How Good Are We at Dealing With Change?

“The only people who really look forward to a change are babies.”

Change is a topic most of us even hate to talk about let alone deal with, and yet we are being bombarded with it every day in some way, shape or form. Seems like it’s occurring all around us as we are called upon to deal with it whether we want to or not. We can’t ignore it, especially those changes we have no control over. Do I need to give examples here? Okay, the one we hear most about, at least here in Canada, is climate change. Second to that one would be our aging population and what this means for all us Canadians, and the third might be the changes which are constantly occurring in the technology field. These are the big ones to my mind which then can be broken down into a myriad of smaller components such as, how our political system must change… possibly our concept of democracy… our social systems, our approach to immigration … the list can go forever. I sense that almost everything needs to be changed. We are becoming aware that we must replace all our old ways of thinking and acting for something new. The big question is how do we go about making the changes we know we must?

I should give credit for the quote about ‘babies’ to a workshop leader I met in the mid ’90’s. He got me thinking about change and how it can affect us in our lives for better or worse. At the time, I was working for a non-profit agency. Ontario’s economy had been dealt a huge blow putting them into a recession which was brought on by the change of an industrial based economy to the  ‘age of technology’ or computers. Jobs which people had worked at for years were being wiped out….never to come back. The thousands who witnessed their jobs disappearing faced the choice of either learning how to use these machines or end up serving coffee at Tim Horton’s for the rest of their work days.

At first, I was excited to be a part of Ontario’s launch to help these displaced workers to either get another job or some training for the new age besetting them. Here was an opportunity for me to help these unfortunate people with my teaching and counselling skills. This would be the perfect job for me, for hadn’t I recently been through the same ordeal after losing a lucrative position as a sales rep? Set adrift with no immediate prospects or outplacement help from my company, I happened upon Richard Boyle’s “What Colour is Your Parachute?” This book became my Bible in helping me make my career switch from sales into counselling. If I could do this on my own, then couldn’t these displaced workers do the same with a little help from me?

How naive of me to think I could save all those poor souls who were experiencing just what I had gone through. My agency was responsible for getting older, experienced workers either job ready or trained in something that could get them back into the work force…quickly! It didn’t take me long to realize that it was an impossible task to do this in just three weeks.

Upon reflection, I can honestly say my five years working with the unemployed offered me challenges I had never faced before. On the other hand, they handed me an incredible learning experience. You may think it strange that I say this, but didn’t some great sage…was it Plato or Socrates… reveal that we inevitably end up teaching what we need to learn the most? My greatest awakening was accepting that not all people will handle change in the same manner or time frame. In other words, the idea of a three week program was doomed to failure. Only a few breezed through the program with any kind of flying colours. Those who did manage to finish it either found a job or went on for some short-term training in computers. We also turned out many truck and fork lift drivers. Sadly, there were some who couldn’t overcome their job loss before their EI (employment insurance) ran out so ended up on welfare. Of those who did find employment, none got anywhere near the salary they earned at their old jobs. Most ended up working on contract or an hourly basis with little in the way of benefits or pensions. My guess is that some never worked again due to depression resulting from their loss. One of my clients even tried to take his life and ended up in the Clarke Institute, a mental hospital in Toronto.

Everyone handles change in a different way depending on their past experiences, their outlook on life’s challenges, and their emotional development. Change is mostly good as far as I am concerned, and I hope that some of my clients did get that message. Having the experience of working with them, I concluded that the more change we have in our lives, the better we get at handling it. Again I was judging from my own experience. I had to deal with many changes in my growing up years at home…moving around and living with various relatives because my parents weren’t up to the task. This could have had negative results, but instead I unknowingly developed some resilience. Although this helped me through my job loss, it took a toll on my confidence which I had to work hard at rebuilding. My work with older workers helped as did further internal work over the years.  Again, I prejudged my clients by thinking that if I could do it why couldn’t they? There was a difference. Many of them had grown up in stable homes, worked their entire work life at the same job, and were the sole bread winners. They had the toughest time dealing with their job loss for they had not only lost the only work they had ever known, they had lost their self-worth. Our programs didn’t give enough credence to their emotional states. To rebuild a man’s self-worth by probing into his past calls for an inward approach that most of these men were afraid to address. Our life skills classes only touched the surface of such a necessary journey and fell short of helping them to come back out on top to eagerly pursue new possibilities for the challenges ahead.

