"Men marry women hoping they will never change. Women marry men hoping they will." My husband brings up Einstein's quote as we sit on the kitchen floor and talk about love languages, misunderstandings and our mutual desire to make our relationship better.
"I'm not sure that quote works for me any more," I say, slightly irritated. For a moment a vision of my glowing, transformed self says with a gentle smile: "Nothing in nature exists without a constant change," and kisses him with love and acceptance.
Instead, my real self falls into the pits of my old behavioral patterns like impatience and impulsiveness and I say words that are neither calm nor profound. In that pit, I am back to where I was fifteen years ago when we met, with the exception that I am now able to recognize it (thank you mindfulness and awareness, goodbye, "Ignorance is bliss!")
The pit's like quicksand, pulling me downward fast. It's filled with gremlins screaming old messages at me, the loudest of them laughing: "Who do you think you are? You can never change! You'll always be the difficult person no one can live with."
I need to stop this vicious train of thought fast, or I'll blow up. Thankfully my husband is tired of talking and is happy to wrap things up.
I turn to one thing that I know works for me. I focus on my breathing, picturing grace flowing in and lifting me up with every inhaled breath while impatience and desperation flow out with every exhale. This interchange of grace and surrender works to build a stairway out of the darkness. A stairway to heaven really, because it's taking me away from my immediate situation and reconnecting me with the immense Love that holds all of the universe together, me included. I breathe a quick prayer of gratitude.
But that only takes a moment, after which I need all the support and inspiration that's available to help me continue my transformation. Because these pits are everywhere, and change is hard.
I need someone good after this particular stint. Someone who has dealt with repeating old behavioral patterns and who has found a way to shift out of them. Steve Reiner comes to mind right away.
Steve is a hair designer whom I first met when I was shooting a music video in Naperville, IL. (Aren't hairstylists often great for therapy?)
My attention was caught by the juxtaposition between Steve's tough look complete with tattoos and the gentle way he spoke and wrapped my hair around the curling iron. I had a hunch he had a story filled with good life lessons. Luckily, he generously shared it with me and on my show Waking Up in America.
Steve was a talented, creative kid who went to college to become an architect when a summer job at a construction company turned into a successful career.
"I took some time to make some money to go back to school and just started making so much money, I never went back."
He climbed the ladder fast, and soon became the head guy who worked and played hard, having fun and drinking with the best of them. He married a hair stylist who awakened his creative side and decided to quit his job and go to beauty school.
Steve and his wife opened a high-end salon and bought a big house on the right side of town, but before the paint was dry he was given divorce papers. Shocked, Steve slipped back into his old habits of working hard and playing harder.
"When you are in a boat, and you are flying across the lake, you got this big wake behind you. When you stop that boat really fast, that wake comes and hits you. That was kind of what happened to me."
Steve found himself in a mess he couldn't recover from, not on his own. He sought help and was put on medication. He gave up his salon and got a station at a much less competitive place.
And then the real change happened.
A friend asked him to volunteer at a homeless shelter and a recovery home.
"One of the things that I was missing... was helping other people... seeing what they are going through, and then seeing what I was going through was like, Pffff! Seriously?"
Helping others helped Steve to get out of his old patterns and gain a new perspective on life.
He is comfortable being himself: riding his Harley to work, where he curls and blow dries, cuts and smooths. With a few of his buddies he founded a program called Halfway Hair and on many Sundays he can be found doing hair for teenagers in addiction recovery.
"Sounds like church," I said in our interview. "Showing up where you are needed."
"Yea! Just like church." Steve responded with excitement. There he found his purpose: to serve and fix more than hair.
"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," I say to my husband a few days after our kitchen conversation. "Did you know that's an Einstein quote too?"
"By learning to break our behavioral patterns that cause us to react destructively we shift toward being the best version of ourselves. We change. And that's something a man can't wish their wife wouldn't do... Or wife make her husband do," I gently offer as a clarification.
"It's a gift to have each other when we are dealing with our own pits and gremlins. To know that we won't be judged, only loved for who we are -- as we grow, transform and expand." I smile at him. He looks at me relieved that all was well. But he also doesn't feel like talking about it any more.
I grab my purse and I'm off to get a quick blow dry with my Nashville therapist. I mean, hairstylist.
DISCLOSURE: I pay every time Steve does my hair and I haven't received any compensation, reimbursements or product in the process of writing this blog.