“The inherent nature of life is constant change. To fear change is to fear life itself.” – Jonathan Lockwood Huie –
One of the major challenges for me, as I age, has been accepting change. As the ancient philosopher, Lao Tzu noted, “The only constant is change itself, and to resist change brings sorrow and chaos.” But even though it is inevitable, I suspect that for many of us, resistance is the knee-jerk reaction to change. This reaction often becomes more persistent and instantaneous with age.
We are all aware of how stressful major life changes can be; death of a loved one, retirement, major illness, re-location, loss of a job, divorce, etc. And we deal with these situations in different ways using a variety of resources at our disposal i.e. spirituality, support groups or medical and professional help. However, it is the small, inevitable and sometimes annoying changes that I want to focus on, and instead of mere acceptance think instead of embracing change.
In my many interviews with baby boomers who are awesomely-ageless, the one consistant theme was reacting to change – reacting to it, adapting to it, preparing for it, expecting it, etc. and the constant sentiment is that change of any kind, demands courage. Here, Hailey Evans describes her close encounter with change on her road to agelessness.
ME: Society seems to have so many negative connotations to ageing. Unlike many cultures who revere their elders, Americans enter their golden years kicking and screaming. Did you fall into this negativity trap as you got older?
HAILEY: Admittedly, I am an optimist. I was raised by a Grandmother who had a plaque hanging on her kitchen wall that read, “Smile and the world smiles with you, kick and you kick alone. For the cheerful grin will let you in where the kicker is never known.” Any child influenced by that sentiment is destined to see the glass as half full! Taking the leap from accepting to embracing is an ongoing process, but one that proves liberating in the end and a healthy dose of optimism certainly helps.
ME: Oftentimes we can only recognize the changes in hindsight – looking back to see where we come from to where we are now. did Change sneak up on you like a thief in the night or did you see it coming?
HAILEY: I’d had occasion to experience and deal with the issue of change early on because after all, that is what life is, a series of changes. My first head-on collision came with the onset of menopause accompanied with hot flashes, mood swings and memory lapses. I waged battle with this natural occurrence using every weapon I could find. I complained and commiserated with my friends, fought over thermostat settings and bedding with my husband and even resorted to hormone replacement therapy for a short time although I loathe taking pills.
ME: Half the population of the world has to deal with the “change of life.” Too bad the other half isn’t more astute about it! (laugh.) As common as it is, did you feel prepared or caught off guard?
HAILEY: I’m not quite sure when the thought occurred to me to embrace this change, but when I bought folding silk fans as souvenirs for the women in my card group while I was on vacation, I knew I was on to something. Their grateful smiles, jokes about “the big M” and frequent use of the beautiful fans at our next meeting convinced me that I was on the right path.
Other milestones on the road to embracing change dealt with some common physical transformations. Following menopause, a hysterectomy and the resulting drop in my body’s estrogen production, I remember how frustrating it was when I would spot those pesky chin whiskers some of which had the audacity to be grey! I did not look forward to the rather pricey lip & chin waxing sessions at the Day Spa, and for me electrolysis was not an option. So I invested in an illuminated vanity mirror with 5X magnification, a pair of precision tweezers and made daily chin inspection part of my regular routine.
ME: Was there any one particular change that you purposefully and intentionally embraced?
HAILEY: The Mother of all embraceable moments arrived with the decision to stop coloring my hair. It had become increasingly difficult to stay ahead of my creeping grey edges. Touch-up solutions between visits to my professional salon colorist became less effective. So, inspired by my friend Anne’s chic, silvery locks, I decided to let my own silver shine through. Once I made the decision, other questions cropped up: Why do men with grey hair look “distinguished” and women look “old”? Why do we accept this label as a negative one? I am a woman of a certain age who does not want to be 35 again. Does this fervor to cling to a youthful appearance mean that we recognize how much society de-values its senior citizens? Are we so easily led down the garden path by Madison Avenue in the effort to make older people (women in particular) invisible? I have to say, the decision to embrace this particular change brought about feelings of liberation, empowerment and pride.
As we speak I am recovering from total knee replacement surgery. I put off the surgery far too long. Perhaps in denial of the damaging effects of osteoarthritis and a willingness to put up with a painful condition which seriously impacted my life, I was not quick to embrace this change. It is very hard to accept physical limitations imposed upon us. Now, 10 weeks past surgery and almost pain-free, I am glad I made the decision and am happily looking forward to getting back to an active life style. Some changes are easier to embrace than others.
ME: For sure nothing tests your resolve like trying to recover from surgery. Do you feel as if you have now mastered how to change?
HAILEY: Embracing change as we age may be seen as an effective stress reduction strategy. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff! Going from resistance to acceptance to embracing may be a part of our maturation and could possibly evolve naturally with the wisdom that comes with age. But in summary, I believe that finding ways to embrace the inevitable changes that ageing brings tests our creativity and conserves our energy for the important battles. While it helps to have a positive attitude, realize that we may not be able to embrace all change. The path to embracing change is an ongoing process and requires practice. Who knows, I may one day be able to not only embrace change, but to celebrate it!
ME: I certainly never thought of change as something that needed to be “practiced.” If practice makes perfect, then what or how do you do to practice?
HAILEY: Each morning I meditate and start the day with a prayer of gratitude. I am grateful to see another day; thankful for all the blessings and favor bestowed upon me; grateful for the love and caring of family and friends; and thankful for the resilience to embrace changes, both big and small.
How do you deal with change and ageing? Do you fall into the ‘resistance’ or the ‘acceptance’ camp? Please post a comment, I would love to hear your perspective!
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