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As a Californian, I view change the same as being in one of our frequent earthquakes where the ground underneath me shifts unpredictably. I’ve never been a big fan of change. It used to irritate me that, just when things were exactly where I wanted them, bam! Everything would change!
When it comes hard and unexpectedly...
I also resented change when it came so hard and unexpectedly in my senior years. I laughably thought after I retired, got my house just the way I wanted it, with the best friends around me that I had cultivated over the years plus my resources, financial, in particular, were lined up, it would all stay that way. Well, remember 2008? I was newly retired after working for 40 years. Millions of people, me included, could do little but try to keep our heads above water as we watched our savings dwindle, homes and jobs were lost along with a general reduction in the quality of our lives. I finally had to concede that change happens and that it’s going to happen for the rest of our lives.
There is change that happens to us through no action on our part and there is change that we consciously choose. When I chose to move out from my spouse, I knew things would change, and I was willing to be open to that change because I wanted it to help strengthen my relationship with him, which it did. It’s the change I didn’t choose that, over time, caught me off guard and has been the most difficult to embrace.
I've learned to buckle up and meditate
With a lot of reflection and work over the years, however, I’ve learned to accept change and see it more and more as an opportunity to learn and grow. I don’t love it, but at least I know that something good will generally accompany any discomfort that it entails. I’ve learned to buckle up and meditate my way to the next thing change brings forth.
As the mature adult I've grown to be (don't laugh!), I now treat change like a boo boo, and you can too. Here’s my prescription for dealing with change:
1) Be shocked at the change, whatever it is.
2) Cry and scream and kick.
3) Seek comfort from an appropriate source:
- friend, therapist or spouse (if that is ok with him/her)
- not from food, drink or anyone who can’t give you what you need.
This includes people who are likely to say “Buck up. It isn’t that bad.”
4) Remain in the comfort zone, either alone or with some support, until you are
distracted by someone or something or until you have to pee.
5) Try not to fixate on what is lost with the change but what good that will come
- Remember, as one door closes, another one opens and
- you can’t make room for the new until you let go of the old.
But, but, what about dramatic changes?
“Well, that just sounds all hunky dory, but she can’t possibly be talking about such a dramatic change as the loss of a friend or loved one,” you say. But, I am. My spouse passed away two years ago, and I was a wreck. I cried until I made myself sick. Almost from the very beginning of this devastating loss, I vowed to remain open and present. I figured if I didn’t walk through the process with awareness and openness, I’d be crying until I made myself sick a year later. There were some things I probably should have done that I didn’t do in my effort to be present. However, there is no perfection in how we respond to loss and change. I wanted to feel the loss, experience all the changes that came with it and celebrate my relationship with him. I honestly feel I did pretty good, for myself and for honoring his memory and all the wonderful ways he was. Yes, I still miss him and can get teary eyed but, at the same time, I will acknowledge that goodness has continued to flow through my life since his passing.
My friend, Toby. He handles change well.
Change isn’t meant to be easy, and I’m sure that if you don’t do it regularly, it’ll only get more difficult and unsettling later on. Remember, how you deal with change is up to you. Are you the dog that can learn new things and change regardless of how old you are? Or are you rooted so deeply where you are, when change does come, it knocks you on your butt?