Complacency. The word itself almost sounds inviting. Come, place and see… like a haunting whisper, drawing you in. What you don’t know about that sweet sound reeling you in like a child after the pied piper, is that it keeps you captive. Once its soft warm grip is upon you, it tightens. At first you feel a bit uneasy, but somehow with time, the prison that it is becomes okay. After awhile it even begins to feel like home.
This fortress can be in our minds, our value system, within our careers or marriages, relationships with our children and friends, in can be where were live, what we eat, how many times we walk the dog a week. Any area where you know in your heart you can improve but instead chose not too, has a little room marked complacency. You settle in there, lock the door and swallow the key.
Complacency is a security blanket for all us indecisive peeps out there. We wrap up in it and rock back and forth talking ourselves into believing this life is what we want. It’s all fine and good, we aren’t fulfilled but that’s life, right? Those goals were just dreams, we won’t beat ourselves up over not reaching them. We have what we need, who cares about what we might want. Material things aren’t the subject here. This is about something bigger. It is about knowing there needs to be a change, for the well being of souls, and standing idol instead. When we decide to be content with what we have we experience gratitude. When we decide to be content with what we know is wrong, when we aren’t living the life we know we should be, we are being complacent and while it feels safe, it is extremely dangerous for our character.
I came across a sign in Homegoods that said, “Be a Voice, not an echo.” At first I just thought, I like that, but as the day went on I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. Thinking about that sign I imagined trying to find one particular sheep from a flock let loose in a fun house made of mirrors. A hopeless endeavor, even for the shepherd. Their bleating flooding the narrow hallways, a high tide that never recedes. For years I have been one of these lost crying sheep. Being complacent meant I was all things self; self-satisfied, self-assured, self-righteous, self-possessed, but I didn’t even realize it was myself in the mirror. How incredibly sad.
The panic that this evoked was a wake up call. If I was a complacency model, my children would be as well. If I sit idol, why wouldn’t they do the same. This fear was greater than the fear of rejection because it meant being afraid to be authentic. Once you realize something like this, you can’t go backward to the not knowing. You are now concerned, discontent, dissatisfied. There is work to be done.
So it became time to change and make changes.
About a year before this realization, I had a conversation in the parking lot of a CVS that I would bring to the forefront of my memory on the regular. I was spending the weekend at a Leadership Retreat for my job, had dropped my kiddos off at my mom’s and in the haste of getting where I was going on time, forgot to leave their car seats. The next morning I had to leave the retreat before the activities started, meet my step-dad and give him the seats. I don’t really recall why I was feeling so upset, but know now that this was the beginning of the soul stirring. I can’t remember much of what was supposed to be a quick hand off, other than shivering as I stood in the late October chill of morning, jacket less and crying. Over an hour later I returned to the group, worn out and distracted by my step-dad’s single request; Take some time to imagine what you really want, close your eyes and see it, picture what your ideal life would look like by next Christmas. Just do me this one favor and let me know what you see.
When I thought about ideal, I didn’t see the life I was living at all. I imagined family near by, I dreamed of a different job, I saw my children thriving and heard so much laughter. In my imagination I was confident to stand up to what was not sitting right. I was strong enough, bold enough, to be a sheep with a voice. It was a start.
Over the last four months so many of those visions have become realities. It was not without fear, it was just a decision to choose faith over fear. If you end up somewhere that feels broken, writing a story you no longer care to read, make a move and change it. While so many amazing things have been blossoming as a result of this new, go-getter attitude, my children have not been one of them.
Their new school was creating a dread in them for learning. They were becoming resentful robotic echoes and for anyone who knows them, they are most definitely voices exploding with sparkle. I knew we needed to intervene to make this transition smoother. I talked to the teachers, asked for their guidance to point my children in the right direction in terms of company to keep. I talked to the kiddos, reminding them change is hard and sometimes can take longer than we like to feel comfortable. I talked to friends about what they might do to make the transition smoother. I thought about letting it ride its course, being complacent, in hopes it all worked itself out. But in the midst of the nightly tears and the early morning dread of climbing the bus stairs, I knew their little souls were being stifled and I had to stop pretending we’re trees and make a move.
While searching for an art class for Child #3, after her sculpture class was cancelled due to lack of enrollment, I stumbled upon a school that was all about art based education. They offered theatre, dance, music and visual arts multiple times a day, intergreated into their acedmeic ciriculim. Reading about their program forced my hand to get in touch with the principle and before too long we planned to attend a tour with the founder of the school and an invterview for two of our girls was scheduled. Inside the walls, music played and happy faces, both students, teachers and staff alike walked the halls. It was warm and inviting, it felt like a family. After meeting the founder and completing the tour, my husband, who was on the opposite side of the playing field on this school subject, suggested we pick up not two enrollment packets, but four.
The kiddos made the switch yesterday and their second first day of school was a success. Instead of stonefaced, one word answers when asked about their days, they were beaming. They couldn’t wait to share how they had worked with finding images in their continual lines art project and how they had been welcomed into their new classrooms with music and a dance party, crowned like a princess and pranced down a red carpet. My little guy even had a field trip to the gymnastic center down the street.
They didn’t feel like a number or a check mark off a list. My oldest said she felt like she belonged there. I asked her to explain a little bit about that feeling. She said, “Well, Mom, I felt like the teachers were a little more understanding of the fact that not everyone does things the same way. I mean I know it’s important to understand how to get to the answer but I appreciate that they allow us to figure it out and know that my brain isn’t the same as the kid next to me, so we may get the same answer but knowing how to get there might look a little different. And that is okay at this school.”
We didn’t have any tears at homework time, instead we had stories about how to help birds build their nests and plans to put a basket of soft yarn and ribbon on our fence in the spring. We could see our children again. Their voices were sharp and vibrato, they had made their way out of the fun house and were frolicking in the carnival lights in a way no complacent sheep ever could.
It’s incredible what can happen when you decide to move, when you know you need to be the voice for someone else so they can shine again. Its amazing the difference one day, and one goggle search, can make if we are open to changing our mindset and sometimes the scenery.