Monday, April 01, 2013

Learning to Embrace Change

I am not a great lover of change, not in the least.  Though I am well known for my tendency to thumb my nose at authority, though I challenge people who unthinkingly trudge through their lives without the slightest bit of deviation simply because it's how they've always done something, and though I have an adventurous streak which sends me careening down zip lines or moves me to another country I still do not much care for having my own routine fouled up.  Of course, I defend my own routine in that I have considered its components and have a rationale for each of them which is more significant than "just because."

My disdain for change is firmly routed in the aspects of my childhood which were subject to the whims of others, whims that almost always left me either reeling in shock or recoiling in an attempt to protect myself from inevitable pain.  Change was not my friend. 

What gave comfort was a sense of structure and knowing certain things could be counted upon.  Tuesdays from 6pm to 8pm my paternal grandparents would visit.  Thursdays from 5pm-7pm my maternal grandparents would visit.  Sundays from 1pm to 8pm my brother and I would be able to visit our father.  Each of those visits had a predictable routine as well.  Routine was periodically broken when my maternal grandparents took me to their vacation spot in the mountains.  Even there I found a rhythm from the seasons and the activities they allowed.

While other circumstances in my life would spin out of control those rituals kept me anchored.  I knew the times I'd see my grandparents could be counted upon to be pleasant, reassuring, and affirming.  I knew the time with Dad, although not always what I wanted it to be, was utterly sacrosanct.  It was our time, no one else's.

Holidays were the other markers providing structure in the year and something to anticipate.  I'd have the chance to gather with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  The kids would largely be left to ourselves to scatter or congregate in small groups amongst the ankles of the adults or in corners of rooms or to tear around the yard.  Each holiday belonged to a specific relative and had it's own predictable patterns which consistently comforted me.  No matter who had passed through the doors of my own home I knew the holidays meant the same family members, the same games, the same foods.

In the last few years there have been some big shifts in my life that were either involuntary or absolutely required by circumstance.  I returned to the workforce after 15 or so years as an at-home mom.  I had a child go through a major health crisis.  I lost a job.  I lost my favorite aunt.  I gritted my teeth through each of them.

This summer I made a pretty significant voluntary change by leaving my church where I'd been a member for 18 years and where our family has been deeply involved.  Then I lost job #2.  I was really rattled by that but I realized that some of the other changes had not been the end of the world and decided to take the opportunity to make the change work in my favor.  I started yoga and found a job in the field I care about.  I will probably have to change my job situation yet again because I see the writing on the wall with the school district budget.  Even if they offer me a job next year, as much as I care about what I do I don't know that I can continue because I'm barely breaking even with the commute I make. 

This Easter for the first time in my life my extended family did not gather for a holiday together.  The aunt who hosted is the one who passed.  The cousin who lived with her is making her own changes and is in another country finishing her master's degree.  No one else picked up the job of hosting.  If I were not physically fighting just to get through a regular day I would have offered to host....because I hate change and I like the familiarity of the family ritual and the reassurance it all brings.

Instead, I worshiped in a new place and our little nuclear family celebrated together in a new and smaller way.  We made the day our own with some familiar elements maintained and others discarded with new ones added...and it was a change that was good.

So whether it's a job or a holiday ritual or family dynamics I'm finally learning that change is not inherently bad and maybe I can start navigating change with intentional steps rather than being dragged unwillingly through it.


Hilary said...

It's not the easiest thing to do but often, we have little say in its inevitability. We adapt. Maybe even thrive.

Beach Bum said...

Oh boy! I can relate! My wife and I have taken in one of our son's friends. His dad kicked him out of the house for reasons that are simply to long to write about.

Its been a MAJOR adjustment.

Bijoux said...

Great post about coping with change. We all face it in some way, but it's how you cope that makes the difference. I'm glad your family enjoyed Easter a 'new way.'

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

I don't mind change at all... if it doesn't screw up my routine.

Daryl said...

here's to new routines, traditions ... its spring, (well it would be if the calendar and ma nature would get it together weather-wise) time of rebirth, new beginnings ...

Jocelyn said...

What a deliciously thoughtful post; I'm always clapping when people experience change and are willing to see it as good and powerful.

And I'm really glad you have this new church!

Dave said...

I think I understand how you feel about change and excepting it Michelle. I think its important to continue to cling to certain major aspects of your life or the changes may cause disorientation and confusion. I think you have it under control huh? - Dave

Suldog said...

I'm not one to embrace change either, but I've learned a valuable lesson through the years that you may already have a handle on. When change makes the old routines or traditions unworkable, then endeavor to make new routines and traditions to replace them as soon as possible. The good thing about it is that YOU get to shape the new in whatever way you wish (and, knowing you as I do, whatever you shape will be great and good.)

Kat said...

I am no fan of change either. Though I don't know why. I guess it is fear of the unknown. But so many times the change turns out to be for the best, should I really should just learn to trust and go with the flow.

I really hope you find a home at this new church. Glad your Easter, while different than the past, was still a good one.

Craver Vii said...

It sounds like you dislike change as much as I do. There are some people in my life who don't appreciate the qualities of some sacred rhythms. I want to push them off a cliff. Yes, that's a change I could live with.

Logophile said...


Good for you. Here is a little military slogan for you, suitable for meeting all changing circumstances—
"improvise, adapt, overcome!"
You may add "Oooo- rah!" at the end of the statement if you feel appropriately moved.
Alternately, pour yourself a nice cup of green tea, breathe deeply, and congratulate yourself on having navigated successfully.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think going through a divorce taught me a lot about accepting unwanted change. And since, my life gas been one shift and adaptation after another. But it's okay.

NYD said...

Good thoughts, Thanks for sharing them, I really don't mind change, I kinda like the way it tosses me about and forces me to work harder on re-establishing some form of continuity in my life.

S said...

when one door is close,
, anuudah is open, mon!