Change: Why Is It So Hard?
Change is inevitable.
If someone told you your whole life was going to change, how would you feel? The first emotion I have is fear. I read this quote somewhere once: "Change is neither good nor bad, change merely is." It's true. We cannot avoid change because of the nature of life. We age. And as we age, things change. I also read once that growing old is not for sissies. Also true. If you haven't mastered the art of accepting change by the time you begin to grow old, you are in for a disaster because growing old is nothing but change.
One of the things that has been hardest for me to accept as I age is my physical limitations. Not long ago, I mowed our front and back yards, then hopped on the treadmill for five or ten minutes, then settled in to rest and watch TV for a bit before taking a shower. An hour later, I was in the emergency room with an episode of AFib. Very likely if I had merely mowed the front yard and left off the back and the treadmill, I wouldn't have had a problem. Being cautious has never been my long suit, and I am having to learn that pushing oneself is not always good.
As we age, we have various aches and pains and I try to live with mine quietly without constantly announcing them to everyone. I generally fail in that endeavor and do a lot of moaning and groaning. This is a change in my life. Another change that I dreaded was selling my business and working at home. That one, like many I've endured, has turned out to be a blessing instead of a curse. I like working at home, wearing jeans and a T-shirt to work, having my cats, General and Lucy, on each side as I work and knowing that if I choose to take a break and go to lunch with a friend, watch a TV show or take a walk, no one cares.
One of the things I never thought of is the fact that both my husband Joe and I are limited physically. We have learned to be more careful when we go fishing, to always be sure the cell phones are charged before we leave the dock, and to perhaps not venture quite as far out as we would have at 30. Joe has changed his hunting habits, I've learned. For years, he hunted from a climbing stand. This year when I saw it in the storeroom, I asked why. His answer: I'm too old to be using a climbing stand any longer. Change.
One of the biggest changes in our lives in recent years has been selling our 30 or so acres in Kentwood where we spent so many happy times. We had debts left from after Katrina when we kept PICR open with few students and debts left from Joe's business during that time. We decided to sell the Kentwood Property and pay it all off. I expected to be devastated. I wasn't and neither was Joe. Being out of debt was a tremendous relief and at about that time, we were able to buy our little cabin in Arkansas, which took the place of Kentwood. Sometimes change is not what you think it's going to be. We have to give it a chance before we react.
No more place to play
I often think that small changes bother me more than the big ones. The big ones are at least a challenge and I can force myself to accept them gracefully. The small ones are a different matter and likely will sound trivial to most of my readers, but they are very real to me. We have lived in the same house for 42 years. For all of those 42 years, the lot across the street has been empty. We park our cars on it. The grandboys play football on it. When they were younger, we flew kites on it. We have no one immediately across from us watching our every move. Recently the people who owned the lot decided they would never build on it and sold it. The man who bought it is actively trying to sell it. It bothers me tremendously that there will be a house directly across from us for the first time in years. No more extra parking, no more play area for the boys. Change.
Perhaps it's a territorial instinct, not wanting the lot to be developed, but I think it's more the dread of change. Our neighbors on one side, who are raising their grandchildren, are moving soon to Tennessee. Their house is on the market and we dread them leaving. They get our mail when we go out of town, bring in our papers; and although we don't socialize, I know that if we ever needed anything, they would be there for us and they know the same about us.
One thing I've learned about change is that handling change as gracefully as possible, working through it, trying to see the good in it and coming out the other side builds confidence. It is sad in some ways to see the grandboys growing up, knowing the time will come when they won't be the least bit interested in coming to our house. But that's the way it should be. If they didn't have friends to do things with, places to go, fun things to do, we would worry about them. It's the natural rhythm of life that they grow up and explore the world and not cling to Grandma and Paw-paw. The oldest is 13 now and Quinn is almost 11. They already have dances and sleepovers. We still see them often but I am determined that when the time comes that they no longer come often, I will handle it with grace. I saw my own children tire of going to their Grandpa Lloyd's house when they were 14 or 15, preferring to stay here with their friends over going to Arkansas to go fishing and visiting relatives with Grandpa. It's part of growing up.
I was frightened of losing myself, my identify, self worth, whatever, when I sold my school. All that worry for nothing. I'm a different "me" now. I have different interests and a life that is balanced instead of being all about work, although I do still work. My work is interesting most of the time. Depositions can be like a good book if the subject is interesting. There are some boring ones, but the good ones outweigh the bad. The two court reporters I work for are easy going and funny and fun to work for. I've joined a group that does dream work, focusing on lucid dreaming. I am writing a short story and perhaps will get up the nerve to send it somewhere. Joe and I have a boat now and go fishing often either here or in Arkansas where we have a tiny cabin. We visit friends in Hot Springs sometimes and plan at some point to visit our son in England. I don't miss the "me" from before who was all about PICR, my court reporting school, and all about work. Those were good times in many ways, lots of laughter, lots of good people, but they are over and that's just fine. The past tends itself very well without our interfering.
