There are boxes everywhere in my apartment. As I stuff one more tablecloth into the latest box to close it, I can’t help but drift in my mind to all the changes and transitions that I have gone through in my life — some positive ones and some negative ones as well.
A little tear of gratitude rolls down my cheek and I smile, as my heart flutters with both excitement and nervousness about tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the end of over ten years of living alone. I am moving in with my sweetheart into our new home in Roslyn. I am grateful, yet sometimes the fear of the unknown surfaces.
What I am realizing in the process is that change even chosen lovingly is not very easy. Instinctively we want to repel it and go back to our comfort zone.
Although intellectually I know and understand that “the only thing constant is change”, I still have butterflies!
I ask myself, “What is it about the world that can seem so threatening when change happens?” Why is it that many of us are instantly repelled by the thought of change?
Clearly, we do get comfortable in the way we are doing things, even when that way is far from ideal. Then, when something takes us out of our comfort zone — loss of job, promotion to a new job, moving to a new town, whatever it is — we feel uncomfortable because we are not sure what is ahead, and how we will handle it.
Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty”. I wonder if he was always an optimist!
In Eastern thinking one of the main teachings is that everything in life is impermanent. And the Western expression is nearly as ancient: “the only thing constant is change” was originally written by Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher.
The good and the not-so-good (or just-plain-terrible) do not last; everything exists only for a finite time. That is a fact of life and to resist that fact does not help, because it does not change the reality. This reality has deep meaning for us as human beings.
When we accept the fact that nothing lasts forever, we are far better equipped for the journey. Struggle occurs when we resist reality, so the best way to end the struggle is to fully embrace the impermanence in life.
Upon reflection, I suddenly realize that I can re-interpret my feelings of the butterflies as anticipation of a new adventure. With this shift, I am open to the good that is coming my way, and I feel joyful anticipation in my heart. I observe in myself two simultaneous experiences: anticipation anxiety, and joyful anticipation. And it is good.
Changes are generally more challenging when change is due to a so-called negative event; the ability to go from resisting change to embracing change is still possible, although it may not happen overnight.
So the next time you are faced with an experience which causes your reality to change, for “better” or “worse”, please take a deep breath, take a step back and embrace the opportunity. Embrace each moment.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~ Charles Darwin
If we could learn to understand change as the fundamental reality of our lives, we could live happier and feel more fulfilled.
I am working on it!