Change isn't easy, but sometimes it's inevitable
By Dawn McDowell
As summer fades, I find myself anticipating the cooler days and crisper nights of autumn and the riot of colors that appear on tree leaves before they fall. And as I reflect upon the changes of nature, I also contemplate the nature of change.
I often wonder what goes through the minds of my two 14-year-old cats when I challenge them to adjust to something new. The "boys" have been through much with me: from airplane rides to new homes to trips in the car to unknown places. As I ready them for departure, I watch their quizzical looks, which eventually transform into looks of sheer terror and then to each of them howling, "What are you doing to me now?" - that is, until the "happy pills for kitties" kick in.
As I load them into their carriers, Bosco and Roscoe have no idea where I'm taking them. Hmmm.... Is it a quick trip to the vet or an eight-hour plane ride? Will we return to the house we left or wake up in strange surroundings? I would give anything to be able to hear what Bosco, my 22-pound orange tabby, is thinking when he senses he's "going on a little trip." "Oh no, she's coming after me, maybe if I curl up in a ball she won't see me.... She's picking me up, oh no, it's...it's... the carrier!"
While I'm sure their stress level and fear of the unknown is high during each of these transitions, it never ceases to amaze me that, within a very short time, Bosco and Roscoe quickly adjust to their new environs. It seems that no matter how much adversity I throw their way, my cats always know that things will work out and they remain unscathed, readily adapting to the changes presented to them.
So why is it that, like cats, we resist change, but, unlike our feline friends, we aren't always able to quickly bounce back? Often, we remain in jobs that we know are toxic to our well-being - knowing full well that the jobs we hold aren't the only jobs that we're qualified to fill - because they're comfortable. We maintain unhealthy relationships, even though our lives would be much more pleasant without them. We obsess about missed opportunities in our lives and hold onto negative thoughts about our bodies, clinging to a vision of what we could have been "if only...."
Do we continue to hang onto these behaviors and thoughts simply because they are comfortable or, like the cats, because we don't know how to change how we act and feel? Or because we perceive change as much too scary for us to handle?
I doubt any of us chooses to go through life being miserable, but to watch some folks, I have to wonder if they, too, are curling up in a ball...hoping that their problems will fade away, and not making an effort to change the situation.
Certainly, making changes in our lives and breaking long-held patterns is risky business. Change represents the element of the unknown and can provoke a sense of uneasiness. But by not attempting to make changes that we sense will make us happier or healthier or wealthier, we're robbing ourselves of the full joy of life. If we weigh not taking the risk to make our lives fuller against the actual fear we experience through during the transition itself, my sense is that we cognitively know that the change is really the better choice to make.
And that, I believe, is what separates us from my feline friends. Once we reach our new destination and the adventure is over, Bosco and Roscoe settle in. There isn't any contemplation on their part about what's going to happen, because I've made the choice for them.
My cats adjust to change like I adjust to nature's changes, and perhaps that's the lesson to be learned. As I say good-bye to the warm, sunny, summer months and slowly greet the cooler, grayer fall season, it occurs to me that there are many choices we can make to change our lives, but some things we just can't change - even if we want to.
The season comes, we prepare for what it offers and acknowledge that, in a very short time, we will have to make yet another adjustment in the way we live. It's predictable and we plan accordingly. We recognize that the transition of seasons is non-negotiable and, like time, it's something we just can't control. We accept it, we honor it, and we never question why it's happening. We just accept it.
Wouldn't it be nice if we could make changes in our lives as easily as Mother Nature changes the seasons? Ahhh, yes - easy in, easy out, without a second thought.
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