8 Ways To Find Comfort During Change

Surprise isn't always comfort
Life is changing again!

Life is filled with change. We all have to handle the fact that nothing remains the same. The truth is that change that happens to us (without our permission and often without warning) is hardest to survive. But even when we choose to embrace the transition, there are bumps in the road. Here are some thoughts about easing the transitions.

My life, by design, is filled with changes. We are seasonal workers, needing to move every six months or so, and never sure of what is on the horizon. We have chosen to live with fewer things and less regularity. Much of the time, I enjoy the newness and the uncertainty. However, the constant of change wears on me.

Here are ten strategies I have employed to smooth the way and cope with the anxieties that inevitably crop up.

1.  Hold on to something Familiar

Holding coffee mug helps change
Warmth helps with change

When we travel, we have a set of belongings that come with us. They have to fit in our two-door compact car, so we have to be picky about our choices. We love our down comforter, our electric toothbrush, comfortable shoes and a three-ring binder filled with my favorite recipes (yes, it is full of comfort food ideas!). In addition, we only bring one suitcase each of our favorite clothing and personal items. It turns out most people don’t really notice when you wear the same things all the time. The few things we bring are all “old friends.” Our continuing efforts to simplify pay off big time here.

2. Let go of Expectations.

I do research before we head out on our journey and automatically draw mental pictures of what the newest spot will be like. I have to be careful of these expectations. It turns out change is harder to handle when things are not going as I expected. We came up with a saying: “We are on Vacation!” because this reminds us that we have never been here before, that the road is unfamiliar and that is why we are doing this! It is time to be present to what is right in front of us and not what we left behind.

grumpy cat hates change
Change can make me grumpy

3. Ignore negative input.

There are many people who prefer to live in the same house and go to the same job. It is hard for those people to imagine that taking off in random directions could be fun or that change could lead to something better. Because of this, they feel obligated to tell me that what I am doing is a bad idea. It is tempting to listen to them, or even chime in. That’s when I do the next step.

 

4.  Make a List of why I am doing this crazy thing

I write down the reasons I am on the road (or whatever new vision I have created). This has come in useful in the past to get through classes, finish projects or stay in a job long enough to make it to the next step. Some people prefer to draw pictures, make collages, create vision boards or put up sticky notes on their mirrors. We all need reminders that what we are doing is important and why we want what we want. Every now and again I read my notes and ask myself, “Is this still true?  Do I still want this?”  It is okay if the answer is no, but almost always I am still inspired by my goals.

What if the change is not my choice? I focus on who I want to be (and WHY!) while the change is happening and write that down. After all, there are almost always good things that come out of change. We just need to find them.

5. Add structure

When I feel lost, I create to-do lists to get me moving. This for me adds structure, plus I get ridiculous satisfaction from crossing the tasks off. Yes, I am one of those that will add items I have already completed just so I can them off. Other ways to add structure can be making sure you eat at the same times, exercise every day, connect with family or whatever makes you feel more in control of the day in small ways.

change is not comfortable
What!? This isn’t what I asked for!

6. Know that not everything will turn out the way we wanted

The sad thing is challenges occur, even in an exciting, travel filled adventure life. Cars break down, I get tired of being so far from family, weather disrupts our plans, there are bad days at work, people disappoint me. In addition, there are moments I disappoint myself. I accept that those things are a fact of life on this planet and get over it. Eventually.

7. Practice Gratitude

Counting my blessings is a instant way for me to remember all the things going right. I know there are many people who advocate writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. I am sure it is a good idea and I have seen studies that say that your mental and physical health measurably increase after doing this for several weeks in a row. But I resist this exercise, even though I am a writer in my heart.  Therefore, I prefer to be spontaneously grateful. I am thankful for rainbows, bird songs, cloud formations and hot and cold running water. As a result of noticing all of these, and more, I remember to acknowledge the gifts in my life.

 

Touch helps me cope with change
Keeping in Touch

8. Communicate with my anchor people

Finally, I have several people that I consider my anchors. They are family members and friends who love me. They remind me that I am on an adventure, not an endurance race. Touching base with them frequently helps keep me grounded.

 

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

Hugh Prather

Stuck at a Party? – 5 Sure-Fire Conversation Starters

conversation starters invitation
A moment of elation followed by fear

Every introvert dreads party invitations. We have visions of standing in a corner as we alternately hope that someone will talk to us and afraid they will. First of all, my big fear is that I don’t have good conversation starters. What will I talk about if someone comes up? While recently some “experts” have claimed that most introverts dislike idle chatter and crave deep topics, that is not me, at least at parties. I promise I will not be having significant discussions with people I barely know at a party.
However, I do accept that I need and want social connections, despite the emotional energy it requires. I have a trick, accept the invitation when it is offered from people I like, especially if the event is several days in the future.  I can do this, I think to myself as I agree to their offer. Naturally, I then worry and fret out loud until we arrive at the party, because I think I don’t want to go. Yes, I know it is always worth going. So, I just feel the worry and show up anyway.

