It’s often said that change is the only constant. That has certainly been true in my life and I’ll bet it has been in yours as well. As a child, the changes in my life were beyond my control, and while some were unwelcome, others promised to be great adventures. For example when I was seven, my mother remarried and my new daddy was living in Georgia – courtesy of the US Army — and I got to move to another state. Having lived all of my life up to that point in North Carolina, I thought moving to Georgia (USA) was akin to moving to Japan! I would get to learn a foreign language and eat strange new delicacies and wear exotic clothes! Needless to say, beautiful though it is, Savannah was a bit of a letdown from my childish imaginings of it.
Growing up as an “army brat”, I noticed that as I got older, the changes were more difficult to simply accept. I came to envy my more rooted friends and found myself railing against yet another move I had to make, forcing me to once again leave beloved companions and community behind and start all over again in a new place. Because of this near constant change in my early life, I grew weary and developed a resistance to change.
For me, change became synonymous with moving because I did it so often. As a young adult, I decided to get married and settle down, believing that would limit the changes in my life. Not surprisingly, that turned out to be counterproductive and only invited even more change into my life. I had made 12 moves and attended 12 schools by the time I went to college after my junior year of high school. I made 17 more moves – five of them interstate – within the next nine years. Most of these were the result of living with and eventually marrying a man who followed the teachings of the I-Ching –The Book of Changes. Guess I should’ve known better! The marriage lasted a few short years. I was burned out on change!!!
A couple of years after that marriage ended, I married again and had two children. There were four moves over the next nineteen years. Practically static! There was just one little problem. I had not just settled down — I had settled. That is not a criticism of the man I married. We were simply poorly matched. (Note to self: Don’t marry someone who has lived 500 miles away during most of your courtship.) Somewhere in the first few years of the marriage, I realized that the relationship wasn’t working for me. I stayed anyway, thinking it was best for the children.
Then one day Change – that old nemesis that hadn’t shown her face in quite some time – broke down the door of my complacency, leaving me rattled. As I felt the fresh air blowing in, saw the sunlight, and heard the birds singing outside in the trees, suddenly Change didn’t seem so scary anymore. She seemed more like a crazy old aunt whose unpredictable behavior shakes up family gatherings. She lets long-buried secrets fly from her lips and flings open the closets where the skeletons have been stashed. Some members of the family are horrified. Others politely avert their eyes in embarrassment, pretending they don’t hear or see anything. I was among those who felt relieved, thinking “it’s about time someone told the truth around here!”
So change comes to us in many forms. Sometimes she is unbidden and we have to adapt as best we can. Rarely do we open the door and invite her to be part of our lives, if only for a while. And rarely does she come at a convenient time!
We can – and often do — choose to fight change — as I once did — or we can learn to embrace it. That is what I finally did the day she stormed down my door. I took a deep breath and opened my arms wide to embrace her in all her prickly discomfort, and despite my certainty that she was going to wreak havoc. Which, of course, she did. It was painful and hard (there was a divorce) and I had to make some difficult decisions along the way (moving far away from my teen-aged children has been by far the most difficult), but I am glad I accepted her. I’m not settling any more. I am growing and challenging myself and living a love and joy-filled life.
This post has focused on change when it shows up uninvited and unexpectedly in your life. In Change, part 2, I’ll examine how we can intentionally choose to create change in our lives, the benefits of choosing it, and the steps we can take in creating it.
How has change showed up in your life? How have you dealt with it? What are your strategies? I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below.