In the ’90’s we had the older workers who had their jobs disappear with the advent of new technology. Today we have the young workers trying to find jobs in our new economy who are discovering they are woefully lacking in the skills needed for today’s work world. Alvin Tofler, author of “Power Shift”, warned us that this would happen. Whenever, I told my clients that the future would require workers who would need more than a high school education, be willing to learn new skills all through their work life, and count on having several careers, I would be met with disbelief and laughter. They looked at me as some kind of Pollyanna who was not to be taken seriously. Thirty years have passed, and we are still figuring out how to deal with the fast pace of our technology. We haven’t planned for the future and are now scrambling to get people trained to do the jobs which are now here and will be coming. Just think about the jobs which will be required to deal with climate change!

But now back to the present. Every day the media is talking about the changes we must make in practically every facet of our life. Sometimes it seems we must change just about everything, and we must do it now.  This is frightening news for most people because it’s so overwhelming. However, there is a growing movement of young people who are products of the computer age and good parenting who will be the movers and shakers we’ll need. I meet some of them in my travels. They are the ‘digital nomads’ who don’t call any one place as home but travel this earth using their computers to conduct whatever business they are interested in. They teach English, they write, they sell, they do volunteer work, or they set up their own business. They are totally independent and know they’ll never work for some large company for any length of time. They are constantly learning, they’re creative, and they are open to helping this planet in any way they can. They are the hope for our future because they are resilient, and they aren’t afraid to take the challenge that comes with uncertainty and change. They have a totally different mind-set from our workers of the 90’s.

For those of us who are older and don’t have such an adventurous spirit as our ‘digital nomads’, what can we do to prepare ourselves for the changes which are so inevitably coming?  How do we prepare ourselves, our children, and grandchildren? How do we even get them to listen and get involved in being part of the solution for dealing with the changes we must make rather than be part of the problem? My work with the displaced workers of the ’90’s taught me that change imposed on us by outside forces can be devastating if we aren’t prepared. The best way we can prepare for external change is by changing ourselves. Then we can help others. This is the part that will take work and daring because we will be forced to take a long hard look at the truth about ourselves and the state of the world. This is the starting point. From there we can use our skills and knowledge to help our ailing world. What other choice do we have?


Thanksgiving in Nova Scotia


Happy Thanksgiving!

I heard this greeting many times over our Thanksgiving weekend … something I had never consciously heard before. Then again, maybe some people have used this greeting in the past, much like we say Merry Christmas in December, but this year for whatever reasons I took notice, and I’m glad I did.

After a half-dozen or more “Happy Thanksgivings”, I was becoming slightly annoyed. However, upon reflection I can honestly say it began to take on more meaning for me, and I suspect many other Canadians. Why? Because as we sat down to enjoy our turkey dinners, many of us must have realised just how much we have to be thankful for.

Sometimes it’s difficult to find a silver lining in what to be thankful for in this crazy world after tuning in to our local, national, and world news. Often our media leaves us with the impression there are few places left on this planet of ours which aren’t in some state of turmoil…except for where we live, of course!

However, I must not be smug about this for ironically our beautiful Cape Breton was unexpectedly hit with the remnants of hurricane Matthew just as many CBer’s were preparing to sit down for their Thanksgiving feasts. Extensive flooding, fallen trees, and no power for two days have run up a tab of millions of dollars. However, the good rising from this devastation was that no lives were lost, thanks to the resilience of the people.

There is nothing like a disaster such as this to pull people together to help those in need. Last weekend was not just Thanksgiving in Cape Breton, but also the beginning of their International Celtic Colours Festival, an annual event drawing a huge influx of visitors from all over the western world. True to form the people in the community of Eskasoni rallied together ensuring that the concert goers in their town would not be disappointed. Not only were they well fed and feted, but somehow had the power restored so they could see the show. But the people of this enterprising community didn’t stop there: they even managed to build a detour road to get the bus loads of visitors back to their hotels so they wouldn’t  have to spend the night in the community hall. What tremendous organization and teamwork this must have taken!

Fortunately here in Victoria Beach, we were relatively unscathed by Matthew’s final hurrah save for leaves and broken branches littering our yards. We were thankful for the rain which was so desperately needed after a summer of drought reported to be the worst on record in some parts of our province.

A small waterfall created by the rain.

A small waterfall created by the rain.

Further reflection upon this past week’s events have left me feeling unusually thankful for my life right now. I am thankful that Hubby and I got to enjoy Thanksgiving with not one but two delicious turkey dinners, none of which I had to cook! Although we were unable to sit down with family members due to the choices of where we all live, we were delighted to share our dinners with friends. Furthermore, I am especially thankful for where I live which has got to be one of the most awesome places in the world. I can still say this despite all the beautiful places I have witnessed in my world travels. Not to bore you with too many more ‘thankfuls’, I will mention only one more….

