How to Deal with Change

So, after spending a week thrashing around with the new Miss Demeanor site, I think I’ve conquered it, although I notice one of my posts has a red dot that means, “Needs Improvement.” Even the computer is a critic. So I survived, but as I embarked on this week-long journey, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they dealt with change. This is what they said:

Paula: The book business has changed more in the past 15 years than it has since Gutenberg. And the sands are still shifting beneath our feet. This is true of publishing in particular and retail in general. That said, it’s never been easy to be an artist. Our best defense remains flexibility, creativity, and adaptability. 

Sounds like yoga!

Paula: Ha!

Alison: This is me grinning. Just got off the mat from my home practice. Yep. Every day is different. 

Robin: The only constant is change, right? I actually crave change, sometimes. It’s a big part of what led me in the direction of computers. It’s a fast-changing landscape so I’m always learning and rarely bored. It’s probably also why I love living by an ocean. The beach is the “same” beach but no two waves are ever the same, the sand is always shifting, surrounding cliffs erode, storms move rocks in or out. The “same” beach looks different every day. Writing is similar, to me. It’s a dynamic environment because it involves and reflects humans and our ever-changing conditions. How we tell stories has evolved from pictographs on rocks to digital reading devices but what hasn’t changed is the appetite – we love to read/see/hear good stories and we love to write/perform/sing them. “Good” is subjective, of course, and that’s where T.S. Eliot comes in: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

I may have to get that quote tattooed or print it out on wallpaper for my office or something – it’s such a great reminder of the life we choose as artists. And as humans. We wake up every day, do our best, then let it go. What that means is always subject to change (see what I did there ;)).

Alexia: The advice we always get at work when confronted with change is “adjust fire”. Change happens, sometimes fast, sometimes unexpectedly (like my 9:47 am flight becoming a 9 PM flight due to snow, so much snow). You have to deal with it. My other advice is “always have a Plan B”.

Michele: I found myself thinking of the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” from 1965 by the Byrds when I read this question. The lyrics are from Ecclesiastes, which underscores how constant change is. In my various professions over the years (nurse, lawyer, professor, mediator, and writer) I have constantly encountered change. Technology has dictated much of it, but there has also been a theme of questioning what had been accepted forever. Remember when nurses were considered “The Handmaidens of the Physican”? They wore caps on their head and white stockings on their legs. That was only in the 1970’s! For me, the challenge has been not to be overwhelmed by the idea of change and to be selective in choosing what changes to embrace. But the bottom line about change in any profession is that you still have to do your job. So regardless of the latest publishing trends, demands, etc., I just plop into a chair and write. 

Alexia: The white caps were cute, though. And I might pay money to see a male nurse in white stockings. 

Alison: Alexia, you’re a little wicked! I love it.

Years ago, I came across an essay by Martha Beck where she wrote about how some believe life was like a rail line: we choose a train and keep going on that track until the end, making scheduled stops along the way (college, marriage, children, house, professional success). She contrasted that model with what life is really like: kayaking. We’re all in a kayak, heading in whatever direction we choose. Destinations that once seemed to make sense, may disappear or be impossible to reach. We may be swept under the water or hit rocks. The skills we need is the ability to right our kayak and choose a new direction or a new way to get where we want to go. There will be rough water and calm water, dangerous rocks and soft beaches, difficult weather and beautiful views. Life isn’t smooth, but we can choose to respond with grace, humor, and kindness. My current guiding principle in writing and in all of life is: Can I bring joy to this situation? If I can’t bring joy, can I make the situation better? If I can’t do that, can I at least not make it worse? Much easier said than done, I know, but I try (and try again and again).

Robin: I like that guiding principle, Alison. Alexia, I was raised to always have a “Plan B.” Funny thing, no matter how many eventualities I’m prepared for, every now and then it seems like what transpires is the one thing I hadn’t thought of.

Paula: Ha! as your classic army brat who moved a million times as a kid, I am always trying to imagine every possible contingency To every possible scenario. And still Life surprises me every time LOL 

Cate: Wine? A nice glass of Cabernet in the evenings helps me deal with a lot of what life throws at me. That said, I have been reading all of these for liver-friendly advice. I am not a zen person, so abrupt personal change is really disconcerting for me. 

The one place where this doesn’t apply is writing. I change and edit all the time. I start off with massive outlines that are constantly morphing as the characters grow. I like being surprised on the page.

In real life, not a fan. 

Tracee: I have so enjoyed all of these suggestions and perspectives! I am a take it as it comes person. Possibly because we are kidding ourselves if we think we can control everything. I also have a – others certainly have it worse philosophy that has kept me sane in turbulent times. I balance that with a strong glass half full mentality. 

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