I’ve learned that things change, people change, and it doesn’t mean you forget the past
or try to cover it up. It simply means you move on and treasure the memories. – Unknown author
For better or worse, change is a part of life. It touches every aspect of our lives; relationships, home, work, financial, physical and spiritual. However, when change comes too rapidly, it may be frightening and feel out of our control. We likely do not realize that even when life speeds by, we can choose how we will respond to it, and that it is possible to experience gifts of peace, calm, and even joy during difficult times.
In the midst of a turbulent transition, we may realize just how extremely brief life can be. We might perceive our lives as rather sloppy; we haven’t been very careful about what we have chosen to do with our priceless days on earth and have lost track of what we hold as sacred. Indeed, it’s sobering to think that there might not be much time left for us to live. It can make us want to use our time in a more meaningful way. Perhaps if we lived our life as if we only had one day left to live, that sense of impermanence could heighten our feeling of preciousness.
Although scary, change can also provide us countless opportunities for growth. If we affirm every day that we are changing, growing, learning and we are filled with potential, we can gather wisdom from our life transitions and embrace a transformed life.
Yes, change happens and we can’t possibly know what the future will hold. As I’ve been experiencing an enormous period of change in my life, I’ve discovered first hand how vulnerable we are and how precious life is. Two years ago, I was hiking in the hills of Greece when my legs felt heavy. Within a couple of weeks, I could not move my feet or legs one step. I started falling down. After months in a hospital, I was finally diagnosed with something very rare and difficult to treat: paraneoplastic syndrome. There are only a few of us in the USA who are diagnosed with this syndrome and even fewer who survive.
The first year and a half after my diagnosis, I spent months in hospitals and rehab centers while the doctors tried to find a treatment that would help me. During that time, I was forced to cancel my upcoming workshops/retreats and speaking engagements, to give up driving my car, to stop gardening, to sell my beach house in Hampton Bays, and eventually to sell my apartment in Manhattan. I needed to live near Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida where there was a doctor who was trained and experienced in working with people who had my diagnosis. So six months ago, I made the radical change of leaving my lovely apartment in my beloved New York City and moved to a continuing care community in Penney Farms, Florida.
It would be easy to focus on all the losses I’ve experienced over the last two years: my NYC friends, my homes, my gardens, my city, my work, my ability to walk. But I made a conscious decision to concentrate on appreciating the many gifts I am presently receiving in my life – especially in the last six months in Florida. I now live independently (without caregivers) in a lovely cottage (with a guest room waiting for your visit) in the shade of two ancient and regal live oak trees with Spanish moss, I have made dozens of new friends in this very supportive and loving community called Penney Farms with scores of activities to do, I am out every single day in some way using a cane or rollator or even driving my new Subaru car! And I am now leading workshops and retreats, preaching, teaching, speaking, and singing. Perhaps most importantly I have the wonderful services of the doctors of Mayo Clinic, who are experts in dealing with my syndrome – who are helping to extend my life.
So I am grateful and in the process of changing my view on life. I now know that it is possible to make good choices about how we respond to the changes we have to make in order to live our lives. Even when we feel confused or sad or full of loss, it’s important that we stop, listen, and reflect, so that we can become aware of God’s loving presence near us – in people, nature, music, live oak trees, even Spanish moss.
- What are your greatest fears or concerns about change?
- Can you affirm to yourself that you are changing, you are growing, you are a learner, you are filled with potential?
- Can you integrate wisdom from your life experiences and turn it into a transformed life for yourself and others?
Beloved Creator, thank you for creating a world full of surprises and changes. When we are in transition on our journey or we face major challenges, help us to learn from our experiences. May we realize that you are always there for us, even during major changes in our lives. Amen.