Monday, September 16, 2013

The winds of change

I've been going through a lot of changes in my life the last couple of years. 

My children are both at different stages of the very early phase of "doing the dance" of growing in independence and becoming self-sufficient. Sometimes there are setbacks, and other times, great strides. It's a learning process for all of us - not knowing when to step in and correct them ... or just let them figure it out for themselves. I've made some major mistakes in this department even in the last three months - to my own detriment -that I must now live with. It's a hard pill to swallow.

My husband retired in 2009, and suddenly he was making less per month than he made in 2 weeks under his old pre-retirement salary. That was a big adjustment for both of us to make!  Finances have been getting more and more tight. We've had to learn to live within our new means - and I must admit that this was much more of an adjustment for the children than for us, because most of the money we spent (and still spend) is for them or on their behalf. We had to forego many of the expenses they'd come to see as "normal" - just to put food on the table.

He's not getting any younger, either. That has been on my mind a LOT lately. I've seen him being worn down by all of this, and by the fact that he is unable to work to help support the family finances. He just turned 61. Studies have shown that people aged 65 and over are more likely to experience depression than any other age group. (Banich & Compton, 2011)  I'm being forced to consider possibilities I never wanted to consider before (thinking that if I did, I'd be making the unthinkable happen!) It scares the life out of me. It really does. I would be lying if I put on that brave front that a lot of believers call "speaking in faith." Truth be told, it's all I can do to stave off panic in this area.

The climate in my workplace has also changed, as I'm sure it has for so many people. The economic situation in our country is grim, and I know several people who have had to retire because of cutbacks ... people who are great at what they do. Seniority means nothing; the bottom line dictates who stays and who goes. Corporate memory has been reduced to a trickle, and the ones who are left are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past without those (admittedly higher-paid) people to rely on for information on what's been tried and hasn't worked. Job security is non-existent. With that "sword of Damocles" hanging above our heads, and management trying to put a positive spin on what is ruining people's lives, making the ones who are left do the same work with fewer people (do more with less) morale is at an all-time low. I've been feeling particularly vulnerable lately, as I can see how there is likely to be a move toward paring down our numbers even more. We're already overworked as it is.

With an eventual forced retirement in mind, I started looking around for alternatives. I found an online university that lets you stay at your current job and get your Master's degree. I applied and was accepted into a Counseling Psychology program. My start date was September 2nd. So right now, I am deep into homework assignments, projects, reading, studying, and trying to juggle all that with home, church, and work. I barely have enough time to do what I like to do - which is what I'm doing now - so I have to carve out time for myself to do that. It's a sanity-saver.  :)
Photo "Sun Ray Behind Dark Cloud" courtesy of Sura Nuralpradid at

And then there are the changes at church. I know that comings and goings are all part of the ebb and flow of church life, but there is this one couple that has become very dear to my husband and me. Just recently, we found out that they were moving away, through circumstances beyond their control. It felt like someone reached in and ripped the hearts out of both of us. We've been experiencing wave upon wave of grief over this loss, and over the move which is slated to happen in stages as they transition into their new location. 

My body is changing. I'm in the final stages of menopause - and while I rejoice that "the curse" is finally over for the most part, there are other, more unpleasant physical changes that affect women at my age, not the least of which is a lessening in the skin's elasticity. (Yeah - that means wrinkles and sagging skin!) I'm trying to eat more healthily - which has increased my base energy level. However, the stresses I've mentioned deplete my sleep bank. There are the rare days when I have had to take a sick day just to sleep, because I just can't function otherwise. Sometimes I blame my age (i.e., menopause) ... but I am more inclined to think it's because of all the other changes added TO the menopause. The other day I caught my reflection in the mirror. "Who is that exhausted old woman?" I thought to myself.

Change - whether positive or negative - produces stress. It is inevitable of course, but it is still stressful. And while routine and security are increasingly important to me, I'm finding that I need to move outside my comfort zone and try new things. I have no choice ... if I want to keep from stagnating.

I take great comfort in the fact that God is constant. Faithful. Unchanging. Persistently passionate. And supremely dependable and available to talk to at any moment. 

There are lyrics to a verse and chorus from an old hymn which, lately, have been coming back to me more and more. 

       His oath, His covenant, His blood 
           support me in the whelming flood. 
       When all around my soul gives way,  
           He then is all my hope and stay.  
       On Christ the solid rock I stand; 
           All other ground is sinking sand... 
                         (Mote, Edward [(c) 1834] - emphasis mine.) 

This is the one constant, the only thing I can count on for sure.  It's like an anchor deep inside. If not for Him, I would surely lose my way and succumb to the relentlessness ravages of the winds of change. 

Banich, M. & Compton, R. (2011). Cognitive Neuroscience [3rd edition]. 
      Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Mote, Edward [(c) 1834]. The Solid Rock. Public Domain

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