Friday, June 11, 2010


(News-Herald, June 10) For the past two weeks, my regular desktop computer has been in the shop with am infection of some virus or other. It was returned to health relatively quickly, but in the meantime I had to get by with a laptop.
You would think it would be a minor adjustment to go from sitting at my desk to sitting on the couch, but I think I would just as soon try to write the column sitting on my roof while being attacked by screaming weasels—as long as I can use my regular computer.
I don’t always do well with change. In this respect, I know I have lots of company. My daughter would, I think, happily freeze the world in place more or less forever. She has adjusted admirably at every new stage of life—graduation, adulthood, new places—but she does it grudgingly, and I understand her reluctance.
Not everybody is like us. My son actually requires a little change on a regular basis, and he can adjust pretty quickly to new situations, though I think even he likes to know that there is a solid unchanging base somewhere in the world.
This is a season of change. It is graduation time in Venangoland (and that also means the opening of wedding season). And that means lots of folks coping with change.
Perhaps this kind of official, ceremonial change is easier, because you can see it coming and brace yourself for it. On the other hand, the waiting time may just mean more time to be tense and fretful. Maybe change that comes as a complete surprise creates less overall stress.
Why does change create stress at all? There’s no question that it does—psychologists Holmes and Rahe in 1967 created the life stress scale, giving each major life change a rating. Death of a spouse clocked in at 100. Losing your job rated a 47, but getting married scored a 50. The message of this list is clear—even changes that we think of as good news create stress.
Change is always a sign that we’re about to face the unknown. Something is going to happen and we don’t know what the outcome will be. And that in turn means that we don’t know how well we’ll deal with whatever we’re about to face. Will we fail? Will we look stupid? Are we strong enough, wise enough, or will change reveal our failings?
For that fear, many of us stick to changes that are well-traveled by many. If most people have come through this change without great damage, we probably can, too. It’s when we handle a transition differently than the crowd that we can really start to worry. If we don’t do it the “normal” way, we might get hurt.
Still, most of us are far tougher than we look. In fact, most of us are far tougher than we look to ourselves.
We also often tend to over-estimate the amount of change we’re going to face. Graduation and marriage are two examples of transitions that change everything—and yet change nothing at all.
Once you have that diploma in your hand or that ring on your finger, your circumstances have changed completely. You have whole new responsibilities, relationships, realities and some other R word to face. So everything has changed.
But diploma or ring notwithstanding, you are still exactly the same person you were before. You have the same strengths, the same weaknesses, the same desires, the same abilities. You are no wiser, no more foolish, no less broken, no more whole than before a piece of paper declared that you had entered new circumstances.
At Franklin High School’s baccalaureate service, senior Kyle Askins made a wise observation that I’ll now try to paraphrase: it’s good to believe that God will send us what we need to deal with challenges, but it’s also good to consider that He may have already given us what we need to handle our circumstances. Change and challenge are a chance to examine ourselves.
Change reveals who we are and challenges us to see what we can become. One of the exciting things about life is the constant process of bringing our strengths and passions and wisdom to bear on the world in ways that change lives and lift us up in strength and growth. But that can be hard.
Change can be uncomfortable, but too much comfort is the enemy of growth. Here’s wishing every Venangoland high school senior an uncomfortable graduation.

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