2016 was filled to the brim with change for me. I started the year by moving to a new city and starting a new job. By the time the year was over, I'd lost the job and several other things that I thought made me who I was. My mom didn't pass away until June of 2016 but it honestly felt like I lost her around the end of February because she was restricted to a bed for the last 3 months of her life. When she left her body every fear, every anxiety, every insecurity, and every worry that I had projected over the past 2 years manifested all at once. My job was really stressful at the time because I was heading up this new, extremely volatile, product for my department. I was already losing my mind because of what had just happened with my mom and I definitely didn't need the additional stress that my job was giving me so in the first week of September, I quit. In October I flew to Sedona, AZ, on a whim, on a sort of spiritual-seeking trip to meet a stranger that I had only known through Twitter. The insights that I gained on that trip encouraged me to follow my heart and go ahead and commit to becoming a Yoga Teacher and in November, I started a month long, intensive Yoga Teacher Training program. On the 3rd to last day of December, I reemerged from the shadows of depression to show everyone what I had been working on. I launched As You Are and I had absolutely no idea how people would receive it. I had absolutely no idea how people would receive me being a Yoga Teacher. I had absolutely no idea how the words that I decided to share on my blog, my truth, would effect the people that I care about. Fast-forward three short months later and to be honest, I still have absolutely no idea what I'm doing most days. I'm still uncertain, not about the choices that I made last year, but about what lies ahead for me. I'm 100% sure that what I'm doing now is what I'm supposed to be doing but that damn sure doesn't mean that it's always easy, or fun, or what I want to be doing. But one thing I have become sure of is that in order to grow, one must change. I've never done anything as fulfilling as the work that I'm currently doing and I would have never been able to do it if I didn't change. In order to get what you've never had, you have to become what you've never been. And what I want to be is love. What I want to be is joyful. What I want to be is not judgmental or envious or maliciously manipulative. What I want to be is better and in order to become better I had to become willing to lose some of the things that I thought made me who I am. In order to become better, I had to change.
January of 2016 was a really exciting time for me. I'd just gotten back east from Oklahoma and I was really optimistic about all of the changes that were happening around me. Meditation and Yoga had afforded me with a new outlook on life & I was determined to live in the present moment instead of placing my happiness in the future like I used to do. My mom's health seemed to be on the come-up -- her hair had finally grown back out and it was so beautiful in it's natural state. Her weight was healthy considering her condition and she still had a decent quality of life. In fact, me and my brothers took her out to eat for her birthday on the 17th of January and she had a really good time. In that first month of 2016, it felt like I could breathe again for the first time in a long while. I was excited to be in a new city and have new opportunities. I was excited that my mom was beating cancer. I was excited to be closer to her, my friends, and family yet still far enough away that they couldn't be in my business. For a good month and a half, I was comfortable again. Unfortunately, things did the only thing that things ever do and that is change. I remember coming home sometime in late February after only being away for a couple weeks. I had just driven two hours from Charlotte to Laurens and was about to drive another 4 hours to the cancer center in Newnan, GA which is where my mom got treatment. We had done this several times before but when I saw my mom this time, I didn't recognize her. I walked in her bedroom to find her sitting on a chair trying to pack her suitcase, short of breath, visibly fatigued and unable to stand. She was also about twice the size she was when I left her a couple weeks prior. It looked like she had just swallowed an extra large inner tube the way her abdomen had became swollen with fluid. Just two weeks ago, she seemed fine but she obviously wasn't fine anymore. I was caught totally off-guard and it was honestly too much for me to handle so, like I'd done so many times before in that house, I went into the bathroom to cry without fear of being judged or even worse, showing my mom that I wasn't as strong as I was trying to pretend to be for her & possibly discouraging her in the process. I remember looking at myself in the mirror -- seeing this grown man crying and judging myself for it and then, to add insult to injury, I noticed just how thin the hair on the top of my head had gotten. In that moment, it felt like I was losing everything that I had. Two of the biggest contributors to my identity (my mom and the way I look) were slipping through my fingers and there wasn't shit I could do about it. It felt like everything around me was changing at a rapid pace and that this change was exposing all of my flaws to me at once.
Stephen Hawking said "intelligence is the ability to adapt to change" and I truthfully have never had a more telling assessment of my own intelligence than living in and trying to adapt to what was happening to me last year. "What am I going to do now?" is the mantra that seemed to repeat in my head constantly. This isn't a question that was new to me and I remembered that I'd asked myself the very same question publicly, on Twitter, several years before my mom passed. Me and the girl I was talking to at the time had just called it quits and I was being a drama-queen. The question was obviously a sub-tweet directed at her and our situation and luckily for me, she caught it. Remembering the advice she replied with is honestly what got me through last year and what continues to push me forward through the uncomfortable changes that I'm still experiencing today. She simply replied to my question with "live" and I honestly think she was trying to be petty but what she told me was the truth. I had to continue. Even though I didn't necessarily want to continue without her at the time. And even though I didn't want to continue without my mom, I had to do that too because that's what life is -- a continuously unfolding process. Nothing in nature wants to stay the same. The trees don't whine when it's time to shed their leaves in the winter nor do the birds refuse to fly south to reach warmer climates. The Sun doesn't refuse to set just because it prefers one side of the earth over the other. Everything around us is constantly in motion, constantly adapting, constantly changing. But for whatever reason, us human beings seem to think that we're exempt from the nature of change. Human beings prefer comfort because comfort is associated with certainty and when we feel like we have certainty, we're less fearful. But here's the thing -- there's no such thing as certainty. None of us have any idea what the next 12 hours have in store for us when we wake up in the morning. We have these nice planners that we fill with every detail of how we'd like for our days to go but at their best, they're just guesses. One of my favorite quotes is "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans". It amazes me how some of us believe that God writes the story in one moment and then in the very next, we try to control everything that happens to us. We assume that we know what's best for us even though we can't see what lies ahead of us. But what I've learned on this path is that if you really believe that God writes the story, you have to surrender your desire to dictate or even know what happens next. You have to surrender your resistance to change if you want to be with God because God is nature and nature is constantly changing. To resist change is to go against nature which is to invite suffering into your life. I didn't suffer because I lost my mom or my hair or my job or the lifestyle that I used to have. I suffered because I clinged to those things and I convinced myself that they made me who I am. But change has proven to me that who I really am isn't affected by external circumstances and I really believe that's the purpose of change at it's core -- to teach us not to "lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt".
Me and change are friends these days but my relationship with it is complicated. It's like the relationship you have with the friend that you're not always excited to see but sometimes they surprise you and really enhance your day. I'm not going to lie to you and say that I always embrace change because I don't. But what I've learned is that life IS change. Every single day I wake up uncomfortable these days but it's this discomfort that has propelled me forward. Without losing all of the things that I lost last year, I'm sure that I would still be doing what I was doing which truthfully wasn't very much. I've always had a desire rooted deeply in my heart to help others but before those changes my ego was way too big for me to allow the seeds of service to sprout. The changes that happened to me and are still happening to me are breaking me down. They are destroying who I thought Micheal Sinclair Irby is and they have created room for Micheal Sinclair Irby to become who he's destined to be. Duncan Trussell is one of my favorite people that I've never met. He runs a spiritual comedy podcast at his website and he actually lost his mom to cancer as well. I'll leave you with some words that she left him before she left.
"I may leave this plane of existence sooner rather than later, but the love isn't going anywhere.
I am as certain of that as I am of anything.
I want to say that I will be with you in ways that neither you nor I can comprehend.
I'm spread out throughout the world. Not by anything I'm doing, but I'm with you.
Just pay attention, listen for me.
- Deneen Fendig