"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Do We Really Want Change?

     When I was younger I drove a Saab. I had three of them, one from the late 1970s and two from the 1980s. They were standard, mid-sized, four-door sedans. But I liked that they were kind of quirky, and thought they somehow made me seem special -- not like the boring young suburban husband I had become. But I also liked the way they drove, the way they handled in winter weather. I liked the front-wheel drive and boxy look of the car, and the way I sat up in the driver's seat.

My Saab, in the 1980s
     But why I liked the car is irrelevant. The point is I liked the car. But finally, by the mid-1990s, I decided I needed something different. I wanted a change.

     So I looked around at all kinds of different cars. The Honda: too commonplace. The Buick: too old fashioned. The Audi: too expensive. The Ford Taurus: too suburban.

     After months of shopping, I finally bought my new car. It was a Volvo S60, a standard, mid-sized, four-door sedan. It was kind of boxy. It had front-wheel drive and I sat up high in the driver's seat. And as I drove it home that first day it dawned on me that I now had a new car ... a car that was as much like my old car as possible and still be a different car.

     So how much do we really like change?

     I was recently listening to a psychology lecture about love. The professor outlined the three most important factors that attract us romantically to another human being. The three are: proximity, similarity, and familiarity. It's a myth that opposites attract, that we fall in love with the stranger across a crowded room. We fall in love with people of similar age and socio-economic backgrounds, of similar education and cultural tastes, and with someone we probably already know.

     And I'll leave it to you to decide how much change we want in the political world. In 2008 Barack Obama campaigned and won on change. But how much change did we really get? And now in 2016, with many people wanting change, we will likely elect Hillary Clinton, who proudly boasts of not changing much at all.

     But I digress. Blogger Meryl Baer, like many retirees, decided she needed a change of scenery and embarked on an extended road trip across the country, from New Jersey south to Florida, then across to Texas. But now she has returned home, thrilled her car started and her house remained intact, and is back to her comfortable routine. She restocked the refrigerator, spent a day doing laundry, and then wrote a few final thoughts on her trip in Seven Weeks and No Longer Counting.

     Laura Lee Carter takes a different tack toward change. She talks about how she Let Go of the Familiar and Added More Adventure and Excitement to Her Life. In midlife she found new love, a new career, and then built a solar-powered home in rural Colorado. And now, with all those changes, she's happy to stay home and enjoy her new surroundings.

     Carol Cassara at Heart-Mind-Soul takes a longer view of the changes in our lives. In Back in the Day she looks at boomer life in the 1960s and 1970s, sometimes wondering where our innocence has gone. And in It's Like We Never Said Goodbye she recounts a remarkable love story, one that ended in divorce, but had a surprise ending 27 years later when past and present came together in the most unusual of ways.

     Speaking of another kind of change, Rita R. Robison, of The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, tells us we can call up our credit card company and ask them to change the terms. According to Robison, almost 80 percent of people who asked for a lower interest rate had their request granted, and almost 90 percent who asked to get late fees waived were successful. Despite that, very few of us try to negotiate with our credit card company. But people as consumers have more power than they think, she concludes, and the worst that can happen is that they say no.

Today I drive an Acura. So different?
      Then we have Kathy Gottberg in 4 Smart Agreements to Master an Awesome Life who tells us that all our perceptions are on shaky ground anyway, and that we are living an illusion. She cites Don Miguel Ruiz who says, "Ninety-five percent of the beliefs we have stored in our minds are nothing but lies, and we suffer because we believe all those lies.”

     So what can we do to break free of our illusions? Ruiz has four suggestions on how to rework our daily patterns and reclaim our personal power. To these Gottberg adds four of her own, which show how important it is not to become so familiar with our world that we don't even notice it anymore. Instead, we need to stay conscious, be aware and follow our own personal guidance. "Only then," she concludes, "can we change those things in our life that are ours to change."


stephen Hayes said...

People often say they want change, but many changes are not for the better. I want improvement, not just change.

Janette said...

Cars? My car at 16,40 and now almost 60 have all been Mustangs. "Creature of habit" is my middle name.
Funny, I still vote for change.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! I think we all like to BELIEVE that we are flexible and that it's easy to change but the truth is it requires work and intention. And unfortunately in our society that isn't always encouraged either. In fact, especially in politics, people are suspect if they have changed even after 20 years! But frankly, if I thought the same way I did 20 years ago I would just as soon someone push me off a cliff. Being adventurous and trying new things is a sign of something alive and vital and growing. Give me that, and a little inconsistency any day! And what did Ralph Waldo Emerson say? "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!" ~Kathy

DJan said...

I had to laugh at your observations about our desire to stay with what is familiar. My new glasses a few years ago were carbon copies of the ones I already had. This time, I stepped out a tiny bit to more modern frames, but if you weren't paying attention you wouldn't have noticed. I love my Honda Civic and if I could afford it I would buy a Nissan Leaf because they are SO COOL. But for now I'll stay with what I have. Good, interesting post, Tom. Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

My husband is of a different race. He is white; I am Asian.
On the other hand, we both studied classical music and enjoy attending concerts and operas together.
We are similar, but not similar.

Tom said...

Stephen, I agree with you completely. And Kathy I agree with you, too, or at least I like to BELIEVE that I do.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Sanders was here in Vancouver Washington today, if I had not fallen in feb and fractured by right shoulder I would have been at the front of the line, it was wet, cold and windy..But he was outside for a few minutes and talked like there was no tomorrow, they ran it on the news and pbs station! He is nearly 75 and boy can he whip a crowd up with his truth, it reminded me of California in the late 60's 1968 to be exact and 1969..There has not been a presidential candidate like Bernie Sander since those days, if only mature minds would vote for him, what changes would occur you can believe they would!!!!!!!!!!!! Most people do marry people they know and I did lived right down the street from my husband we are married nearly 42 years, they had the grocery store we liked to hang out in and get nickel popsickles, unfortunately my Mom died young and we still lived in our home, but not even a dadblasted dime to buy anything, my hubs the oldest used to bring a box of food to my dad with his brothers, I married him, the oldest and the best of the 8 kids and his mother was really the only person around after his dad ran after other women, alcohol and god knows what..We never saw each other for about 18 years and boom saw him in the local grocery store and it was like I just saw him buying a nickel popsicle all over again, familiarity it is said breeds contempt, but for me, the closer you are to the person you love and value makes for a wonderful life, I am voting the BERN, he is absolutely riveting and nice, I only hope to have his energy at 75 as he does, I am only 67 soon 68 but what a fella, who speaks his truth and lives it tooooo! you must do alright to buy the Volvo because all the people I worked for many years in California drove those cars for years and they owned their own businesses and did well, it is a tremendous car, safe and I think wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!

Olga said...

Saab was always my dream car...until I bought one in 2003. What a mistake that was!
And some lemons don't even have enough juice to make lemonade with.

Barbara said...

Yes. I am a Nissan club member. They are still my first choice but I don't think they are my only choice. Have to have enough money for a new car to find out. Anyone want to Go Fund Me on this... just kidding. I do like repetition. I find it comforting. But there are days I wake up just bored from the get go. Those are my days to do something different.

Anonymous said...

The older I get, the less I like change. As for cars, I'd love one with GPS, but it won't happen I fear.