Luckily, I have found that having a set of conversations starters in my back pocket can help me feel less stuck at the party. Here are some juicy questions that often lead to interesting exchanges so I can feel confident and will be entertained. (Yes, it is all about my comfort!)

5 sure-fire Conversation Starters

1. What was the last thing you checked off your bucket list?

This is a great way to get stories rolling. The anecdotes tend to be enjoyable because bucket list items usually have an element of adventure and almost always have some calamity attached to it. (I know. That shouldn’t be true but the challenges are what make the stories fun.)

2 What are you going to check off of your bucket list next?

conversation starters bucket list
My bucket list needs more ideas

I like this one because whether we call it a life list or a bucket list, we all have things we hope we get to do sooner or later. This is especially good in a group because one person’s idea will spark others. You may go home with new ideas to add to your own list. Bonus!

3. What is the most interesting job you ever had?

One of good things about this question is that it isn’t the usual “What do you do?” but still gives you an idea of their interests and skills. I would suggest having an example of your own in case it stumps your new friend. Sometimes we need time to remember that jobs can be interesting.

4. Do you have a favorite book (or movie)?

This lets them off the hook if they can’t think of one right away. It can also begin a dialogue. Many times it turns out we like the same ones and that leads to a connection. Once or twice I have met people who grew up where movies were not allowed or they never liked to read. Quick. Ask a different question.

5. Have you ever met anyone famous?

conversation starters hollywood
Hollywood is full of famous people

This often leads to convoluted tales of how they sat next to a movie star or how their parents bought Elvis Presley a drink (or whatever story they come up with). By the way, I would not suggest asking this if there is even a remote possibility that the other person IS famous.

A couple of other hints:

Be sure to add your own stories so it doesn’t become a one-way interrogation.

 When someone asks you a question, end your answer with “How about you?” Extra credit: If you are in a group, pick the one who hasn’t talked yet and ask them.

It is never a good idea to talk about politics and religion. After all, you won’t change their mind and they won’t change yours (no matter what they think). Come to think of it, current events right now are possible dynamite. Tread carefully.

– Join in when other brave souls use their conversation starters. There are lots of us out there and we need encouragement.

A final word: People are rooting for the conversation to be entertaining. You already are unique and remarkable. I promise it is worth the effort to engage with others.

conversation starters winne the pooh
I love Winnie the Pooh

 

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –A.A. Milne

Living In A Two-Party Household

two-party household argument
We don’t see eye to eye

What do you do when one of a couple has strong conservative beliefs and the other is as liberal as they come? This two-party household has been our reality for over thirty-seven years. Up until now, we have been able to balance our beliefs because our love is strong and our peace keeping skills are excellent. The mantra of “don’t argue about religion or politics” has led us to live a peaceful life. So far.

Granted we have strong feelings about our beliefs. Every two years, we go to the polls to vote and cancel each other’s votes out, straight down the line. One year, we agreed that since we were nullifying each other’s votes, neither of us would vote. We both cheated. I saw him in line ahead of me to vote! Rather than being angry, we have laughed about that for years. Yes, we both thought that we would get our vote to count that year. Now we accept the inevitable and go together to cast our disparate votes. We consider it our right and responsibility to cancel out the other’s opinion at the polls. This is two-party living at its best.

Up until now, we have found that we can agree to disagree about our political views.

Things have changed in our two-party household

two-party household Trump
He voted for him

With this election, our views are so different that we have both been alarmed at the other’s ideas. I believe that our new president is dismantling the government and removing important gains we have made over the past 50 years. He thinks Trump is finally making the government more efficient and streamlining cumbersome rules that have restricted the economy. My fear is that Mr. Trump is endangering the future of the planet. He thinks I am over-reacting and listening to “the enemy media”. In his opinion, it is about time someone takes charge of the runaway government interference in personal freedoms. I feel my personal choices will be narrowed by the decisions of our leader. The list goes on and on.  The truth is that neither one of us will change our mind, no matter what the other one says.

Two-party household liberal
Me too!

For the first time in our marriage, we cannot find common ground to stand on in this arena. We can’t watch the news, look at the internet or read about any political events without one (or both) of us getting angry. So how can our two-party relationship survive the next four to eight years?

My hope is kindness will save the day

In our relationship, when we speak of our differences, we have an unspoken agreement to stop when the emotions start running hot. Anger appears and we take a time out from the discussion. This can be helpful, for we never want to say things that will hurt that other person. I like him! Why would I want to hurt him? Luckily, he feels the same way.

With kindness, there is room for discussion. When I talk about climate change, he is willing to listen to my view of the situation.  I hope I can learn why he trusts Trump to do the right thing. Sharing my concerns about education leads to him speaking about antiquated institutions. We do agree that health care reform is a tough problem, even though we disagree about the solutions. Granted these conversations can and do get heated. Remembering to be kind to one another ensures that we back off, cool down and reconnect to the fact that we love one another. My tone changes, my words soften and I do my best to listen rather than defend my position. He watches my face, my eyes and does his best to keep it to a discussion rather than an argument. While many times, we have to stop talking about it for a while; we can still maintain the respect and trust we have for each other.