Found a grand pumpkin right here on our road.

Autumn of 2016 will definitely go down as one huge surprise. Many of us wondered if we would be rewarded with any significant colour this year because of the drought. By mid September our trees were looking old and tired with many of them shedding their withered leaves far too early. But, lo and behold, about two weeks ago those that still had leaves presented us with a glorious range of reds, oranges, and yellows. This transformation seemed to happen overnight. Somehow sensing this might not last forever, I realised I needed to grab my camera to capture the panorama which would in turn spur me on to completing another post for this blog.

However, when Matthew’s unexpected winds came last weekend, I despaired there would be any autumn colours left to capture. Shortly after the storm had passed as I drove into town, I noticed there was still a decent palette of colour miraculously left behind…just enough to provide me with those much-needed pictures.

Where did all this colour come from, I wondered? There were so many leaves stripped from their branches littering our road and yards, and yet those vivid colours were still evident. As I looked more closely, I realised much of the colour was produced by the abundance of foliage that lines our road, and not from the trees. Shrubs and other plants were climbing up the trunks of the bare trees and the telephone poles. My guess is that it’s climate change at work. Mother Nature is playing havoc with our maples and birches which we have always relied on for our autumn colours, but perhaps now we must look at the smaller plants and climbing vines as our colour source.

In spite of the changes occurring in our world right now… which for some can be down right scary… there are still rays of sunshine peeking through those grey clouds. Let’s hope that as some things wither and die away there will be other things to replace them.

A good example which has nothing to do with our autumn but is appropo for how change is being handled by folks in Nova Scotia is our main provincial newspaper, The Chronicle Herald.  This paper has been in the midst of a strike between the owners and the workers for almost a year with neither side about to give in. Changes in staffing and working conditions have meant many jobs lost and hurt feelings, but the newspaper carries on despite them. To my mind, those who are left are actually improving the paper. Although much smaller, its content has improved. The viewpoint of the owners is more positive than it ever was before the strike so we are seeing more hope and less gloom and doom. Every day I can count on reading an article or two reflecting the positive changes occurring in our province. I am thrilled to see this new direction of The Herald and am truly hopeful that Nova Scotians will be able to handle any future changes which are bound to come.

Celebrating My 50th Reunion

“When time which steals our years away

Shall steal our pleasures, too,

The mem’ry of the past will stay

And half our joys renew.”

This is a quotation by Thomas Moore, a 19th century poet and song writer from Ireland. I recently found it in my Mount Allison year book from 1966 along with my graduation picture. I have no idea why I chose this particular quote by this poet to sum up my years as an under graduate of the Arts at Mt. A as I was about to embark upon the world that awaited me. I only recall that I made the decision to use this in haste, after desperately combing through a book of quotations none of which seemed quite appropriate to express my particular feelings on such a momentous event. This would have to do, I thought.  Would I choose it today? Very likely not, as much water has passed under the bridge since that day bringing much change and growth. Thank goodness! Then, on second thought maybe I would! Let me explain.

After a whirlwind trip to celebrate my 50th reunion in Sackville, N.B. where Mt. A is located, I dug out my year book and found those long-forgotten words. I have to admit I was quite baffled by my choice and was struggling to even remember anything about Thomas Moore. The only Thomas Moore I could relate to was our modern-day American psychotherapist and writer of books about the soul – Care of the Soul and Soul Mates. 

After reading about the Irish Thomas Moore, the pieces of the puzzle as to why I probably made this choice became clearer. After all, don’t the choices we make in life reflect that stage in life we find ourselves, and don’t they yield terrific insight into our character and what makes us tick? Perhaps I had not made such a ridiculous choice after all?

Here is what I found about Thomas Moore the author of my quotation. First of all he was not only a poet, but also a singer, song writer, entertainer, and biographer. In fact, he was often referred to as the Irish bard just as Robbie Burns was called the Scottish bard. He was a man of the people. He was happily married to an actress with whom he had five children. Unfortunately, all of them died before he did which distressed him deeply. That, along with financial problems at various times in his life, were his main crosses to bear. He became good friends with Lord Byron supporting his belief that Greece should be an independent state. He also supported the emancipation of the Irish from the Catholic Church and strongly disagreed with Thomas Jefferson, the President of the US, for his support of slavery. He was a man who cared for people and wasn’t afraid to speak out against the wrong doings of his time. He was a very personable man genuinely liked by most people who knew him. The words used to describe him were honest, affectionate, independent, and high-minded. Wow! I would like to meet such a man today.

