Flowing with the Changes of Life
by Deborah Tucker, M.A.
Change is a topic that, for me at least, creates some mixed feelings. Change is, of course, inevitable, so to some degree there's not much point in debating its merits. But as a therapist, whose job it is to facilitate change, it is a very interesting subject.
Like so many other life processes, change presents both benefits and drawbacks to us as human beings. Life is one long story of change, through the various developmental stages from birth until death. Life is also the story of changing events and circumstances, involving people and places and things that come and go. That sort of change is about what happens to us.
How the process of change changes us is what is truly interesting, at least to me. I am privileged to work with so many people, and to learn from them as we work together. So I have had the opportunity to see that there are many ways of coping with change, some more useful than others. I have watched people modify how they cope with change, and being there for that process has taught me much about how we all can cope with the changes life brings.
It seems to me that to fight change, to try to keep things the same, isn't a very productive stance. Perhaps others don't have this problem, but for me it felt that if something good was happening in my life, then I needed to try to make sure that it stayed there. Then, if it didn't, I felt that I had failed or that I had lost something, and I was upset. As you can imagine, trying to hang on like that is like trying to hold a river in your hands; it simply can't be done. To stretch the metaphor a little, if you do manage to contain a river, it's only by blocking the flow, and what you have after that isn't a river any longer.
So I've begun to realize that life is indeed a river that flows through us and around us. We may enjoy some parts, and not so much others, but all the parts are presented to us, and we can learn from them. I think that it is how we respond to what life presents that gives us the opportunity to grow. Of course, we don't have to grow; we can try to stay the same, kicking and screaming, crying and complaining, but whether we grow or whether we don't, life is going to keep on flowing by.
"There are no encores". This is a phrase I came across some time ago, and it rang very true once I heard it. How much of our energy can get caught up trying to reproduce something that has happened to us, that may have been very wonderful in its time, but for whatever reason is gone now. We can spend a lot of time mourning that which once was and is no longer. But mourning for the past won't bring it back, and doing so to excess means we will miss the present.
"Grateful acceptance". This is a phrase I am working with now, in my own life. As a person of faith, I believe that God operates in my life, and that all is happening for reason, even if I don't understand that reason at present. Easy to say, especially if all if going well; not so easy when events are more painful. But I still believe it to be true, and so I try to remind myself to practice "grateful acceptance", in the hope that practice makes perfect. To the extent that I am able to accept with gratitude what life presents, then I have more peace in my life. During the times that I fight back, trying to hang on or make things be a certain way, then I feel much less peace. That sense of peace is a beacon, at least for me.
I don't think that acceptance means that we just sit back and wait to see what the next thing is. A sermon I once heard pointed out that our biggest task, perhaps our only task, is to figure out what is God's part and what is our part, and then to just to our part. If we try to more than that, we are certain to fail, and certain to become frustrated. But if we don't do our part, then we are letting ourselves down, as well as everyone around us. Obviously it is a gigantic question to figure out what my part is, and what it isn't. For me at least, generally my part is a lot smaller than I originally thought it was.
John Lennon used the words of Thomas La Mance, "Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans". To that I would add: change is what happens to us if we are paying attention to life. So, I wish you (and me) an abundance of change, an abundance of peace, and an abundance of life!