Change. It has a different effect on each of us; we all experience it depending on how we have managed it in the past, how we feel we have been treated by it and simply by our personalities; and yet one thing about it is constant, change is rarely easy.
It has been such a strange week in the UK and regardless of your views of the constitution, the events have made us consider change. For me personally, yet again, I find myself reflecting on my relationship with change, and in turn our relationship with it more generally, as humans and societies.
Our Queen died. It was to be expected – anticipated even, she was, after all ninety-six. Rather a good innings we would say here. I can’t say therefore it was a shock, or a surprise even, and yet there was an unreal feeling about the news as it broke. As the days have passed and the traditions of the Union that is the UK, have come about, for me at least, there has been a growing knowledge that something fundamental has changed. Something that has always been so, for my entire life, is no longer there.
There are some people that chase change, they crave the adrenaline of the unknown and find the regularity of the familiar rather stale and restricting. However, there are more of us that find change a challenge. It is, for us, uncomfortable and unsettling. That’s not to say that we can’t and don’t seek change, or that we can’t survive it – we can and do of course; understanding that change is not only inevitable in all things, but also desirable if we are to grow, learn and develop. But it’s hard work, an effort. “But why?” I hear you chant…
So glad you asked 😉
In short – because familiar is easy. When we spend all our time in our comfort zone, there is rather unsurprisingly, comfort. We know our way around this place very well, we know the players, the rules, the landscape and where all the biscuits are hidden. Very little is going to surprise us here and even more unlikely is the probability that we will be hurt, judged, challenged, or abandoned. All of which are some of the fundamental fears that us humans carry about, preprogramed as a survival technique. In modern times it is less about being eaten by a big furry toothy animal and more about not being alone or rejected from the group (which back then would also have meant being munched).
It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform. Roy T. Bennett
Think of your life as a superhighway, a wonderfully wide and straight road. You spend your days zipping up and down it, practicing your routines, known behaviours and habits, and watched by your little inner critics who will be smiling benignly, because you are staying in your lane, your comfort zone and are giving them no cause for alarm.
Here comes change. Whether you have chosen it, or it is foisted upon you, you now need to change lanes… immediately. You need to get your tiny little car across 12 lanes of frantic, honking, angry traffic, pronto. Go! It’s unpractised, possibly unexpected and it is NOT comfortable. Can we do it? Yes of course we can, and the more we do it, the better we will become at it, just like actually driving in real life, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t be holding our breath, closing our eyes, shrieking our lungs out and feeling every emotion under the sun as we wrench the wheel to cross the lanes and hope for the best.
Modern life is full of choice and all the wonderful opportunities this affords. Whether we are choosing to stay our lane, in comfort, for indeed our comfort zone is a choice we are reinforcing with our language, our thoughts and our deeds; or whether we are choosing to cross the lanes, change is a skill we need to become more adept with, and a process we need to become accepting of.
Now I can tell you again that practice makes better (nothing is perfect) and I believe I would be correct in this belief (I would, it’s my belief) and I can also tell you again that your brain will support you in this due to its neuroplasticity (it’s ability to rewire itself, to physically change its synaptic connections), provided you give it the messages and reinforce it to do this - practice. But I also know that for me, at least, change will always be unsettling, and when it is change that has happened around me, when it’s one that life drops in my lap regardless of whether I wanted it or not, there is really only one thing for me to do.
It’s a real sh*tter I can tell you, but I have learnt it is the fastest route through it all. I tried almost everything else – let me spare you the same pain. Denying it just delays the inevitable. Pretending everything is hunky dory – delaying the inevitable. Running in any other direction, thinking you can make it something else – delaying the inevitable. It’s rather like grief – you just have to accept it is happening and that whatever you are feeling needs no explanation or rationalisation – it just is. Leaning into it, until there is a quiet acceptance that this now is your reality – change is afoot, change has changed you.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. Lao Tzu
So, wherever you are on your journey of change, look around you at the scenery – be present in the process, feel everything that you feel consciously. Change is not always easy, it is often unsettling, but that doesn’t mean we can or should resist it at every turn, no one among us can outrun it and quite often, change sweeps in something fresh, something from which we learn.
‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this. A.A.Milne
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