After learning all this, I realised I hadn’t made such a ridiculous choice after all. This quotation wasn’t just a trivial bit of nostalgia as I first thought. It goes much deeper and is certainly appropriate not just for a graduation but also for a reunion 50 years down the road. Yes, reunions can stir up many memories, some good and some bad. I guess this is why some people find it difficult attending them as they remember only the bad stuff. I have learned it’s best to let the bad go and remember only the good which as Moore says is about half – if we are lucky! Can we really ask for more, I wonder? So at this reunion choosing only to remember the good stuff, I found myself delighting in reconnecting with old friends and even old boyfriends who may have caused so much grief back then. This time around, I even got better acquainted with those I never got to know when I was there, so I made new friends as well. I actually felt like I was part of a big family where we had all come together from hither and yon to celebrate a milestone in our varied lives. We had made it to our 50th for which we received pins in honour of our doing so. It really was something to celebrate rather than something to avoid. Over the years I did attend a few not so memorable reunions. However, this one was totally different for me and will go down as not only memorable but fun. Upon reflection I realise that a satisfactory outcome to attending school/college reunions is all about how we approach them which is reflective of the changes we have undergone in our life’s journey.

One further thought I have on the subject of attending reunions especially the 50th and those beyond is that they can also be a kind of wake up call for us. The reality is that we are all getting older and do we really know what amount of time we have left? As we were all winding up our weekend, I heard this sentiment from some as we said our ‘good byes’ and wished each other well until our next one in five years time. It’s true that some of us might not make the next one. Somehow I suspect that many of us will. I sure hope so! I was particularly inspired by the class of ’46 who were enthusiastically represented by four gentlemen well into their 90’s who gave a rousing tribute to their class. They were the stars of the whole show. They were living proof that we really can get better with age just like the proverbial red wine. My wish is that there will be some of us from the class of ’66 who will be as feisty as those four men from the class of ’46 when our turn comes round in twenty years. Wouldn’t that be something!

Point your cursor on each of the images to see the captions below. 

A Moment of Happiness

Our house this autumn from the back looking toward the sea.

Our house this autumn from the back looking toward the sea.

With all the horrible stuff happening in the world every day, it’s no surprise to hear that many people are beginning to lose hope. Is it any wonder that depression is on the rise as we are bombarded with negativity from all fronts? Natural disasters due to climate change, famines, government deficits, corruption, growing disparity between the rich and poor, Isis and the growing threat of terrorism, dealing with the deluge of refugees looking for a safe haven, not to mention smaller crimes of passion, rape, and theft are making an endless list. At times it does appear that our world is facing one of its darkest hours. But before this becomes too depressing let’s consider that our planet has seen dark periods before when culture and learning declined from about the 6th to the 12th century A.D. during what was called the “Dark Ages”. We must remind ourselves that this dark period eventually waned to give way to the light once again.

The main question is how do we as individuals cope with all this bad stuff? I expect the answers to such a question are as varied as the people who take the time to consider it. One common solution is to turn off the TV and quit reading newspapers which some are doing but is that really all we can do and is it enough? I don’t think it is because I think we need to know what is happening in the world. Without the facts how can we as citizens make informed choices regarding not only our personal lives but for the betterment of our society? Based on my own personal experiences and the knowledge I have gained from teachers, reading, and conversations, I have discovered that the answer is really quite simple and can be summed up in one word: LOVE.

In its broader context, it is about each of us making the choice to live our life out of love rather than fear. I have a difficult time accepting the fact that the world will ever reach a point where all of us will ever make such a choice. There are some who feel this will eventually happen with the appearance of the Maitreya ( a World Teacher) heralding in a long stretch of peace with no wars. If you Google Share International, you can touch base with the organization and learn more. To me this is idealism to the extreme. Do we not have to have the yin and the yang or the positive and the negative to balance things out? It’s all much food for thought. All each of us can do is make a choice to lead our life driven by the one or the other. If we choose love then we need to look within  and accept ourselves, flaws and all. This is called self-love and where the journey begins. If we can take this first step and really work at it, then we can truly love others and the world around us. This makes perfect sense to me and is my answer for combating depression and, thus, contributing in a small way to helping our ailing planet with its multitude of problems. Those of us who accept this premise can be examples not only to our families and friends but all the other people we will meet on our life’s journey.

If we choose to conduct our life from a base of fear, then we will hinder our personal growth and basically retrench. We won’t be using our talents or creativity to the extent we can and most probably will become bored with life. We certainly won’t be leaving much of an impression to our children and grandchildren. No thank you, this would not be my choice.

