By JP Chartier
“Turn to face the pain.” -David Bowie
I remember it was a terribly hot and muggy day when I got the news that would forever change my life.
I had just spent the whole day hiking a muddy trail back from a favorite camping area nestled deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The long hike out of the forest had left me exhausted, and the rain soaked me to the bone making my clothing hang heavy on me. Mud covered me from head to toe.
Unexpected thunderstorms had ravaged the area the previous 24 hours. High winds knocked down some trees and monsoon-like rains soaked the ground, turning the trail to mud and sludge. The surprise thunderstorms had continued off and on throughout the day and lasted most of the night. I had planned to hike out a day earlier but the storm had made that an impossibility.
I remember lying in my tent alone the night before during the storm listening to the large trees in the forest creek and moan from the high winds. Occassionally I would feel the ground shake when a tree fell, it was a scary situation. I couldn’t help but think that the next tree would fall on me and my tent, snuffing me out for all posterity all alone in the middle of the forest. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t also feel energized and strangely at peace with the situation too.
Later when there was a lull in the storm I noticed that my father had left a message for me to call him. I called him back and wished him luck with the surgery he was to have the next morning.
He assured me it was a fairly routine surgery and that he’d be out of the hopital in a day or two at most. There was no concern in his voice, and the conversation was light-hearted. We joked about a few things, talked about when I’d come back to Florida for a visit, stuff like that. Then he said something to me that he rarely did my whole life, he said, “Son I just want you to know that I love you very much and I’m proud of you.” This choked me up for a second, because the comment took me off guard. I surely didn’t expect to hear that from him. I told him, “Pop, I love you too and I’ll see you soon.” Then we hung up.
“You need to come to Tampa immediately! Dads surgery didn’t go well, he’s in a coma.”
My sisters words hit me like a concrete wall!
“What?!” is all I could muster.
I was battling my way out of the forest, slogging in the mud and dealing with the intense heat when I got the call from my sister. I had just spoken to my father the night before,
“You really need to hurry” she said, “Catch the next flight to Tampa!”
The cold winds of change had blown into my life, like it or not. There was nothing I could do, I felt helpless.
I’ll never forget that hike and the rush of feelings I was trying to deal with. My dad was in a coma! I may never get to talk to him again, or see his smile, or hear any of his jokes…
It was the saddest hike I’ll probably ever take in my life.
I was feeling overwhelmed and terrified at the chance of losing my father. But thats exactly what happened, my father never woke up. He died a few days later.
And just like that, my father was gone forever…
DEALING WITH CHANGE
When change disrupts your life, throwing it out of balance, you become highly vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, anger and depression. Why is this? It’s because when a change occurs, an ending or a loss is created, and this loss is the catalyst to our feelings of discomfort.
Why then are some people more adaptable to change than others?
They can adapt easier because they are able to reframe the meaning that they attach to the change. We must be able to detach from the emotions brought on by the disruption caused by change long enough to attach positive meaning to the event, thereby reducing or eliminating the resistance to the change.
Ask yourself what the change means to you, if it brings you pain and discomfort devise a new meaning you can apply to the changing event or circumstance that will nuetralize or transform your negative feelings.
Effectively coping with change is like anything else, it’s a skill that must be learned and practiced in order to master it. It’s up to you. You can make a difficult situation much easier if you assign a different meaning to it.
We don’t have a choice whether things will change or not, our only choice is in how we choose to deal with it.
Will we embrace it or deny it?
We must develop two fundamental skills before we’re able to embrace change:
#1 We must have the ability to ADAPT.
#2 We must have the ablility to CHOOSE.
We must ADAPT to what has happened and we must CHOOSE how we deal with it, we must ADAPT to the new information and CHOOSE what’s relevant, we must ADAPT to the changing circumstances and CHOOSE to succeed regardless.
6 STEPS TO HELP YOU COPE WITH CHANGE
1. Accept it
2. Reframe the meaning of the change
3. See change as opportunity
4. Talk to supportive people, ask for their help
5. Take stock of the resources at your disposal
6. Drop your expectations about how you think something should be, or turn out. If you expect that something should turn out a certain way and then it doesn’t, your unmet expectation will multiply the pain and discomfort you recieve from the unwanted change you’ve experienced.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “There are only two things certain in life: Death and Taxes.” But there are actually three – Death, Taxes and CHANGE.
Like my father once told me, “Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.”
Great link to a book about change “Who Moved My Cheese:” http:// http://www.spencerjohnson.com/Book-WhoMovedMyCheese.html