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Monday, March 18, 2013

Roll With the Changes

The only sense that is common in the long run, is the sense of change—
and we all instinctively avoid it. -- E. B. White

Do you like change?  Every month I edit articles for this magazine and many of those articles deal with change—changing your appearance, your attitude, your living space, your health or your financial status.  It seems that everyone is interested in changing something about their lives.  If you look at the other magazines on the newsstands, you will find that most of their headlines deal with changing something as well. 
Change is very appealing—on paper.  When it comes to actually doing something different or making a major adjustment in your circumstances, that can be a bit less palatable. 
I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t take to change very readily.  There have been episodes when, like the commercial says “life came at me fast,” sometimes too fast, catching me off guard and throwing me for a loop.  When I went to first grade, I didn’t adjust well to this transition and fretted obsessively that I would miss my bus after school.  I was so upset one morning while getting ready for school, that when I went to the closet to get my shoes, I barfed in my Buster Browns.  Years later when I was working, there was a reduction in the workforce, and I was bumped from my position into another department.  My new co-workers were so different from my former colleagues, that I feared I would never feel at home with them. 
There is a whole area of psychology devoted to the study of change and how it affects people.  In 1967, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which assessed numerical values to life changes—good and bad events.  The death of a spouse rated a 100 while Christmas rated a 12. 
My reaction in first grade and later when I was moved to a different job were normal responses to those normal life-changing events, but after perusing the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, I think it may need a change as well. 
Life comes at you even faster now than it did in 1967.  We have introduced many more changes and many more stress- producing circumstances over the decades.  Most of them have not come from happenstance but from a shift in our collective attitude and technology.  For instance, back in 1967, we didn’t obsess about food.  People just cooked food and ate it.  Every day it seems a new study is released telling us which foods to eat.  One day coffee is bad, the next it’s good.  Bread used to be the staff of life, now it’s the scourge of carb watchers.  There are so many different diets from low-fat to caveman style, that it’s no wonder people are tied up in knots not knowing how to eat properly. 
Technological changes are also a source of consternation.  Technology changes so rapidly now, it’s almost hard to keep up with it.  Do you realize that the first iPad was only released on April 3, 2010?  Now, we are up to the fourth generation of the iPad, and you can bet before long a newer version will be on the shelves.  It seems you just learn how to work a device and it’s time to get a new one and get acquainted with its new features.  We recently purchased a new car.  I love all the new bells and whistles on it, but it used to be you merely inserted a key into the ignition, shifted into gear, released the emergency brake and away you went.  The new car came with an inch-thick manual that explained how everything worked, and I’m still trying to figure out all of the icons on the dashboard. 
I’m not some Luddite.  I love technology; it has made my life much simpler and more convenient in so many ways.  Paradoxically, at the same time, it has also made life more complicated.  I have so many computer passwords, I’m afraid that some day my brain will crash, and I won’t remember any of them and my life will collapse in ruins around me.  Therefore, I have a small notebook where I maintain all of my passwords.  When I worked for Westinghouse back in the mid-1980s, IBM personal computers were purchased for all of the staff.  Most of us were very excited to receive them, but there were several secretaries who chose to retire rather than attempt to learn how to use a computer.  I often wonder how they are faring with this onslaught of innovation if they are still alive. 
I eventually adjusted to first grade, and those new co-workers I acquired when I was bumped into that new department, eventually became my friends.  With age comes wisdom, and I’ve learned along the way that although most change feels as uncomfortable as a pair of wet socks, you eventually get used to it. And it might even be better than what was prior.  I recognize that although I’m more comfortable with the status quo, I’ve come to agree with the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said “Nothing endures but change.”  Therefore, I’ve decided to adopt a more welcoming attitude and to try to roll with the changes—but, of course, if I find that being so adaptable is too stressful, that will be subject to change. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Northern Connection magazine.