Sometimes change delicately wafts into our life in quiet ways like, say, a barely noticeable whisper. A soft breeze. A butterfly, even.
Other times, though, it kicks in life’s front door with all the elegance and grace of Sam Kinison crashing a debutante’s ball.
Welcome to my world.
For, in a single, two-week period recently, I lost my job, my wife lost hers, our one-year-old contracted hand-foot-and-mouth disease, our 14-week-old remained colicky and I went under the surgical knife.
Okay, the pity party is officially now over; thank you for indulging me. And, truth be told, I’ve been seeking a new gig for several months anyway. I just would rather have done it on my own terms — not from the business end of some bean counter’s half-sharpened No. 2 pencil.
Come to think of it, change never promised that it would ask me which way I wanted it served. Nonetheless, all of this got me to thinking about change with a capital “C.” You know: Change Itself.
I was intrigued when I read this quote in the book The Devil and Miss Prym:
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.”
Without getting all mushy and cliché-y on you, the old adage is validated yet again. The adage? It’s not the change that matters; rather, it’s your take on the change — how you deal with it — that counts. Clichés are clichés for a reason: they just seem to resonate a certain distilled wisdom with the sharp-shooting accuracy of Seal Team 6. They’re almost law-like in their predictability.
Yet, change can be crazy hard. I once read that of 100 people facing a life-threatening illness who, importantly, have the power to correct their malady (through diet), 90 of those souls choose to do nothing. And, apparently it seems, they die.
Don’t believe me, Thomas? Okay, here’s the quote lifted verbatim from the Fast Company article titled, appropriately enough, “Change or Die:”
“Many patients could avoid the return of pain and the need to repeat the surgery — not to mention arrest the course of their disease before it kills them — by switching to healthier lifestyles. Yet very few do. If you look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, 90 percent of them have not changed their lifestyle.”
To most people, the numbers show that death is preferable to, say, ordering a fruit plate with cottage cheese. And even though I fail at dealing well with change more than I’d care to admit, change is so much easier when I choose one of these three paths:
- gratitude as the primary lens through which I view life’s vicissitudes;
- when I act like water, not rock, flowing with and embracing change on my way to a new destination; or,
- when I move forward in spite of any fear.
Change reveals and renews us — magnifying our personalities and helping us shed life’s stagnant skin. And so it goes with my situation. I’ve rarely been more content (or felt more fortunate) — especially after counting my many blessings that really matter:
- a wife that puts up with and loves me (and vice-versa);
- two beautiful daughters that make me laugh, grow and appreciate;
- friends that encourage, challenge and reach out to me;
- a cozy home that keeps me warm and safe;
And the list goes on. And on. And on.
Regarding change or, really, any kind of adversity, I’ve always thought that we’ve got no choice but to spend our energy in dealing with it, right? So, first, I could spend my energy:
- lamenting and whining about the challenges and uncertainty I’ve recently experienced.
Orrrrrrrrrr, second, I could spend the same amount of energy thanking God that:
- job opportunities are coming my way;
- I’m interviewing well;
- my wife’s job represented only a small fraction of our overall income and that she’s now free to focus fully on our family;
- I’ve picked up a few part-time gigs in the interim;
- about 1,054,027 friends have reached out with job leads or offers of “I gotta guy who may need someone like you” — making me feel richer than ever;
- I have this precious, irreplaceable time with my family at such an early stage of life for my girlies;
- the girls — in spite of any temporary challenges — are doing great in the big picture of life;
- the kind of surgery I received is even possible and went exceedingly well;
- skillful doctors exist who know how to do these delicate procedures; and, among others,
- I’m experiencing virtually zero pain or side-effects and on the way to a speedy and full recovery.
Notice how much longer the second list is than the first?
I can even take the job loss, specifically, as growth. Forced growth yes, but growth nonetheless. As energizing, as empowering, as challenging me — testing my mettle and forcing me to man-up in ways I’ve not had the opportunity to experience in two decades since I was last out of work.
Hell, looking at the recent past through that lens, this change represents a rare and unique opportunity, not an anchor.
What I hope it reveals is my ability to be grateful for the blessings I’ve already received.
What I hope it magnifies is my capacity to be hopeful for things to come, and to be exponentially more present in this moment (and future moments) with my kids, my wife, with others — all in a way that makes life dramatically better.
Yes, I choose that. Hold me to it.