Monday, January 4, 2010

Word Of The Day: Change


Change is inevitable. Like growing older, the passage of time - whether you like it or not, change will come.

Sometimes change sneaks up on you; sometimes you sense its impending doom like a storm cloud heavy overhead, or a wolf snarling and nipping at your heels. However it arrives, and no matter how well you think you have prepared yourself for it, change will always, without exception, find a way to turn your world upside down.

Even the smallest of changes, such as your favourite cafe running out of soy when you go in for your morning latte, can throw out your entire day. Now you have to order tea, or grab some water, or even move on to the next cafe a block down the street. It is simple, and yet we resist. A pebble on the track, change can derail the train of your day and send you sprawling across the gravel, dirty and bloodied and wondering what the hell just happened.

Change is seldom comfortable.

I am quick to admit I do not like change, but rarely as forthcoming with why I don’t like change.

My discomfort does not come from things being different. It is differences that pave the chasms between us; they give us bridges to cross, steps to take, paths along which to discover new places, new people and new opportunities. I live my life differently; I am not average. My friends live differently. And my world is different, the queerly rainbowed place that it is.

I dislike change, not because it is the end of what was – every ending marks the beginning of something that is potentially beautiful. I dislike change, because I do not like to cede control.

Change is the antithesis of control.

You rarely have a say in change – how it begins or where it will take you. Change will blindside you like a snowball to the face. Even if you do set out to create change, to be its catalyst, you are never so much the puppeteer, the omnipotent being, as you are the Pinocchio or the scurrying ant. You might affect change, but you cannot control it. Once begun, change gathers momentum, quickly becoming too large to handle, careening wildly out of control until once again you lie stunned beside the tracks.

Recently, my life has been inundated with change.

Life itself is not tempestuous; it is the act of living that delivers us passion and fury. One cannot say she is truly alive without momentum, without action and therefore, without change, because without change we would have no reason to grow, there would be nothing new to learn and we would have nothing over which to triumph. Victory needs obstacles (not enemies) to be attained. Stumbling blocks are the things we climb on to reach ever-higher, until finally we can touch the stars.

And yet, I buck against change. Each change is a weight across my back, a saddle or a yoke and like an unbroken horse, I thrash against it. I yearn for freedom unfettered by these things; for the chance to canter hellishly through the undergrowth, never stopping or changing paths, never reaching the edge of the horizon or the end of the world.

It is not possible. Eventually, earth gives way to ocean. No road or continent goes on forever.

So what can we do about change?

Because of its inevitability, it is expected we will accept change. Perhaps slowly, perhaps with resistance – indeed, without liking it - but change comes with an expectation of acceptance.

I do not accept that.

I will roll with the punches; I will go with the flow. I will adapt to new people and new situations. I will take everything in my stride. In a zombie apocalypse, I’d blink and move on to what needed to be done. If zombies it is, then zombies it is. That’s not to say I wouldn’t fight.

I will not passively accept a total loss of control, and so it is simply not in my nature to be comfortable with change.

Will this unwillingness to cede control mean that my days will be filled with more internal – and occasionally external – conflict than I would face otherwise? Undoubtedly.

However, I could never be content living as the flotsam of life; letting myself be hurtled or propelled through days like so much grit in the ocean; never once thinking to dig in my heels, to muddy the waters or turn the tide. Without struggle, there is no strength. It takes resistance to build muscle.

Last year, I lost my job, my financial security, my impenetrable home, a few friends and my mind. Each change was thrust upon me and certainly was not welcomed, any more than it could have been predicted. I fought to control as much as I could.

Change happened around me. But I would not let it happen to me.

Thoreau said:
"Things do not change; we change."
While that is a pretty sentiment, it is also bullshit. Things do change. What is important, then, is what we do when confronted by change. What is important, is that we do not let these things forcibly change us.

When change happens, as inevitably it will, certainly we must adapt and we must grow, but it is important that we do these things autonomously. Change, like greatness, can be attained or thrust upon us. But unlike a great (gender-nullified) man, a changing (gender-nullified) man is not inherently a good thing.

Ellen Glasgow said:
"All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward."
When faced with change, it is important to remember that while it may not be escapable, it doesn’t have to be passively accepted.

The inevitability of change does not mean that it is immutable. Life happens, change happens – infamously, shit happens – but the act of living remains always with us. It is an action only we can take; a precipice from which only we can leap. Change may push you to the edge, but it is you who can chose not to fall, but to spread your wings and take flight.

Change will come. It will disturb the sand we bury our heads in, it will parry the thrusts of our brutal offenses, it will break the fingers in our ears and unravel the rebuttals on our tongues.

You will not be ready, but change will come.

Just remember that, even if it puts you on the back foot, you are still standing. And though you may have no control over what happens to you, the same cannot be said for how you respond. The world will change, but you can choose when and how you will change with it.

And in a zombie apocalypse, always go for the shotgun.

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