11 October 2012

When Things Change

Dealing with change is one of the most difficult things that any of us face, it seems.  So often when we see someone acting rude or obnoxious or depressed or detached, we find out later that something has changed in their lives--the status of a relationship or job, living situations, money situations--and the way that they're acting is simply a reflection of the ways in which they're dealing with (or not dealing with) those changes.

In my life, I grew up dealing with huge changes constantly.  As a child in a military family, I experienced many major moves, often from coast to coast, to places where I never had lived before and where I knew nobody at all.  Because of these experiences, major change doesn't affect me much at all--in fact, I tend to thrive on it.  I also spent seven years in the military myself, which further developed my abilities to deal with change.  That doesn't mean that I'm completely unaffected by change, of course, but I do have a pretty practical perspective when it comes to dealing with change in my life.  There are a few things that I've learned that help me deal with any changes that come up, and these things help to keep me sane and help me to move effectively with the change.

First of all, it's very easy for me to accept change.  Whereas I used to want to keep things the same for safety's sake (a strategy that never worked), I now look at the change in my life and think, "Okay, that's the way it is--what do I do about it?"  I can either be the person who moves with the change and incorporates it quickly into my life, or I can be the person who complains about how much better things were in a futile attempt to get things back to the old way.  There are times, of course, when someone's proposing changes that are just plain stupid, and then it's time to argue; if the changes already have become policy, though, and argument is moot, then there really is no point in clinging to the past.

Another thing that I do is try to build my expertise in the new areas as quickly as I can.  I don't like working if I'm not familiar with what I'm working with or on, so it does me good to know as much as I can about the "new" ways.  When I do this I can also help others to adjust and to learn and to grow themselves.  I also become immune to the people who complain and who try to make others afraid of the changes to  try to get them "on their side" against the changes.  This strategy really does nothing that's productive, so it's one that's best avoided, and best confronted when it arises.  Just because I'm not comfortable with a change doesn't mean that I have the right to try to make others uncomfortable with it, also.

When it comes to changes in relationships, including loss of relationships, I keep in mind that we all have different paths in life, and that a friend's path may begin to diverge from mine--and that's okay.  Why should I try to hold a friend in place instead of allowing that friend to move on in life and explore new territory?  A true friend will be back, someday, and will always be in my heart.  Letting go of the way things were is perhaps  the most important aspect of dealing with change.

Over the past three and a half years, my wife and I have had to deal with an astonishing amount of change, much of it moving in seemingly negative directions.  The effects of those changes continue to affect us every day.  That's okay, though, because we know that no matter what changes we go through, there are still elements of who we are that are unaffected by those changes, and it's up to us if we wake up each day miserable, or if we wake up able and willing to face a new and beautiful day on this planet.  Many people have remarked upon the paradox that change is the only constant in our lives, and our reactions to change are among the most important indicators we have of a happy and fulfilled life.

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