I’ve probably mentioned this before, but here it is again: I’ve never liked change. As a kid I remember getting upset when we changed out our couch or even got a new car. I liked things to stay the same, be predictable. A lot of the anxiety that hit in 2013 was due to the massive change of having Sienna start elementary school. So, for much of my life change was scary, threatening, and something to be avoided.
Now that I’ve done the hard work of getting in touch with my feelings and no longer plan excessively in order to control my emotions, I understand that change is persistent, healthy, and uncontrollable. There is a timeless quote attributed to Heraclitus: “The only constant in life is change.” Such wisdom in that little phrase.
Although it’s irrational, I see now that I feared change because of this unrealistic idea that those feelings of discomfort and unsettledness would persist, forever. It was really the emotions that change evoked that I was avoiding, not the change itself. But, ironically, feelings change all the time. People adapt. What is scary and disorienting at one stage of life, then become the normal, routine, predictable things in the next stage.
Dropping off Sienna at her elementary school was new and made me feel anxious and unsure of myself for several weeks. Then, it became normal and routine. This summer was her third year in the Extended Student Services “ESS” summer program. I know the drill and it has felt happily familiar as I dropped her off and picked her up each day.
Realizing that feelings are always changing was a huge revelation for me. In The Happienss Trap, Dr. Harris says that emotions are like the weather – they’re always changing. When I was feeling down, this insight provided hope that I’d be happy once again. When I’m feeling good, it’s a reminder not to hold on too tight, this feeling will inevitably pass.
Feelings are always changing and so are we. Imagining situations that may arise in the future and fearing how those circumstances will make us feel is the cause of most worry and anxiety. The thing is, even if that exact situation occurred, we don’t know how we’d feel about it in the future. Not only do circumstances change, but we change. What is scary or devastating to us in our imagination, may not be that awful when it actually occurs, sometime in the future. This is another reason why it’s fruitless to worry or try to control our feelings. Instead, it’s much healthier to live as The Serenity Prayer says: “Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time…” You simply can’t know how you’re going to feel or react to any future circumstances. But you can pray and trust that God will be there to support and strengthen you, whatever happens down the road.
Whenever I spend time thinking about change, I will eventually hear the lyrics to an old Patty Loveless song that goes: “Life’s about change and nothing ever stays the same…” There’s a poignancy and rawness to that line that never fails to touch my heart.