Saturday, June 27, 2020

How Do You Cope with Change?

     The Coronavirus has brought dramatic change to all of our lives. But change is nothing new. We had a discussion about change last week in one of our classes at the local Center for Learning in Retirement. We didn't come up with any definitive answers. Instead, we all realized that change -- though always with us -- is a complicated thing.

     Most of us like to think that we embrace change. We're supposed to be progressive and look to the future. But some people admitted that they like their current routine -- they don't want to be jolted into a new regimen.

     Or as one woman said, "The only person who likes change is the baby with the wet diaper."

     Many of us have retired in the past few years. The change in our priorities, and even our routines, is still fresh in our minds. Some people have had difficulty coping with this change. They feel as though they are drifting, even wasting their lives, without a job to do, a reason to get up in the morning. Others have greeted retirement with open arms, pursuing new activities, developing new relationships -- and now they think they were wasting their lives when they were working for someone else, following someone else's dreams.

     One person said that he used to like change, when he was younger and change meant greater opportunities, new experiences, new relationships. But he's not so sure about change anymore. He just turned 70, and now he foresees that the changes in his life are going to be more challenging -- managing on a smaller fixed income, dealing with illness or injury, coping with the loss of family and friends.

     But another 70-year-old said that change is a good thing. She acknowledged that we sometimes face personal loss -- but we also get grandchildren! And look at our larger society. We see women becoming more empowered, non-traditional lifestyles becoming more respected, people of color demanding not just equal rights but equal treatment.

     Besides, isn't the alternative to change just stagnation, boredom and resentment? Sure it's sometimes hard to step out of our comfort zone. But that's what keeps us vibrant, engaged and looking out to a world larger than ourselves. Change nourishes growth. And if you don't grow, you die. 

     Do people change depending on their circumstances? One person cited their mother who was a homebody when she was living in the super-competitive environment of a New York suburb. The mother was never assertive enough to get involved in the community. But then she retired to Florida, where the social environment was more friendly, more relaxed. She stepped forward and volunteered in town, even heading up a local women's group. Had she changed? Or had her environment changed?

     Somebody else wondered if a major event can make you change -- a divorce, job loss, or having a child. One women reflected how she has changed since her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She'd been kind of a control freak her whole life. If there was a problem, she'd roll up her sleeves and fix it. But now she knew there was no fixing her husband's problem. There was coping with it, adapting to it -- something she had to learn.

     Some people wondered if we really even ever change at all. Yes, perhaps we react differently under certain circumstances, but our core beliefs and values don't really change. If we're an introvert we probably don't turn into a social butterfly just because we move down the block. If we are ambitious and crave success, we probably don't change just because we get a new job or move to another neighborhood. The Type A personality who thrives at work probably becomes the super-volunteer in retirement. The nurturing person who cares about other people will find ways to help others no matter where they are.

     But we do evolve, don't we? One man felt that he is a very different person now compared to what he was in his 20s and 30s. He recalled a line used by President George Bush to explain away his youthful indiscretions: "When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid." This man could identify with that . . . and actually, so can I.

     So I don't know. Do you feel like you're the same person you were when you were young and . . . well, not as smart as you are now?

     We do mature, become more responsible as we get older. Perhaps having children makes us more responsible and socially aware. Or maybe we just mellow as get get older.

     Of course, the most recent change is the pandemic that's been thrust upon us these past few months. Some people are secretly happy to have the excuse to stay at home. As one women said: "I love our Zoom meetings. I don't have to get up and get ready and go to class. I can just sit around in my pajamas and still talk to people!"

     I guess change will always be with us. So I suppose we should make the best of it. 

21 comments:

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Wow! I'm the first person to comment--that's a change for me :-) But in answer to your question--yes, I do think I'm a different person that I was when I was young. Shoot I'm a different person than I was 10 years ago. I like change as long as it isn't TOO unexpected or unwanted but I've been a fan of Carol Dweck the author of "Mindset". As a pyschologist she believes that most people either believe in a "set mindset" or a "growth mindset." For years people didn't believe that mind patterns could change...that they were set. But now there is proof that our brains and consciousness can continue to grow and evolve until we die. I'm doing my best to prove that is true. ~Kathy

Linda Myers said...

I've been retired for ten years now, and I still wonder how I ever had time to go to work. I think I may have changed since then, though. I was an analyst for 30 years, and now I'm an aid worker! For me, when I was working I needed safety in salary and benefits. Now I don't need that safety so much, so I have more possible activities available.

Olga said...

I prefer to view change as growth. Now that my identity is not so tied to my profession, I have expanded my interests and activities and find life satisfying indeed. Resisting change is the classic cause of suffering in Buddhist teachings.

Sue said...

Dear Olga, some change needs to be resisted - bigtime. Things are rapidly getting weirder, and just plain whaaatt?!?!

Janette said...

No, I am not the same person. I grew up in a religiously diverse neighborhood, dated outside of my ethnicity, but believed that the US was the center of the world. I have met so many different walks of life and lived in so many different situations, I know that people are people where ever you go. There are way more good people then bad. My core is the same though--loyal, questioning and faithful. I am, truly, a libertarian and have been for as long as I have voted.

