Mary E. Mebane On Change

I discovered this excerpt about 20 years ago, I don’t know where. A friend passed it along, or I found it in some magazine somewhere. And although it’s been tucked away in my little “Happy Thoughts” folder all this time, I’ve found myself contemplating it lately.

While researching this on Google (to make sure I had the correct credits), I learned that it comes from Mary, Wayfarer, an autobiography by Mary E. Mebane. The book is described as chronicling her “struggle to create meaning in her life” and her “struggle for self-fulfillment.” I had no idea that this piece came from a larger work. I just knew that it had resonated with me.

When I pulled it out this morning I was surprised at my response to the phrase “severe pain.” “That’s a little extreme,” I thought. “It doesn’t have to be that bad.” Now that I understand the nature of the larger piece from which this excerpt comes, “an uncompromising account of what it was like to be black, highly educated, and independent in the South during the 1950s and 1960s,” the phrase “severe pain” seems entirely appropriate. And, if I take a moment to reflect back on the time in my life during which I first discovered this piece, “severe pain” is probably the phrase with which I resonated the most. It’s probably the reason I kept a copy of this in my drawer.

What does all this have to do with weight-loss? Happy Calories Don’t Count is a revolutionary paradigm shift, which demands that we think differently. New thought patterns are a change, new behaviors are a change, Life is Change. And when our personal change is scary or painful, we can take comfort in Mary’s words.

To wrench anything out of its accustomed course takes energy, effort, and pain. It does great violence to the existing pattern. Many people want change, both in the external world and in their own internal world, but they are unwilling to undergo the severe pain that must precede it. Rivers in extremely cold climates freeze over in winter. In the spring, when they thaw, the sound of ice cracking is an incredibly violent sound. The more extensive and severe the freeze, the more thunderous the thaw. Yet, at the end of the cracking, breaking, violent period, the river is open, life-giving, life-carrying. No one says, “Let’s not suffer the thaw; let’s keep the freeze; everything is quiet now.”