Change Is a Comin!

There is something about change, particularly at my age that feels more like walking the greasy tightrope during strong winds without the comfort of a net. Part of what can make change so difficult is the possibility of pain and/or discomfort.
10/02/2014 11:46 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2014

This has been one of those monumental weeks in life. I reached the midpoint as a quinquagenarian.

No longer can I rationalize 50 as the new 40, ignore the endless series of unwanted solicitations from AARP, or pretend that athletically there is no difference between me now and say, 35.

I cannot claim adjunct status as a member of the forties that symbolize the final vestiges of youth.

I also recently underwent a life-altering change. It was nothing concerning my health, but change nevertheless. That adventurous spirit of my 20s and 30s, where I threw caution to the wind has been replaced by pragmatic wisdom, or so it would seem.

I must confront the "c-word" -- change. There comes a point, which for most of us is slightly after birth, that we become resistant to change, clinging instead to the familiar. Each step from conception to fruition brought about its own unique level of change-related anxiety.

At every stage in life there is a built in temptation to resist meaningful change. I have reached the age in life where "that's just how I am" is the convenient go to phrase to justify my resistance to change. There is a certain level of comfort embedded within the status quo.

Comfort, at least familiarity, is where one finds the natural gravitational pull of the human condition. It does not matter how dysfunctional the present situation may be, it is invariably preferred over the unknown of change.

There is something about change, particularly at my age that feels more like walking the greasy tightrope during strong winds without the comfort of a net. Part of what can make change so difficult is the possibility of pain and/or discomfort.

That thought of pain and discomfort can be the paralyzing narcotic that keeps us in the quicksand of stagnation. Moreover, avoiding change is almost as natural as breathing.

Yet, to do nothing would feel even worse because my mind would forever be flooded with the endless "what might have been" scenarios.

Colonel Sanders, Alfred Hitchcock, and Julia Child are among those who realized success after 50 that are now listed among the iconic in my mental lexicon.

Opposition against change, however, exists on the individual as well as the collective level. Many of America's transformative events had to trek through the murky waters that were resistant to change.

Slavery, women's suffrage, Jim Crow, interracial marriage, same-gender marriage had to endure smoke of the status quo before the flickering ambers of change could be seen from a distance.

Religious terrorism is rooted in the erroneous belief that they are in sole possession of "the" truth leading to a closed mind and an aversion toward change, which may one day render it largely irrelevant in the public discourse.

I'm also reminded of the words of civil rights icon, Fannie Lou Hamer: "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Aren't Hamer's words the perquisite for meaningful change? There can be no transformation until one first becomes sick and tired of being sick and tired. Otherwise, we are doomed to accommodating that which needs to be changed.

The desire for change is often accompanied with the desire for comfort. Though understandable, it is an oxymoronic impulse to seek the need for comfort, which stands in contrast to any desires for change.

Comfort is perhaps the biggest adversary against change. This can serve as the sage wisdom to talk us out of whatever change we need to make.

Fortunately, I have fought through the first phase of the journey. I will periodically inform you as to my progress.

In the meantime, I plan to celebrate small victories, laugh at my blundering; and keep in mind, to the best of my ability, that the reality of the change is not nearly as frightening as the images that I've conjured in my imagination.