Surf the Waves of Change
Follow Mother Nature’s Model
Change is hard. It is also inevitable. Good, bad or indifferent—change is necessary to life.
It can come in all sorts of guises and layers. It might be a new job or home. Change happens in the beginning—like falling in love—or at the end with a retirement. Sometimes it’s both at once, such as with a graduation. Sometimes it comes from within, such as wanting to quit smoking, learn a new language or meet new people. Change can be instigated from without with damage from natural disasters, a family member passing away or a relationship breaking up. And sometimes change just happens with no warning whatsoever, such as a tree limb falling on a parked car, an accident, or discovering we have an illness.
No matter when a change is taking place, it can bring with it anxiety, fear, concern or worry. Even so-called good changes—think of a wedding or job promotion—can surprise us by making us feel uncomfortable.
Think of change using the metaphor of the lowly lobster. A lobster is an arthropod with its structural support system on the outside. In order to grow, it has to molt. If it does not break out of its shell, it will die. But when it molts, the lobster is highly vulnerable. It takes several weeks for a new exoskeleton, or shell, to harden. There’s a period of exposure—almost defenselessness—while the lobster adapts to its new level of maturity and regains that structure that supports it.
We’re like that too. In our comfort zone—be that school, home, relationship, job or anything we’ve known for a while—we know where we stand. We know how to navigate with confidence. When that is changed, by our own decision or because of events outside our control, we may feel as if we’ve lost our support system. We may feel unprotected and untethered.
There are many models for understanding change and classifying the process. We have organizational models like Kurt Lewin’s, with unfreeze, change and freeze stages. There are social models like Prochaska’s, with precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance concepts. Kubler-Ross’ model for the changes associated with loss is widely known: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Models like these have been around for decades and have broad application; they’ve been studied, improved, embellished and further developed by many students and practitioners. Then there is the oldest model of all: Mother Nature and women.
Mother Nature’s Change Model
Women seem to embody a physical litany of change. From breasts that grow to periods that flow, women experience change on a monthly basis for decades. We learn to manage life around change which comes whether we want it or not. Sometimes, women put a hold on that monthly cycle by becoming pregnant, but that introduces a whole other level of change as an entire human is formed in the womb and a woman’s body changes to nurture the fetus and growing infant.
A woman’s brain quickly adapts to all the new requirements necessary to protect and clean the baby, all while teaching the child to walk, talk and become more self-reliant. While that’s going on, a woman’s body also returns to its monthly cycle of change.
Eventually, women experience a stage that is actually referred to as “The” change, in which menses pauses, childbearing is no longer an option and hormones change again. We discover an entirely new self, one which is older, bolder and hopefully wiser.
Mother Nature expresses a cyclical pattern of change. Nature is constantly giving birth to itself, nurturing growth, supporting independence, acknowledging maturity, counseling the transition from old age to death, and patiently expecting birth again. Women live these cycles all their lives. To repeatedly go from vulnerable to adaptive to ready is to be strong—similar to the lobster and to Mother Nature.
When we next find ourselves in the midst of a change, it can be challenging but the task is to just let it be what it is. Once we accept the change that has happened, we can acknowledge how, as a result, we may feel out of our element, out of control, overwhelmed and vulnerable. Whether it’s brief or long-lasting, change always includes an aspect of vulnerability.
With acceptance comes the beginning of resuming our personal power. As we acknowledge our own vulnerability, we realize that we still retain the mastery of personal choice. Although vulnerable at the moment, this change is coming from necessary personal growth. We need to realize that we are the creator of our own lives. We alone get to decide how and when we will move forward. We alone will adapt to whatever new reality is before us with a maturity that likely was fundamental to the change happening in the first place. As we begin developing that support system again—that exoskeleton—we create a structure that provides us with a strong, stable base until the next change comes along. When that inevitably happens, then we also remember the model of Mother Nature, continuously cycling through mild and extreme changes, patiently enduring, adapting and emerging ever stronger and wiser.
Meg Reilly, MS, CH, is a holistic lifecycle counselor and consulting hypnotist who holds regular meditation workshops at TLC Center and LifePath Yoga & Wellness in Norwalk. Connect at
MegReilly360.com or MegReilly360@gmail.com.