Thursday, June 10, 2010

Adapting to Change

There's a Joni Mitchell song with the lyrics, "Don't it always seem to go that we don't know what we've got 'till it's gone." How true that is in so many ways. The song was written as a lament about people's destruction of the environment (the next line is, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" Feel free to hum along as you read...I know I'll be humming as I type!), but I find that it applies equally well to so very many areas of our lives.

Parents of newborns and infants crave a good night's sleep and hands-free child care, while parents of older children wish they could hold their babies again. Parents of toddlers would love to sit still for more than 30 seconds and long to have their children occupy themselves, while parents of teens wish for the days when their children were underfoot and they knew exactly what they were up to...and with whom.

We spend years going through school with our classmates and can't wait to graduate and get away from them all, only to spend oodles of money and time travelling to and attending class reunions. Some people marry, divorce, and then remarry their ex-spouse. I guess they couldn't stand being married to and then couldn't stand being divorced from the other person.

Life is all about change and phases, growth and movement and sometimes, actually oftentimes, it's hard to adapt. Why is that? Is it that change implies a loss of some kind? Does growth mean the new has to push out the old and leave it behind? If the old isn't useful anymore, then it should be left behind, right? It's like baby teeth being pushed out and replaced by adult teeth. It's a good thing, but it still hurts and sometimes bleeds.

Do we perceive change as a negative thing because we focus on what's gone instead of the new, perhaps better opportunity that's on its way into our lives? And why are we reluctant to let the old go? Perhaps it's because we didn't fully appreciate it while we had it. Or maybe we really did appreciate what we had at the time that we had it, so we don't want to be without it. Maybe we'll have to change our daily routines and habits in order to hang on to whatever it is that's ready to go, and that in itself brings change into our lives. Oh my, I'm getting myself dizzy!

In case it's not obvious, I'm taking a song lyric about something physical and applying it to the more emotional areas of our lives. This all came about because friends of ours will be moving across the country in a few weeks. Our 5th graders went to preschool together and while I don't see them every day, it has always been a highlight of my day to get together at school functions or bump into each other around town. I had to say goodbye to my friend last night and it brought me to tears, which have lasted into today.

Overall, this move is good for my friends, but I'm emotionally stuck in the pain of losing their physical nearness in the neighborhood. I don't want to see all the good things in this move. I'm missing them before they have even left the state. Yes, we can email and write and visit, but we all know, even as we say these things, that it's not the same...and perhaps it shouldn't be. It's time for them to move and grow and embrace new experiences, much like a young adult moving out and heading off to college. The parents know they'll be home again, but not for long and not for good, and it really won't be the same.

So how do we deal with these changes that life brings us? First, I think we need to spend some time feeling, really feeling, whatever emotions we have. Emotions need to be recognized and lived and felt, not ignored and stuffed. I think the process of feeling and walking through the emotions leads us to a place of acceptance where we can see the good in the change that we're facing. But before all of that, I feel we'd all be better off if we took the time to really appreciate all that we have right now in our lives.

I'm back to gratitude. Gratitude for the big things and the small things and all the things in between. Be aware, be present, be grateful. Be honest and truthful, with yourself and with others. Be kind and helpful. Be the person you would like to have as a friend. Tell your friends how much you care. Tell your family that you love them. Hug your children, no matter how old or how tall they are. Notice and appreciate everything and everyone in your life.

Capture each moment in your memory and cherish it, for changes are coming. Changes are always coming. Love where you are so that you'll be ready to grow and shift when you need to. Know, truly know what you have before it's gone, and maybe, just maybe, the really important things won't disappear at all.

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