when the dreaded question arrived, “So, what do you do for a living?” Pretty common question for light conversation, right!? But the words seemed to jump from his mouth and land smack on my brain like a lead ball. The question literally stopped me dead-in-my-tracks. It was the first time since leaving my job that someone had asked me that question and I hadn’t given any thought to my answer.
It was clear, in that moment, that I had given up my job without fully understanding that I was also going to have to give up my title and any emotional attachment I had to it. For the first time, I was faced with an identity crisis – working mom vs. stay-at-home mom. I was caught in the middle. I didn’t know what to say. I panicked and froze. So, I lied. I went with the answer that seemed most comfortable to me at the time. The one I had worn like a second skin for years. I told him all about my old job.
He seemed mildly interested and moved on. I, on the other hand, was stuck. I had lied and, even though I was the only one who knew it, somehow it still felt like I had picked a side. The side I wasn’t even on. What the heck?! And where did that come from? I’m sure the conversation with him continued but I have no idea what was said because the internal dialog that had begun in my head was so loud I swear he could hear it. In that moment, I imagine my face looking very similar to a cat-clock whose eyes and tail move back and forth with every passing second. To admit or not to admit?! Working mom or stay-at-home mom?! Title or no title?! And, what does it even matter?!
When things get stirred up and turned around, sometimes you just need a minute or two to let the dust settle before you can see clearly. As I watched the air conditioner repairman walk toward his truck, suddenly I felt an uncontrollable urge to stop him. I realized, in that moment, that I wasn’t ashamed or even embarrassed to be a stay-at-home mom – it’s just that it was new to me. I was still getting used to it. With as much as I thought I had prepared myself for the major changes of this transition, it turned out that it was the little stuff that caught me off-guard.
It was just a question, but it was a BIG question to me. I couldn’t hold back anymore. Just before he got into his truck, I yelled out from my front door – “I actually don’t work! I’m just in a transition. And, it’s FINE!”. Yeah, like that wasn’t weird! He stood in the street looking back at me with the same cat-clock expression I had just given him before ducking into his truck and driving away.
To be honest (which – for the most part I am), I think I needed that air conditioner repairman. I think we all do. The only thing we know for sure in in life is that change is going to happen. But the upside is that, if we give ourselves a break from having to know all the answers, allow ourselves enough time to let the dust settle and remain open to the “air conditioner repairmen” who shine the light on the things we don’t see ourselves, we CAN get through it! Yes, change is hard but hard isn’t always a bad thing.
For me, that time of change was about working vs. staying-at-home. But, what about you? Have you ever lied to avoid facing something you weren’t prepared to address?