How to Live - and Thrive - With the Constancy of Change
Change. It's inevitable. Most of us dislike it, but I've heard more than once that the pain of change doesn't come from the change itself, but from resisting it. And as far as the impending arrival of summer, that's what I'm doing – I'm resisting.
This week in the Sacramento Valley temperatures are expected to be 90° F. (32° C.) or higher. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you already know I dread summer heat and dryness. And here in Northern California it is upon us, although I realize that some of you are barely recovered from winter and still reveling in the fresh beauties of spring.
This is only the beginning, and we may still have some time before everything that isn't irrigated turns brown and the sky gets that hot glare (or worse, the brown pall that signals fire). There may be some time before my enthusiasm and energy levels sink as the thermometer soars.
It's silly, I know, because I have no control over the weather. And generally speaking, none of us has control over other changes we may resist. We age, our kids grow up and move away, maybe we get sick, something changes at work, our favorite neighbors move away, our church gets a new pastor, our go-to coffee shop closes, or something else changes against our wishes and outside of our control.
There are many opportunities to practice accepting change and relinquishing control (or admitting our lack of it). So the next time you are struggling with change, ask yourself if you are accepting or resisting it.
Now, accepting doesn't have to mean "I agree. I'm happy about this. Oh boy, this is great!" Accepting means, "I understand this is happening, and I will figure out how to adjust." It might mean, "I will try to find something that might be good about this change."
After all, those of you who live with winter snow might not like it, but you can "turn your adjusting knob" (as my dad used to say), and get out your boots, the snow shovel, and your favorite warm scarf. You can look forward to cozy firesides and steaming pots of soup and hot chocolate.
5 stages of change
When our younger child came out as transgender in early 2014, my husband and I were blindsided. The pain, confusion, and hopelessness almost sank both of us. To be honest, my first feeling was that the daughter I had raised had died. It took some time for me to realize that I was wrong to feel that way – after all, I still had my child. He was still the smart, earnest, funny, loyal person he had always been. I didn't feel joyful, but I could try accept what was happening, educate myself about the situation and the transition process, and strengthen my relationship with my son.
Time passed. We all took two (maybe three) steps forward and one step back as we made our way through the process. And today I am proud of my son.
I don't know what changes you may be facing. They may be relatively small changes like a new season or your "baby" graduating from middle school. Or they may be bigger, more difficult or even traumatic changes that you did not see coming.
- Your first response may be fear, anger, or frustration. Go ahead and feel what you feel.
- Your next response may be to look for comfort. There are unhealthy ways to comfort yourself (eat carbs, drink alcohol, go shopping) and there are healthy ways to find comfort (talk to someone, go for a walk, pray, hydrate, sleep).
- You may want to "take control" of the change, even if you can't really control it. But learning all you can about your new situation may help you gain some stability. Creating an action list may help you choose your next steps.
- If you are a person of faith, now is the time to lean into that. In my situation with my son, I learned that my faith was shakable. I could either abandon it, or pray for the grace to allow it to grow stronger. Faith is not knowing – faith is trusting when you don't know.
- Finally, you can try to accept the change. After all, life is change, and we should probably practice getting good at it. And while we can certainly remember and be thankful for "the way we were," we'll be happier and more effective if we can embrace the opportunity to reinvent ourselves.
Today I have a choice.
Okay, I can turn my adjusting knob, Dad. I'll get out my sandals and my sunglasses. I can look forward to local fresh strawberries, cherries, apricots, peaches, and grapes. The park near our home is wonderful for 6:00 a.m. walks with Jon. I'll plan a trip to the coast and hope for fog and cool breezes. And I'll start making iced London Fog tea lattes for those sizzling afternoons.
See, it won't be so bad.
Want more help? The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits
Updated August 2023