“Everything must change. Nothing stays the same. Everyone will change no one stays the same…There are not many things in life you can be sure of, except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky, and hummingbirds do fly.”
There is a story you may have heard about a postman on his mail delivery route who happened to see a man sitting on his porch. Next to the man was a whimpering dog. The postman asked the man, “What’s wrong with your dog?” The man said, “He’s laying on a nail.” The postman was confused. “Laying on a nail?,” he said. “Well, why doesn’t he get up?” The man replied, “It’s not hurting bad enough.”
This story is often told by motivational speakers as a way to point out the absurdity of remaining in a painful situation, and to encourage people to get off their own personal nails and make the necessary changes that will ease their discomfort. Coming off the nail could mean leaving an unhappy relationship, a dead-end job, or fulfilling a lifelong dream. But the parable leaves out an important element. Change is risky and can be accompanied by sadness, fear, regret, anger, and disappointment. If you stepped on a nail, it would obviously be painful and you would want to remove it. But before it feels better, removing the nail hurts, sometimes more than staying on it. Truth be told, there are times when we’d rather adjust to and accept a familiar hurt than risk the discomfort of change, even if the change we face leads to something better.
Whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, change is always occurring and with it comes uncertainty. It may manifest as an unwelcomed illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or as an opportunity, like an unexpected promotion, or the finalization of an adoption, an event you’d given up hope would ever occur. You might experience a change of heart, like a vacation you thought you wanted to take with friends, but at the last minute you decide to stay at home. It could be a failed relationship. No matter what it is, accepting change and adjusting to it can be tough.
Clinging to the familiar is a normal part of the process of accepting change. Once we realize and accept the fact that change has actually occurred, we find ourselves living with the anxiety of not knowing what lies ahead. That can be disorienting. To ease the anxiety we alternate between clinging to the way things were, and frantically searching for what’s next.
Rather than remaining stuck in how you wish things were, and before you rush into how you hope things will be, take some time to reflect on how you feel right now about the change that has occurred. You can’t “put the past behind you and move on” without saying goodbye to what you are leaving. Let yourself experience the impact the change has had on you, even if it hurts.
There is wisdom to be gained by reflecting on change, its inevitability, and how to gracefully accept it. The ability to embrace change is an essential part of living. Accepting the pain that sometimes comes with it is fundamental to the embrace of life itself. Where there is life there is change. Without change there is no growth and no life. To align with life, we must become one with change and “go with the flow.”
In the spirit of embracing change, it seems fitting to share some wisdom that can help us look at change through fresh eyes. It is wisdom we can turn to for comfort, reassurance, and clarity as we courageously build the bridge we walk across into an uncertain future. Consider this:
“The life you have been living has outgrown its form, and must die so new energy can be released. May you undergo a death within your self. You are always free to resist, but remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old. Prepare then for opportunity disguised as loss.”
The Rune of Termination and New Beginnings