I do recognize that I am definitely not an "Easterner".Time to move back Post civil war west before I hear one more person say, "we gotta take care of those people". I can say, until I moved East I had never seen generational poverty. People seem way more pigeon holed in the "early" states.

DUTA said...

That's a good one, with the baby in the wet diaper!

Well, the changes we undergo over the years are not in the same category with the changes imposed upon us by the Virus and by Climate.
The last two are here to signal some kind of upcoming , possible Reset of the world and call us to be on the alert.
How do we cope with that? We don't. We just ignore the warnings and go on uttering phrases like: "this too shall pass", "when all this is over..."(followed by a list of plans).

Arkansas Patti said...

I too loved the baby in the wet diaper. However, I have always enjoyed change and often instigated it just to shake things up. Of course I could do with out this pandemic. The suffering and loss of life is just too much. The behavior changes I have had no trouble with, just wish there wasn't so much resistance to the things that will bring us out of this. It is up to us.

gigi-hawaii said...

I don't think people ever change. They are born like this.

Tom said...

Well, whether you think you change or not, I guess there's a saying for that too: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

David @iretiredyoung said...

I think that if I were to describe myself, I'd say that I'm generally a little nervous or uncomfortable with change. With change/something new, maybe I'll get it wrong, maybe it will make me look a bit stupid.

But despite that, in my more recent years I seem to have embraced it more. I can use past examples of change where I've done well to remind myself that I can deal with the next change too. And I also believe that change is good at keeping my mind active and for stretching me away from my comfort zone, both things that are perhaps particularly important since I retired early. I now find that I sometimes go looking for change for these reasons.

Rian said...

Tom, I'm not sure that I've changed that much over the years (well, yes - definitely physically!).Someone once told me that I was born an 'old soul' - not exactly sure what that means, but do believe that there's always a way.

I feel that this pandemic is testing our ability to accept what is... and handle it... by following the guidelines set by the medical and scientific community. (certainly not denying it's existence going on with life ignoring the sick and dying).

DJan said...

I had a hard time accepting the changes in my life at the beginning of the lockdown, but I've grown accustomed to the differences. I chafe at the social restrictions but know they are needed. I was realizing how much has fallen away from what I thought was indispensable and am doing all right at present. Every day seems like a repeat of the previous one. And I am frightened of what is to come, so I'll hope for the best and expect the worst.

Gail, northern California said...

If your wife died tomorrow, you would understand the true description and agony of change.

Laurie Stone said...

I'd be lying if I said the Virus had changed my life a lot. I've been working from home a long time. We just don't go to restaurants anymore, which I miss and seeing friends is more dicey, but we do, at a social distance. Some of the changes like major unemployment I don't like, but in other ways, the planet is breathing easier. I guess there's always good and bad.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I feel like I'm in a constant state of change so the pandemic is just another challenge to overcome. I've moved a million times and am going to move again. Glad I work from home and am receiving Social Security as well. At least I know what my limits are but I can't wait until it's safe to jump on a plane or in the car *if someone else drives) to get a change of scenery.

Sue said...

Dear Tom and Friends, since covid, i'm not eating near as much junk food at work - because it's not readily available. The vending machines are still empty, and i don't have time to run down to the convenience. Have noticed, i don't get heart-burn much these days...hmm, who'd a yhoughg...

Anonymous said...

who'd a thought...

Tabor said...

I like that you look at change as a balancing. Some of it is good, some bad, some challenging and/or rewarding. We just must face that it is inevitable.

Donna said...

When my husband died 16 years ago that was the most devastating change in my life. Even though it was expected as he had been sick for a long time it was still overwhelming. I always say I don't do change well, but sometimes you have no choice. If that is where you are now, my thoughts and prayers are with you. By comparison all the unwanted changes right now are no big deal.

Kay said...

I do think I’ve changed a bit through the years. I haven’t liked the changes from COVID though. It’s a time of worry and not being able to do so many things we were planning on doing. I’m looking for the change that the vaccine will bring.

Madeline Kasian said...

I used to thrive on change. We moved a lot, we had businesses, and there was always a new idea, a class, a new business program to learn.As a Nurse, change was constant, new methods, new patients, new classes and constant study.Now, in retirement, I enjoy a lot more CALM and peace in my life! I don’t want to move ever again! (Though our son is eyeing Mexico for early retirement.. and maybe we will follow??At least half the year??)

I appreciate the smaller things in life much more now than when I was younger.

That said,I would love a CHANGE of scenery! Due to Covid, , we had to cancel many trips we had planned in 2020.. small adventures to local mining towns,Mexican beaches,California, a family reunion to see a new baby.. THAT kind of change is very nourishing and I miss it.

In retirement, I think I’ve found the balance of change/growth and peace/calm. My mind is always open and I am always learning new things.. but the kinds of big changes that came with starting a family, moving, starting up careers,is, thankfully, in the rear view mirror!