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.