Great changes are preceded by chaos – Deepak Chopra
Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything – George Bernard Shaw
Nothing happens unless something is moved – Albert Einstein
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future – John F Kennedy
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One of the most significant things that I have learned on my long journey as a clinician is that the best measure of a person’s mental health is how resilient one can be in the face of adversity, trauma, threats, tragedy, or significant sources of stress. More specifically explained, how well an individual can be flexible and adapt to their changing environment and circumstances is an indicator of how they will manage life’s inescapable ups and downs. As much as resilience involves recovering from life’s challenges, it can also promote notable personal growth.
Although a very common and natural reaction to unsettling life events is resistance, I often say that resisting change, or anything else that we are uncomfortable with, frightened by, or that dissatisfies us, is like trying to push a beachball under the water; try as we might, we cannot keep it down, as it keeps popping back up. So how can we best respond (not react) to change in an effort to enhance our quality of life, even when we cannot imagine that is so?
Over this past fourteen months of the pandemic, we have all experienced substantial change in one form or another. Whether it was experiencing true loneliness and isolation for the first time, the loss of loved ones, a job, a marriage, or any meaningful relationship, or in general, life as we knew it, many, if not most or all of us have emerged with a new understanding of how potentially fragile life really is, and perhaps, how we want to live it differently to make every precious moment count.
As it is occurring, life’s oftentimes painful experiences can be likened to being lost on a dark road in a rainstorm and not knowing you will find your way, and yet, there are ways to navigate the angst that uncertainty brings. We just must learn to tap into our strengths, engage our resources, find our confidence, believe in ourselves and our ability to do that, and forge ahead. Each time we do, we develop the knowledge that we can.
What is it that you have learned during this time? How did you move through the challenge? If you had to do it over again (and it is likely in some form, you will) what is it that you would like to do better and differently? What is it that you’re proud of? What did you learn about yourself and others? And finally, what changes have emerged in you because of the challenges that you’ve experienced? How can you share your new awakenings with the people who cross your path, such that they too can believe that they can make it through the rain?
I write this blog as I sit in my new apartment in New York City, arriving here a few weeks ago after living and practicing for forty-six years in South Florida. For all those years, I took (pretty much) the same route to my office and home most every day. I knew where all my favorite and familiar places were, I had a typical work and play schedule and routine, and it all felt really safe; until it didn’t…In that regard, there were so many things that I thought I was certain about, that I could count on, that I assumed would always be the way they were; until they weren’t.
During this time, I was presented with a circumstance I had never imagined could be possible. I was scared, I was unsettled, I was sad, angry, and resentful. Truth be told, I stewed in that for a while, until I realized that I didn’t like how I felt, I didn’t like what it was doing to me and the person I want to be, as well as the way I wanted to live my life. I had to do something different and create a different experience. I knew that was the only thing I could control. It was then that I recalled a lesson I learned many years ago from the well-known motivational speaker, Tony Robins, (during another time of unexpected turmoil in my life) who said, “ When they idea of staying the way you are is greater than the fear of change, you change…”
It was at that pivotal instance, that I recognized the depth of the truth in what I have known throughout my years which is, although we may not have control over what happens in our lives, we always have control over how we choose to respond to it. Choice, how freeing an idea that is! I then decided to embrace the change, rise above the adversity, and take charge of my future. I envisioned how I wanted my life to be. I learned how to enjoy cooking, communicated with loved ones (got to know and watch my baby grandson grow via Facetime), stayed in touch with friends, played with my dog, welcomed the sunrises, exercised in my bedroom, and worked with clients and colleagues, all through the many virtual platforms available to me.
The silver lining of the pandemic for me was the recognition that I could continue to move forward in my life (without necessarily going anywhere) and that I could work and practice remotely. That enabled me to believe when actual mobility was possible, I could ultimately live and be anywhere I chose, and continue to connect and thrive. I participated in on-line trainings, seminars, conferences, business meetings, therapy sessions and even happy hours – making lemonade out of lemons as they say…Due to this realization, I have now expanded my licensure and work, as well as my life to New York City and Connecticut, as I continue to work in Florida. The possibilities seem endless!
In my work, so many of my clients are faced with adversity and change that they fear will paralyze and devastate them. They truly believe that they will never be able to emerge as whole, and never be able to manage. Although I have always prided myself in my ability to join with them and their circumstances with genuine empathy and compassion, I now have an even deeper appreciation for their reaction to the turmoil they are faced with. I can now take what I have learned and pass it on, in perhaps an even new and more meaningful way. I hope this blog will inspire you to do the same.
I want to thank “my people” who showed up and helped me through, because you were on the other end – IACP, FACP, CFLPSF, CFLI, MCT, and so many more. Without all of you (and a special shout out to my colleague and friend Ed Sacks – who especially motivated me as I followed him all over the country in his RV as we worked together, stayed connected, and networked through My Collaborative Team), I would not be where I am today, both physically and emotionally. To all of you out there who can relate to what I am saying, reach out, make those connections, and pay it forward.
Throughout my lifetime I have heard, believed, and said, “Change is hard, change is good, change is inevitable, the only thing constant in life is change, and most significantly, if adversity doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” Now, as I am emerging and stepping into this next chapter in my life, appreciating so many things on a richer level, these words are more profound than ever before, and truth be told, the New York City lights and the future in general seems brighter than I ever thought them to be!