The first night in my new home I felt sick with fear. I knew why. Still, it took me a while to make the change that was necessary. We may be afraid, that we have not got what it takes to change one lifeline with another – that we may be left feeling all at sea. I know, literally. I live on a boat.
My home stands in a somewhat unique and precarious position in tidal waters. Twice a day my home rises with the tide. When the tide goes out, ropes ensure that the boat settles back into a certain position out of the water. Otherwise it may tip sideways, tumbling down into the river.
The mooring ropes I inherited have seen many a tide – in many places covered in thick moss, and offering ants a comfortable path straight to my front door.
The old ropes were my lifeline, literally.
But I found it difficult to trust them. Clearly, they had been doing their job well, all through high tides and floods and storms. They kept the boat safe. Yet, I did no longer feel safe.
I was worried, just how long it would take for them to snap. I had no reference point, and everyone I asked appeared relaxed about it all.
My dilemma became increasingly clear:
I needed safety and did not fully trust the old ropes; but neither did I trust myself to go through the process of changing them.
I was truly stuck, and with every high tide, major wash and storm forecast I felt my anxiety rise.
It became a choice between:
“If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Or “Overcome your fear of change; trust yourself and just do it.”
Problems can feel more predictable and less frightening than change. But change is necessary.
With time I managed to turn down the volume of the voices of fear and false reassurance.
What I started to connect with, hear and embrace was my intuition.
Change was needed. Even if the ropes were still sea-worthy, the best way to make peace with the situation was to investigate, research and start to feel comfortable with the idea of change.
I started reading up on ropes, the right material, thickness, length and colour, the right knots. Then I made the purchase.
First step done. I felt proud, but still not confident enough to cut the old ropes and replace with the new. The tide and overall weather conditions had to be right.
This change needed stable and predictable conditions.
I relented. I needed help.
Some neighbours offered and together we started to plan for the day. With a lot of kind explanations my knowledge and confidence grew:
There were weights to be added to the ropes. What type of weights and where exactly do they need to go?
The ropes needed to be tight with the right length, to withstand all kinds of pressure by the water and wind, with flexibility and without snapping.
I had not thought about my fenders, which were either full of water or of the wrong size.
My knotting skills were, quite frankly, lacking skill.
I knew this was the way to go. Change was necessary and right. But I remained frightened.
The day came. It all went well, but as the tide came and the boat rose with it, I was terrified as never before.
I needed to get through this. It was part of the process.
Instead of abandoning ship, and coming back after the tide had gone down, I went outside, with a torch. It was dark. I inspected the movement of the ropes, the knots, the fenders, the water, my boat, my home, my heart, my fear, my terror.
I observed it all and let it be. It was all part of making change happen:
– trusting my intuition,
– knowing when the time is right,
– asking for help if necessary,
– and trusting myself all the way.
What change do you need? What is holding you back? What process might you need to decide on and follow through to make your change happen?
Karin Sieger is a psychotherapist and writer. She specialises in supporting people through anxiety, bereavement and life-changing illnesses like cancer. Her blog is Between Self and Doubt. You can follow her on Twitter and can sign up for her newsletters here. For more information visit KarinSieger.com.