I love this quote about change from one of my favorite authors. With all due respect to Ms. Angelou, it’s a lot easier to change my circumstances than to change my attitude. I should know about changing circumstances; I’ve changed careers three times.
I hate being in a rut. I dislike it so much that if things become too routine, I sometimes feel the need to shake them up. It might be an overstatement to say I embrace change, but my heart does beat a little faster when I contemplate certain changes. I remember several moves our family made to different cities and states when our children were young that I approached with a spirit of adventure. Career change has also been a great adventure.
That said, some changes definitely present challenges. Take the changes that come with age. It seems unfair that just when I’ve gained certain wisdom, I’ve lost the battle with gravity. I’m annoyed when not one of my five pairs of reading glasses is where I need it. The changes that inevitably attack last week’s pot roast? Those are downright disgusting. In most cases, though, change helps us see life from another perspective or teaches us something worthwhile. Right now I’m trying to find the lessons embedded in this summer’s changes.
It all started when I decided this spring to seek a new venue for my teaching skills, and while I did find two very exciting new opportunities, the big one has eluded me. I’ll be teaching a new (to me) class at Tulsa Community College called Academic Strategies, which helps freshmen survive the transition to college. And I’ll also be teaching technology classes to educators at the Eighth Floor, which I blogged about in May. Both of these are great opportunities, and I look forward to all I can learn from them. It turns out there’s a limit to the number of changes I can absorb at once, however. At this point, I’m eager to return to teaching high school science to pregnant and parenting teens half-time in August.
Other changes this season have surprised me. As summer began, I made a trip to Louisiana to help my older sister through hip-replacement surgery and recovery. She has been the caregiver for the past several years for her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, and he is in a nursing facility while she recovers. This was supposed to be a four- or five-week experience, shared by me and our sister-in-law.
It was clear on the second day after surgery, after my sister was transferred—in shock and unresponsive—to intensive care with dangerously low renal and respiratory functions and severe anemia, that this trip wasn’t going as planned. It’s five weeks and six units of blood later, and while she’s got a great new hip, she also has a second very large and deep surgical wound from an abscess excision, gall bladder symptoms, black-and-blue arms (she has terrible veins), and swollen legs, among other lovely side effects of a prolonged hospital stay. Rehabilitation is progressing in fits and starts, in the face of several other setbacks along the way. We’re so far from the goal, I can’t even spot it yet.
This is my big sister, the one who’s bossed me around since I was a kid, and the same one who in many ways was my mother through all those early years when neither of us had one. It’s painful witnessing the changes she’s been facing and contemplating how many more changes are likely to cascade from the ones already experienced.
As I said earlier, all change has something to teach. I’m learning how to set priorities of time and resources. I’m learning how to be helpful without keeping others from doing their own learning. I’m still working on learning patience. And I’ve learned more than I thought I’d need to know about Medicare, Medicaid, and the huge gaps in community services. I’ve learned new respect for my sister-in-law, as we’ve worked together to wade through the red tape of the above programs.
Here’s the hard part: I set out to make changes in my life, but some deliberate change has unintended consequences, and some circumstances aren’t under my control. According to Ms. Angelou, a change in attitude is in order. That may be the hardest lesson of the season.