This is a time of change. Summer has given way to autumn; the foliage is coming alive with color – a last blast of vibrant warmth before we settle in for a long winter (winter always seems long, doesn’t it?). Sometimes, like the seasons, change is forced upon us and we have to live with it. Often change is something we know we need; but avoid. Comfortable and familiar feels good. Change can be stressful. But not changing can be uncomfortable too.
A good first step in making a change is contemplation. Maybe even unconscious contemplation; you sense something just isn’t right. Then you become conscious; you know something isn’t right and it needs to change. In this stage a “values clarification” can be very valuable. Assessing what is most important to us can be very helpful in making decisions and determining why something doesn’t feel quite right. Not honoring one’s values or feeling your values are being stepped on can create stress.
There are times when our values are in conflict and we need to choose what is more important to us in that moment. I have values around “community” and “family.” I also value “personal growth” and “individuality.” Right now those are in conflict. I need change. I want change. I don’t think I’ve ever been one of those people that fears change and yet I have stayed in one place virtually all of my life. No doubt because I value “community” and “family” and of course, like most, I feel comfortable around what’s familiar. And comfortable is good, right?
I’ve lived in Northern New Jersey since before I can remember. My daughter and I live in a house that is roughly only 6 miles from the one I lived in with my own parents. It was never my plan to stay. When I was my daughter’s age, I had my sights set on far away adventures. My parents had set a “DC to Boston” perimeter by which I could chose a college and I wound up only 2 hours away in Philadelphia. I came home many weekends. My friends were here – and I valued those friendships. In the early years of my marriage we talked about New England or going out west. But days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and years. There was job security, and family ties that I valued more than adventure at that moment. I was growing my career and decorating a home and planting a garden. By the time my daughter was born roots had been well established. It’s those roots – keeping my daughter safe and secure in a great school district where she’s comfortable in the presence of friends she’s known for years – that are still holding me in place. But those roots are the only ones and with her now a high school junior even their grip on the soil is loosening.
She has her learner’s permit. So we practice driving…a lot. As I’ve become accustomed to the passenger’s seat and more relaxed there, I watch the scenery go by; much the same Northern New Jersey scenery that I saw from the passenger’s seat of my parent’s car so long ago. And I see ghosts. Not just my husband’s, or my parents’, but of memories of friends and good times buried deep in my mind. I realize I’m ready to tuck those away in a special place and move on…physically move away. Here no longer holds adventure or anything new to learn; I want more perhaps to honor my value of “personal growth.”
And here lies the conflict. While I am ready to move on, my daughter is not. She still has two years left of high school. So I’m stuck? Not if I change my perspective. This time is a gift; it’s time that I need to plan. Change is so much easier when we can plan for it. It’s easier to take action when we’ve done sufficient planning. Wherever I decide to go, it can be a thoughtful move. Letting go of the comfortable and familiar can be a gradual process. And in the meantime, I continue to honor my values around family, community and accountability by honoring the commitment I have to my daughter and her future.
And in this moment, I am embracing the change of seasons.
Saddle River County Park, Ridgewood, NJ. October, 2015.