Happy New Year! I think I can still say that. Many well wishes for a “happy” new year have come my way as I am sure have yours.
When we say “happy” new year I guess I think of 2 things: that it is a blessing spoken over the coming year and that it implies change. The first one is easiest to receive, the later is a bit more complicated. It falls under the category of, “What is your new year’s resolution?”.
If anything, it is a very good thing to stop and reconcile the previous year. To take inventory of the many blessings, challenges, and trials. It is a good thing to process them and, perhaps, consider what you may want to do differently in the coming year. In this vein of thinking the phrase “Happy New Year” implies change.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get the less I like the word change. When you are young any break from the routine is welcome but, as life throws it’s curve balls at you your instinct is to hunker down and avoid being hit by them. Before you know it, change starts looking like your enemy, not your friend. All you want is to “play it safe” and march on in the manner that makes you comfortable and content. But if we just live hunkered down with our head between our knees, we well will miss the beauty before us.
I have a photo to illustrate this point. My first husband, Steele, knew how to embrace life. He was calculated in his planning but always open to plan B, C, D, etc. His motto was “plan for the worse, hope for the best”. He never hesitated to stop in the middle of things and change course. We visited his family in TN and they invited us white water rafting. The throws of autism had left me exhausted and on constant alert. Needless to say, my B vitamins were already depleted as I was in “fight or flight” almost 24 hours a day. I chose the safe seat on he back of the raft next to our expert guide. Steele, conversely and to no one’s surprise, took the seat at the helm. About midway through our cold and unpredictable ride someone snapped a photo which you were given your chance to purchase the photo once the trip was over and we did. I glanced at but didn’t really look at the photo until years later. When I did I was not surprised to see Steele literally holding on with one hand at the tip of the raft with both feet near his ears with mouth wide open while I was no where to be seen. It was if I wasn’t there but I was. I was so fearful of falling out of the raft that I literally was not in the picture. Fear of the worse caused me to miss the whole adventure. This revelation became a life changing moment for me. I would no longer let fear of the unknown paralyze me from embracing the future.
There is no harm in being comfortable and safe especially if you have been blindsided by unforeseen change or personal tragedy. It is our God given instinct to retreat inward and persevere until the storms pass. But if we just live hunkered down with our head between our knees, we well will miss the beauty before us. I called this type of change “outside change” as it was brought upon us, not by our own doing or asking for, but by unwelcome invitation. This change is hardest. Like a turtle who retreats it’s exposed parts into it’s shell, we too must pull inward to survive the predator of uninvited change. It is inside our shell that our faith, core values, and belief systems are deeply challenged. The beauty of this kind of change is that, once it has passed, things we used to hold closely are often deemed frivolous and we can emerge from our shell to live a more authentic life. Hopefully, we are more empathetic and can use our pain to identify and comfort others going through similar unwelcome events. Even with the fruit of suffering, there is a loss that leaves a vulnerability. If you have ever been drawn to a person and can’t put your finger on why, most likely they have endured and survived unwelcomed change.
So…it looks like one can play it safe in an attempt to avoid pain and suffering, receive the gifts of unwelcomed change as gracefully as possible, or be left with one other possibility. Like Steele you could throw your arms (and feet for that matter) open to receive a life that is richer and more full than you could ever plan or imagine on your own. It’s kind of like jumping into a cool pool of water, it shocks and invigorates you all at once. Once acclimatized, a new normal emerges. Growth occurs. Some people call this a “deep dive”. That resonates with me.
Two years after that raft ride, I lost Steele and my Father in a private plane crash. I was caught in a tailspin of unwelcomed change. It felt like someone had dropped me into a turbulent sea. I did my best to tread water but I wasn’t always successful. Finally the seas began to settle and I realized I had a choice. I could either face my future with fear or with peace. Once I realized I had a choice, the answer became obvious. For me, trying to force the outcome of my future only gave me fear. Over time, I concluded that God was a good God. I had always been taught this but my circumstances begged for me to put this theory to the test. Coming to this realization for myself, I realized God had all the pieces of my future already lined up for me. As I walked the beach one day with tear blurred eyes I looked up and there were 5 boats whose bows were pointed directly at me. At the same time I heard, “I already have things lined up for you.” I could walk forward in the new with a feeling of peace knowing that, by holding lightly to my plans, I was giving a greater force the chance to operate in ways that I could not see because my emotions and experience left me blind to them.
As you step out into the new year realize that (as a dear friend of mine often reminds me) “change is your friend”…even unwelcomed change. You may not get to choose your agent of change but you do get to choose how you respond to it. You do have a choice in how you will embrace 2018. I would encourage you to make plans but keep a posture of openness. I like to call this: open hands, open heart. That way you won’t miss a thing!
Written by Amy Groshell