Most of us have heard the expression, “Same old same.” It means nothing has changed. Things are still the same old way they were at some time past.
But, lately I’ve been experiencing a lot of the same old new. People around me have become tired and worn down, displeased with their old lives. They desire something bigger, better and greater than the life they’ve been leading and want to take a chance on something new.
Yet, every time I see them I see the same old habits and hear the same old thoughts. And, of course, they justify their behaviors with new ideologies. They explain away the similarities and cloak them with new concepts.
For instance, I know a man addicted to his artistry. For years, he’s been unemployed. Though he has a family at home, his art often kept him away from them. He had to travel, and practice and create. Many of his performance jobs were unpaid low-wage. When he did get paid, he often hid his money, buying things for himself without any regard for the needs of his home or those living in it. He loved the fame, the glory and the attention. He loved the idea of people – especially the ladies – adoring him for his accomplishments.
Well, one day (recently) his wife decided enough is enough. She packed the kids and moved out.
Shortly after, her husband became the most attentive, loving, considerate man. He wanted to take her out, spend money on her, pay for a sitter for the kids to give her a break.
But in order for him to keep up the new him, he had to take on more jobs. He was away all the more often and it seemed that there was more evidence than ever he was being unfaithful to his wife.
But what happened? He’d seen the light and made a miraculous turnaround…hadn’t he? So why the sudden relapse?
In my experience it wasn’t a relapse…his “flight to right” was an attempt to mask the new old beliefs in new behaviors. Allow me to give you some insight.
Mrs. Narcissistic Performer had once been an artisan herself. After having two children, she slowly ran out of that luxurious currency we call time. Not long after, money left too. She found work and took on little odd jobs teaching performing arts to children and private adult lessons. Not wanting her husband to have to forfeit his dreams, she encouraged him to continue his art. Unfortunately, as time passed he seemed to notice her sacrifices less and less. And without his support, the burden fell on her to care for the household. Unfortunately, the more responsible she became the more he resented her. The more he resented her, the more distant and burdensome he seemed to be. The distant and burdensome he was, the more responsibility she had to take on. And the more responsible she looked, the more he resented her.
Now, Mrs. Narcissistic Performer didn’t have time to be resentful. With two children, work, bills, and moonlighting as an entrepreneur she had little time for anything – including herself. BUT, her husband often used this to his advantage.
You see, so long as his wife was caring for everything and everyone, he didn’t have to contribute much. He knew that in the end, his wife would (begrudgingly, but faithfully) pick up his slack. This had been their way. So when she changed that way, he was compelled to do something that would set things back to right.
It was after some serious investigation, introspection and soul searching that his wife was able to admit the “flight to right” had less to do with his fear of losing her and more to do with his fear of losing his way of life. She had been supporting him like a parent. She was caring for three children, not two. Because she paid the bills, kept a roof over their heads and made sure there was money for expendables he didn’t have to. He could withhold money and funds because he didn’t suffer any consequences for doing so. Anyone else might be homeless or hungry if they did what he’d been doing, but he wasn’t…so he kept right on keeping on.
But when his wife flipped the script, he needed to get things right (for himself). Now, the whole-ist in me wants to believe that is wasn’t purely selfish motivation. I want to believe that he genuinely wanted to be with his wife and attempted to salvage their marriage by making some much needed changes in his life – to his thinking and his behavior. I want to believe that there must be something very broken within him to need the approval of people who don’t love him, haven’t sacrificed for him, and only know him in passing. I want to believe that there is some unresolved hurt in his life that would make him disrespect his wife and neglect his children. I want to believe that there is a deep-seeded pain within him that would make his foundation too weak to sustain this genuine change he tried to make. I want to believe these things…but the truth is I’ll never know (not unless he does some real soul searching and shares it with his wife and/or me).
You see, we all try to justify our slip ups and hang ups. We fall short because of unresolved issues and we need to feel like we’re not the selfish, immature, irrational, and idealistic nitwits we sometimes appear to be in these situations. We want people to know (or at least think) this is not who we are all the time.
Yes, Mr. Narcissistic Performer not only said he was doing something different he did it, for a time. There are times when people (including us) slip up and back slide, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their best. But how can you tell the difference? Time.
The difference between someone who is genuinely making a change and someone whose changes are temporary can be seen with time. Here are some helpful hints to determine if what you’re seeing is just the same old new.
1. History repeats – When we don’t learn from history we are bound to repeat it. More often than not people tend not to take the time to learn from their pasts. As a result, their past is often an indication of future outcomes. But someone who wants a different life, however, will see where they have to make shifts from their past. If there is a disdain for choices that derived outcomes like the ones allegedly desired or a glorification of choices that led to the rut then you’re looking at the same old new.
2. Speaks Easy – People selling wolf tickets have to sound convincing…they’re selling something after all. But they don’t have anything to actually offer. Is there a lot of talk about what’s to come? About the future? About the past? About the change? Is there any action accompanying all this verbiage? When people can easily talk about what they’re going to do but rarely (or never) do it; when they can justify all the reasons for not doing what’s required to get the things they talk about; when you’re spending more time building upon concepts than on a foundation you’re looking at the same old new.
3. Honesty. Forgiveness. Peace. – These last three things go together. They have to in order to be effective. When you see 2/3 – you know you’re looking at the same old new. You see, in order to truly change your life, you must change your mind. You have to be honest about your past – you can’t glorify it or vilify the people who were part of it. You have to be real, see things as they are and accept them. You have to take ownership of your actions – past, present and future.
Next comes the forgiveness. You have to forgive those who’ve hurt you. You can’t carry all that anger into a new thing – otherwise it’ll be the same old new: old issues wrapped in new packaging. And you have to forgive yourself for every fool-hearted, self-serving, gullible act you’ve ever committed.
Finally, you have to make peace with it all. Accept that who are is a byproduct of who you’ve been.
Good luck and Namaste.