Old Hat, New Hat… some thoughts about change

Old Hat, New Hat by Stan and Jan Berenstain – sung by vancemo

This is a fun version of one of my favourite books from my childhood. I loved this story, mainly because it made me feel good about myself. It told me that it was okay to like what I had and to like it the way it was. I still love this story for exactly the same reason, plus a few more which I’ve added over the years.

In the last few decades consumerism has become so pushy that it has leaked into everything. Everywhere you turn it seems someone is advocating throwing out the old for something new. Not in a hey, perhaps this new thing might appeal to you and make your life easier or improve how you experience it in some way, but in a what’s wrong with you, keep up with the times, trends, and forced changes or you’re a rotten old egg.

It’s an aggressive, though sometimes subtle, shaming of who you are, what you have, and how you live aimed to get you to buy things you don’t need, don’t perhaps even want, to change your life even if you like it the way it is, because everyone else is doing it. It’s mostly for profit, but some of it is a mix of several something elses. If you question it and the tactics, you get told that it’s about progress. And change.

Change is inevitable for all of us. From the moment we are conceived until we die everything about us changes. This is natural change and it moves in a natural rhythm, at a pace which ebbs and flows. There are periods in our lives when nothing seems to change and we settle in and relax. Then there are times when an event triggers another and so on and we find ourselves swept up and carried along, sometimes kicking and screaming, to another way of life. This can be brutal at times, everything we know is ripped away and we are lost for a while in the limbo which connects the old and the new.

Natural change always gives us the support we need to deal with it, even if we don’t always recognise it. Nature knows that we will adapt, that our latent survival and other skills will awaken and kick in. We will change, accept it, perhaps grudgingly at first, but perhaps sooner or later we may come to enjoy what it has done to us. It depends on us and on the change.

Forced change is a very different beast from natural change, although it sometimes mimics natural change the energy is not the same. It is a construct of the mind and it usually uses the fear which resides in our ego to get us to go along with it. It is the constant hypnotism of a fad, trend or mass marketing. It knocks at our mind like the drip drip drip of Chinese water torture. Be the change you want. Change or die. Make change happen. Buy this, do this, become this… everyone else is, you don’t want to be left out do you, left behind like some ancient artifact buried in the dust of yesteryear.

It is very hard to resist.

I remember some years ago when Timberland work boots were all the rage. I kept seeing them everywhere. I quite liked them, but I didn’t need them. My life did not require rugged work boots. Yet eventually I couldn’t resist and I bought a pair. They were quite costly, so I made myself wear them all the time. The toe dented as I walked and rubbed the top of my foot. Thicker socks did not stop the pain. They rubbed continuously and my feet felt as though they were floating around in them. I nicknamed them boats instead of boots. Then one day I was caught in a deluge, rain poured down my legs and my waterproof boots filled up with water and held it inside of them. So as I walked, the water sloshed around… and I began to laugh very loudly at how ridiculous the whole thing was. That was the last time I forced myself to wear those boots. I had been punishing myself for giving in to mass hypnotism, and trying to teach myself a lesson – don’t give in to forced change because it’s a waste of time and money.

I suppose forced change has value, in as much as when we do it we usually come back from it – and we always come back from it, it only lasts for a short time, usually the span of our will power to keep doing it – with a new perspective on that which we already have.

Each diet we try in an attempt to force our bodies to fit the societal ideal body, each health kick, exercise boom, must have gadget, the latest pro-active life affirming and destiny controlling pop philosophy, the newest fashion statement, etc… teaches us who we are and who we are not. That I suppose makes the pain we put ourselves through worth it.

When we fail our attempt at forced change we often hate ourselves, berate ourselves, compare what we did with what others have done or are doing and keep poking ourselves with a sharp stick, but sticking with it can also make us miserable. If we are doing something because it is the thing to do, but not the thing we truly want to do, then it becomes a chore, and we become a robot set to automatic just so that we can keep going.

When we let go because we’re too knackered to keep going, or care about any of it anymore… then we catch a glimpse of the old hat which fits us perfectly and we love it with renewed appreciation. Sometimes we remember this moment, and sometimes the memory fades lost in the fog which comes with the contempt familiarity breeds and the pressure of the world around us which has bought into the forced change mindset and won’t rest until we do too.

How dare we be happy with what we have, how we are, and what our lives are like when everyone else isn’t. We must join the cult of being, doing and having, even if it means never actually being, doing or having anything we find satisfying to who we actually are underneath it all. If we refuse to join in, then we get attacked with – Who do we think we are!

But that’s just it, we don’t think we are anything, we simply know who we are and who we are not, and we like ourselves and our lives that way. We know change will come, that we are not static, stale or a rotten egg, and when natural change comes, and it always does, then we’ll change, in the meantime, it’s nice to enjoy the calm before the storm. That’s why it exists.

The perpetual storm of forced change promises a blissful paradise of unlimited happiness at the end of it, but is there an end to it and does anyone ever reach this mythical paradise? Some pretend they have, and they pretend very successfully, but on close inspection they don’t seem genuinely happy, usually they seem scared to admit that they are too tired to know if they are happy or not, they just fix a smile on their face and hope it’s a real one.

I like my old hat, and as fun as it can sometimes be to try on other hats, it eventually become rather stressful, and in the end I just want my old hat back on my head because it fits just right!