Change is a reality of our lives, our bodies and our relationships. None of us will escape aging, loss and death. But don’t despair, there’s much we can do in the meantime.
The greatest waste of our time is the denial of change. We’re likely to be caught by surprise when relationships end, we lose loved ones, we become ill or we suddenly realize that we’re getting older.
A second source of misery is to cling to things we cannot hold on to, including the vigor and appearances of youth and those moments in our lives when almost everything is just right. The third is to crave for the material things and sensual pleasures that give no lasting satisfaction.
So what can we hold on to?
Not even your family or dearest friends. Though they may stand by us, no one lives forever. Being mindful of our mortality, we ought to hold each other closer each day, not missing an opportunity to hug one another – physically, in word, and in action.
The grief of losing our loved ones can be partly consoled knowing that we spent well the time we shared together and fully expressed our love.
I have learned from my parents and my wisest patients, the keys to coping with change and adapting to age. By example, they have taught me the three As: acceptance of the inevitability of change, appreciation of that which we have while we have it, and – the most empowering of all – agency.
Throughout the drama of our lives, we remain not pawns but players. Though we may fall into roles – patterns of thinking, reacting and behaving, we remain free to break out of old roles. Here we may express our true character.
By seizing the locus of control and acting in a positive way, we abandon an attitude of helplessness that can lead to anxiety and the feelings of hopelessness that beget despair.
In all of my relationships great and small, I have asked myself, “What is my responsibility?” and “What can I do to make things better?” In every situation, “What is my positive potential?”
As change is unavoidable and much of it beyond our control, appreciate the precious good in our lives and accept our calling as agents for positive change. Ask, “What can I do today to make the world better for those whom I touch?”