From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Life is a Continuous Process of Change
I continue to be amazed at this life of ours. At times, its like a roller coaster ride,
moving rapidly in several different directions in rapid succession, and complete with ups
and downs you didn't even ask for. At other times, life is incredibly consistent from one
year to the next, even one generation to the next. The following thoughts occurred to me
this past weekend as I attended a 20th year reunion of college friends and visited family
in my home town, Miami.
- Some aspects of life are remarkably consistent. Last weekend, my college roomate
got married for the first time at age 43. In many ways, it was a very traditional wedding
but with an added bonus. Simultaneously, my friend became a wife and stepmother to two
wonderful young women in their late teens. Though my friend had remained single and
childless for 20 years longer than me, it was as though she had "caught up with the
rest of us" in a single weekend.
Among the attendees were several of us who went to college together. Though our lives
had changed quite a bit over the years, our basic personalities had not, and it was easy
to renew old friendships and recall old memories.
- Some aspects of life are completely unpredictable. We also made a condolence
call. Sadly, my cousin's mother passed away unexpectedly. This woman, a picture of health,
had previously been the matriarch in her family. Her death left behind a great legacy,
many roles that would need to be filled by someone else, and most assuredly, unfinished
business. She died without warning, and no time to prepare. Immediately, there became a
series of tasks for someone else to complete, and a need to restructure family
relationships, even before the grieving process could begin.
- Some aspects of life are in constant states of change. Thousands of students
graduated from middle school, high school, college, and graduate school this month. For
them, a sense of achievement was realized. They accomplished a formidable goal and now
look forward to new goals. For some, the future is mapped out; for others, there will be
indecision and uncertainty.
Graduation means change: a change in self-concept, change in location, change in
activity. Simultaneously, one must let go of the familiar and begin again to move further
in the direction of one's choice. Every graduation creates change in one's sense of
self-worth and new expectations. The extent to which we have planned the next step often
determines our sense of personal control over our destiny.
- Its how you do the thing you do. Whether we are facing happy changes or adapting
to unhappy changes in our lives, each of us must find our personal way to cope with these
changes. Our style of coping was often learned in childhood from those adults around us,
who modelled anything from being independent to dependent, hysterical to stoic, sensitive
to insensitive, strong to weak, and loving to rejecting. Although none of us can escape
life's tragedies, it is never too late to decide how we will live and cope with change.
- A lesson from nature. Growing up in Miami, I remember our annual hurricane
season. Like snowstorms and blizzards, hurricanes took precedence over all other
activities, reminding us that the environment was really the thing in charge. Every
hurricane exacted a toll from the trees in our neighborhood. I remember my Father pointing
out that contrary to expectation, those trees which were large, rigid and sturdy and which
stood up to the hurricane winds usually lost the battle; while those that were flexible
enough to bend and be tossed about by the storm usually survived. It was their flexibility
that allowed them to cope and survive. Another demonstration of this principle occurred
when Hurricane Andrew easily destroyed thousands of concrete homes, while the wild
peacocks that live in south Florida neighborhoods found safe places to hide and survive
with the storm.
In short, life is filled with joy and sorrow. Sometimes life is uncertain and
unpredictable, or as the song goes, "Nothing's for certain and things can always go
wrong", but we do have choices all along the way. We can choose to savor the happy
times, take risks, enjoy some aspect of each day and attempt another step along our life's
journey. Or we can fear the unknown and rigidly dig in our heels. If we choose to build
our lives, we gain enjoyment. And while its true that as our lives change we experience
loss, by rebuilding our lives again, our time on the planet is greatly enriched.
ęCopyright, 1996, 1998, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated December 26, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,