A friend and I were talking about the days when we'd walk in a room and the guys would turn to look, especially if it was a good hair day, the weight was down 5 pounds and the outfit was flattering. We have become invisible to men, we both agreed. Well, not to all of them, but the ones who look now are so old! (Just like us!) As we evolve, unfortunately, we also age. The two things go together. I laughed until I had tears in my eyes the other day. I hadn't put on any makeup as I was working all day, had on jeans and a T-shirt and my hair was totally wild. I glanced in the bathroom mirror and burst out laughing, thinking, Who in the hell is that old woman? The trick is learning to like the old girl, and I do.
Fifteen years ago, I had a defensiveness that is no longer there. I think just the school of hard knocks has worn it down. I'm no longer concerned about impressing anyone, about one-upping anyone, or even trying. I ran into someone I know recently who began to rattle off the trips she'd taken and the car she'd bought, the restaurant where she'd eaten the night before, etc. I remember as she was talking thinking: Well, I will tell her about going to Switzerland. I don't want her to think I haven't been doing anything interesting. Then I remember thinking, well, no, I won't. I listened and went on my way without saying much of anything about me because I've finally learned that people who do that don't care what you've done or seen or been; they simply want to talk about themselves and the best thing to do is to let them! I did. All the changes we undergo as we grow and age change our reactions to situations and one day you realize that people no longer get on your nerves like they once did. When this happens to you, believe me, they haven't changed, you have.
People Leave; Pets Leave
I was going through a box of old greeting cards last week and found an old Christmas shopping list. I was amazed at how long it was. My father, stepmother, aunt and uncle, a dear friend a few years older than I, Joe's dad, his next-door neighbor were all on it. All gone. My list is so much shorter now. That has been the hardest change for me to adjust to, people leaving, my pets leaving. I went to the back door to feed Frankie, my backyard feral cat, for months after she was gone. For almost a year after Joe's dad died, I brought my morning coffee out here to the den where he stayed out of habit, thinking I'd talk for a bit before I got ready for work. The week after my father died, I found myself halfway to the nursing home before I caught myself. Those are the difficult changes to deal with. A friend of mine gave the best advice when thinking about people she'd loved and lost. She said: It's always easier when you remember the good times. And I do.
My work requires that I use the computer every single day. There's nothing particularly complicated about what I do. I know pretty much what I need to do my job. I learned this past year to do something called Connection Magic, a function of my software that allows me to edit while the reporter I work for is writing on her machine. It's a really cool thing. I was wildly nervous the first day I did it, but after that, it was fine. It's simple. That prompts another piece of advice about change. Don't resist it. Technology is a fine thing and it connects us as a people as we've never been connected before. I love being able to check in with my sister or my friends in Arkansas by just sending an email or a Facebook message. It's a wonderful thing. Some of you who know me are puzzled as I've resisted the smart phone thing. I am online all day doing research for my work and the last thing I want to do when I'm through is play with a phone. I don't think of myself as resisting so much as just having no interest. I have a bare bones phone that doesn't even flip and I like it a lot -- when I bother to turn it on.
Here are my tools for handling change. I hope they help.
Don't panic. If something drastic is changing in your life, like losing a job or a business, getting divorced, losing a parent, etc., ask yourself how it will affect you. Think of every possible way it will affect your life, then ask yourself if you can handle it. Of course you can. Then move on. The people who adapt to change are the ones who make it through life the easiest, especially the last years of life.
Practice. Make some changes in your own life. Not necessarily bad or good, just changes. Start getting up an hour earlier for a month. Stay up an hour later. See how you adapt to it. Attend a different church one Sunday. Do something different. Practice being okay with it. You'll be surprised.
Finally, when change seems to overwhelm you, whether it's good or bad, brought on by advancing age or just life, look around you. Find the people who have been dealt the really hard blows, who have had life changing car accidents, who have lost loved ones, who have suffered strokes, and tell yourself if they can do what they do, surely you can deal with what life has dealt you.
And finally, let's face it: Change is inevitable. Whether it's good or bad is all about your reaction to it. I have added a postscript below.
Since I wrote this hub a couple of months ago, the man who owns the lot across the street has taken down the for sale sign. No one has begun construction so we think he has taken it off the market until a better time. Our neighbors have not moved as of today. We don't ask questions, just appreciate them every day they are there. Change takes crazy twists and turns.
It's been 2 1/2 years approximately since I wrote this hub. I know because that's the last time I had AFib. The lot across the street is still empty. It has been sold but the owners haven't built a house yet. We have new neighbors next door, an older woman and her son: lovely people. They are very sweet, very quiet and she even offered to keep Lucy when we went to the camp recently. We took Lucy with us, but I appreciated the offer! Our neighbors on the other side also moved, which we didn't expect. They are renting their house to a doctor and his wife. We haven't met them yet, as they've only been there two days, but I think they'll be good neighbors. I now have a smart phone because Joe wanted a new one and got mine for pennies. I still forget to turn it on and keep it charged.
We are going to England to see our son at Oxford in July, then to London, then on to Paris for Joe's Kiwanis convention. Change keeps coming and I've finally realized life would be quite boring without it. I am going to have my hair cut short for the first time in lots of years. That's my nod to change and to the heat wave in Paris this summer!