Kindness offers a refuge.  Kindness will allow us to survive this period; possibly to learn and grow into a stronger relationship, even in our two-party household.

two-party household Dalai Lama
Kindness Counts

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

Reconnecting To Joy – Action

Current political changes feel as if they are out of my control. I think many of us are worried about the future, on both sides of the aisle. When I am afraid, I become paralyzed. I tell myself I am too small to make a difference. I curl up on the couch under the blanket and despair. Yet, little action steps can lead me out of this scared rabbit reaction. Asking questions rather than demanding agreement, reacting with kindness to angry words and even picking up litter on the trail help me remember that I can make a difference in the world, in this small way.

Action Dumbbells
Action Requires Heavy Lifting

The New Year brings a lot of attention on goal setting. These visions are designed to spur us into action, to take steps towards who we want to be. Though goals can motivating, they are intimidating. It is all good to say “I will lose 30 pounds this year” or I will change the world. It is quite another to actually figure out how to do it. Even harder is to sustain the energy to accomplish large goals. I am very good at coming up with ideas, not so good at the follow through.

Oh, I start out well. Going to the gym for the first three days is exhilarating. The problem resides in the fourth through the three hundred and sixty second day. I understand that many great athletes work out every single day. Though, they do vary their routines to be light on some of those days, maintaining the momentum keeps them on track. Plus, the habit of moving every day becomes ingrained.

While I understand this idea, the thought of never taking a day off sounds exhausting. Then I remember the One Day At A Time philosophy of the Twelve Step programs. I don’t have to do this every day. I only have to do this today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Action Eat Carrots
A carrot a day

With that in mind, I find I can take action on my dreams. Often, I only have time or energy to do one thing a day. But three hundred and sixty five actions can lead to big things. Maybe not a belly that is flatter, but towards a body that is stronger, a retirement account that is larger, a blog that is well-written and a world where kindness is the norm. How are your goals going? Maybe just do one thing today. We can do this together.

“Just For Today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.”Al-Anon Family Groups

 

Bryce Canyon Adventures

bryce-5
Bryce Canyon Inspiration Point

We spent this past weekend exploring Bryce Canyon National Park.  Some of my friends had told me that it was their favorite park, so I looking forward to seeing why.   As usual, it is difficult to compare national parks.  They are all so wonderful in different ways.

road-to-bryce-5
Colorado River flowing into Lake Powell

The road to Bryce held its own treasures. We stopped at the north end of Lake Powell.  Hite marina sits so high above the lake as the waters recede that it is no longer in business.  The land is reclaiming its place so green grass and small trees grow where the lake used to be.  The most impressive part was the Colorado River is still flowing into the lake.

Capitol Reef rock formation
Capitol Reef rock formation

We passed through Capitol Reef National Park.  The weather cooperated and the sky was a brilliant blue, perfect for pictures.  This is an area where Native Americans and early Mormon settlers made their marks and where there is a 100 mile “wrinkle” in the earth’s crust.  The wrinkle, also called a “waterpocket fold”, is bordered by cliffs and rock formations. We took the ten-mile scenic drive, stopped at the Mormon settlers’ cabins and walked to see the Petroglyphs.

Capitol Reef Petroglyphs
Capitol Reef Petroglyphs

 

Scenic Drive - ten feet to the right is the canyon.
Scenic Drive – ten feet to the right is the canyon.

One of the most surprising things about Bryce, which is a huge canyon, is that it is hidden from view as you drive along the road.  The road is lined with tall, beautiful pine trees that hide the edge of this dazzling national park.  There are signs enticing you to pull over: “scenic overlook” and “viewpoint”. When you do the surpise takes your breath away.

Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail
Bryce Canyon Navajo Trail

It is a fairyland of spires and columns, some with the most lifelike faces, all surrounded by tall trees: Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Utah juniper, bristle cone pine and pinon pines.

bryce-8
Dave on Navajo Trail

While we were only there for the weekend, we had plenty of time on Saturday to visit the many scenic overlooks and hike the three mile Navajo and Queen’s Garden trails.   The descent into the valley is steep, but there are amazing sights around every corner.  This made the fact that we had to climb back up that steep path at the end much easier to bear.  There was always a good excuse to stop and enjoy the view.

bryce-1

Hoodoos

An Native American legend says that the hoodoos (the many spires in the park) used to be bad people that were changed into stone by Coyote.  It is true that many of the forms look like people or animals.  We asked a ranger what the spires names were and he laughed and said, “It is more fun to name them yourself.”   And so we did.  There were turtle heads, gossips, washing women, camels, warriors, queens and more.  We could have stayed longer.  There were more hikes to do and hoodoos to visit.

 

On the Road
On the Road

Luckily, there more chances to stop and be in awe on our drive back.  As we rode along, a sign would tell us to slow down and suddenly we would be in a new canyon or pulling off to see a spectacular view. We couldn’t tell in advance what would be around the corner.  I think that happens in life sometimes.  I am afraid that things will be boring (as in “are we there yet?”) or hopeless (this will only get worse), when right around the next corner or just down the road, there is a new view.  I am grateful for these reminders.

Quote of the moment: “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”Thich Nhat Hanh