Sunday, 30 March 2014

Change and how we respond to change

On Friday, I traded in my old Honda Ballade, a faithful and reliable car of 15 years and with 275 000 kms on the clock. The time had come to change it, both financially, and practically as well as emotionally.  For me, each of these pieces are vital for change to happen.
 I had to be ready. And I was.
The old one was traded-in and the new car, also a Honda Ballade, my experiences of this brand had not scared me away from a newer model, in fact, I was being loyal, just a newer one, so the change was somewhat less stressful. At least I knew something about what I had bought and could expect: hopefully another 10-15 years of reliable motoring. Sometimes this kind of change is not possible and the change we make is bigger than expected or desired, and consequently the level of stress experienced is higher than we want to go through. But we ‘man-up’ to the task of getting on with the job and hope that this period of anxiety will subside soon.
Right now I am pleased with the new car. But it also taught me a few things about change. Firstly, everything feels new, and I am still used to how comfortable the old (insert appropriate change in here: person/job/church/home/…) felt, in fact I like the way the old car rode, and it did not demand much from me, I knew exactly how to drive it. I knew its familiar noises, creaks, odd moods and habits. Fifteen years had engrained its personality and ways on me. And I miss her. It is funny how the English language gives things a personality, and we give a female pronoun to an object, like a car, we have a strange language and culture! But the old car has had a lasting impact ( no pun intended) on me.
On the other hand, the new (car….) was different. Definitely better in many ways, ABS, airbags, electric windows… all these new goodies too. But it felt different to drive. In fact the first weekend was fraught with anxiety of the “I hope I do not hit anything/I hope nobody hits me in my new car”. This phase has to be survived. It is a necessary part of the change process, just like the glory of ‘the new car smell’. Which incidentally only lasts short while until the kids have made it their home on wheels. I love them, and I know that they are more precious than the conglomeration of metal, plastic, glass and rubber. The first week of the daily grind/school runs/ drop-offs and shopping will take care of that soon enough. Despite the rules laid down to preserve the interior in is showroom pristine state, this is an unobtainable quest of parents for cleanliness other than stuff them in a venter trailer behind. You are right, no reasonable parent will do that, because know that it is just a car.  Still, it is hard to let go. And there are rules to live by/drive by. They need to know that it is new, and precious to me. One day they may saviour the same elation of a new (first) car ownership for themselves. But ultimately, I have found that the state of the car will subside to the state that I choose to keep it. In time, it may become like the old one. Or the driver may have the pride, discipline and strategies in place to prevent this from happening.  We all want to keep the new car like we had it on the first day, but this demands a lot of attention to maintenance of the appearance of the vehicle, inside and out, I feel sorry for those with a black car for its extra attention for looking good. In this way, the change to the new brings with it the need to apply the necessary standards of maintenance of the new. For some, the old is the benchmark. For those without children, the shock of babies and all the mess that accompanies them will be a severe shock to them. Once a car has been puked in, it is no longer the same pristine car.  But then it has a new status as a ‘real’ family car inhabited by a real, proud family, despite its scars. And the owners are no longer ashamed, as their values have shifted. We cannot turn the clock back. The only way is forward. This is probably the greatest challenge to accepting change, it is the readjustment we need to make to our values and standards.
I am hoping that this new car will bring me many miles of safe, reliable motoring and new memories. My values have changed: previously, I wanted a car that was fast, and exciting and fun to drive. Now I value safety and reliability above these younger values of my hedonistic youth. Coming back to the mental photo collection I have of my memories. There are many memories of places, and things that happened over the 15 years, and the quick look through the service history file gave me food for thought on where this car and myself, and the family have been over these years. For some people, that is not important, but for me, this proved to be a powerful tool for moving on, by looking back one last time. Before I let it go on Friday, I found it both emotional and healing to take a moment to relive some of these until I felt that I was ready to hand over the keys of the old car. It was just a car, but it was so much a part of my life that is essential that I respect the memories; the bitter and the sweet. Letting it go is the hardest part of change. Of course, I could have changed my mind and cancelled the deal and got back into the well-used, well-known car and driven off. But why? And where? Sometimes that happens, and we have to deal with it. We were not ready or the deal was not a satisfactory replacement. For some this is easy to do, while for others, letting go is really hard.  If we do not deal with our feelings, then we may feel empty, as a way of simply cutting ourselves off from this event, or feel that we have dis-honoured our experiences and memories. 
And it takes time and begins a whole new cycle of adjusting to the new, on its own terms. The new car has Bluetooth, and VSC, EBD, ABS, and other new developments. After 15 years, it came as quite a shock for me to see how far things have moved on. The new car really shows up how backward and antiquated the old one is now. And I found that was delighted by most of the new changes. Sometimes, things do not change for the better, but the mantra of technology is that ‘new is better’. And I decided to go along with that. Besides, my old model Honda has been dis-continued. The car factory does not make this model anymore, even if I asked/pleaded. I am the one who has to move on, to keep up with the changes, and cope with the jumps in technology that occur from time to time.
 Right now, when I see the new car, I am caught off-guard mentally: I was expecting to see the old white car there. And it is not there. I am still in that phase of seeing the old car but it is gone. The new has come, and it is a silver car. It takes a moment for my mind to get around the idea that this is the replacement. If it was not there at all, then the shock would be devastating. Do you remember that feeling when you came back to your car but it is not there. Only to find out that it has not been stolen but that you parked it somewhere else instead. That has happened to me. This was a shock to me. In the same way as when going through a change that you do not choose, but are fearful of happening one day, an empty parking bay means that my car has been stolen. What do I do now, what am I going to do/Why me? And many questions of despair and confusion paralyse us. We need to be the change-partner to people when they are going through these traumatic changes. Our support, not judgement, is needed. 
Coming back to the point about seeing my new car in the place where the old one was parked. Either I can learn to accept that the old is gone and that the new is here, or this becomes a ‘groundhog‘ day for me as I remain stuck/fixated on the old, to the extent that I disregard the new. When I welcome the change, then the process of adapting to seeing the new becomes easier each day until it has become second nature and it is no longer new anymore. This is all part of fun of making a new collection of memories from the new experiences of: ‘my first time under…/over…/with…/without…’ This means that another change is inevitable, as we humans thrive on the new-ness of things that change brings. It is not the change that matters so much as how we are changed by the changes.                                     
This is what I have learned about change: (and this is subject to change!)
            So many things change, it happens.
Some changes are good, some bad, keep going. Do not freeze.
            That change is a part of life.
            I need time to deal with each change, some more than others, then I am changed.
When I look back, it is exciting to see the change that change has brought, even when the initial change (event) was not good.
Real change happens on the outside but it is experienced and dealt with on the inside.
Everyone deals with change on their own and in their own way.
Letting go happens when you are ready.
Sometimes you do not have the luxury of time, be courageous in the face of the change.
Remember that you are not alone in the change you are going through.
You will be different.
Try it. And learn from it.
Change makes you stronger.
Do not be afraid, (anxious is ok).
Tell someone about what you went through, listen to them, and be with them.

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