So if we choose love as our goal, then how do we get there? As I have already stated it has to begin by taking a good look at what makes us tick and be willing to do something about the parts we don’t like. I know that this can be scary stuff for many because I have met more than my fair share of people over my life time who won’t go there. After all it requires that we change things in our lives and risk losing old support systems which in many cases have become simply crutches. Self-love is the first step and it won’t come to us on a silver platter or from others. After facing our ‘shadow’ (a Carl Jung term) or that negative part of our personality, we can then begin the journey. This may come easy for some but for many of us, myself included, it becomes a life-long journey. We may stumble, or fall, or even give up for a while.  Some of us may not achieve it in this life time and will have to come back and try again in the next one. This picture gets clearer by the day to me as I see similar messages on Facebook, or in such books as the one I am presently reading by Gary Zukav entitled Soul to Soul. The overall theme of his book is that we must create our own authentic power through aligning our personalities with our souls. We can do this by acknowledging the negative part of our personality that causes destructive actions and be willing to change that to positive actions. In other words, we can choose to live a life of revenge or compassion. None of this is easy as I have discovered, but it’s certainly worth a try because I would rather be a patient, kind, and loving person as opposed to one who is seen as impatient, selfish, and hateful.

Having said all this, I would like to share with you the learning I have gained since I started on this journey of striving to live a life with love rather than fear:

  • I have learned that I must slow down and take time to revel in some of the simple things in life. One of the simple things for me is to take delight in all the nature around me. Recently when I stopped to look out my living room window shortly after rising to greet a new day, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter happiness. There before me was a sunny, autumn day showcasing the orange and golds of the trees across the road, the white picket fence of our neighbour, and in the distance the deep blue of the sea and the Point Prim lighthouse. Where did this feeling actually come from? Was it triggered by the view from my window or was it something on a grander scale such as a sign or message from the Universe? I like to think it was a sign from the Universe because it happened when I was in a negative state of mind and feeling despondent about letting go of things which no longer served any purpose in my life. I am certain that this brief moment of total joy was sent to remind me that I had so much to be thankful for. It helped me to understand that being happy has much to do with living in the moment and not sifting through the past or anticipating a future which hasn’t even arrived. It’s about seizing such a blissful moment and savouring it for all it’s worth because those moments can be rare.
    View from my living room window taken in November weeks after my "Happy Moment"

    View from my living room window taken in November weeks after my “Happy Moment”

    Looking over Digby Gut to Point Prim.

    Looking over Digby Gut to Point Prim.

  • Another learning is that we mustn’t be afraid to open up our hearts and sometimes take that risk of having them broken. Although this can be a painful experience, on the other hand, it can help us to grow stronger and better by viewing the cause of our pain with compassion rather than revenge. If we are into self growth many people we meet will disappoint us so we must be careful to not become bitter about that. However, there will always be those who are on the same path as ourselves, so if we listen to the Universe and keep on living a life based on love, we will eventually meet up with them.
  • I have also learned more about trust –   with myself, others, and, of course, the Universe. I have to trust that I can accomplish any task or project I take on to the best of my ability at the time. If I fail then let it be a learning experience rather than give up on it. I have to trust in others that they will be there for me when they are needed, and that I not be afraid to ask for help or give it in return when asked. Finally, to trust in the Universe that my life will unfold just as it is meant to and that there is always some thing or one looking out for me. This latter idea of someone there to look over me is hugely important when I am travelling on my own.
  • My final thought or learning on how to operate out of love is to get involved with people no matter how they may have let me down in the past. Finding compatible groups of people is always a challenge, but I have found that all groups have their positive aspects if I approach them with love rather than fear. We need people no matter where we are so choose to not give up on them.

For me the most difficult part of loving myself has been knowing when to let go of that part of my life which no longer serves me well. This can be old beliefs, habits, jobs, people or things. Over time, I have let go of many things but not easily. There was always much angst involved. I tend to hang on too long because I am an idealist who hopes the situation or person will change for the better. Or maybe it’s because I won’t have to be responsible for making a decision that could be risky at best. It’s also been about the fear of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Let’s just say that letting go wouldn’t have been so agonizing if I had only listened to my heart. In the end, the decision always got made one way or the other, and I must give myself credit for being brave enough to do something. I can honestly say, however, that once done a wonderful sense of freedom always followed. Letting go of the old put me in that realm  of new possibilities which is always exhilarating. To me this is what keeps life interesting and may allow for those wonderful moments of pure happiness.

October scenes of Victoria Beach.

October scenes of Victoria Beach.

The Fundy Rose ferry at dock in Digby taken from Victoria Beach.

The Fundy Rose ferry at dock in Digby taken from Victoria Beach.