Over the past few weeks, I have spent an inordinate amount of time focused on something many might consider rather gross – shedding skin. I decided to do a chemical facial peel AND something akin to that for the soles of my feet – my attempt to follow the “out with the old, in with the new” sentiment for the new year. At one point about 10 days ago, you could tell exactly where I had traveled throughout the house. I have always been amazed at how the largest organ of our body works to keep us healthy. It is constantly changing and regenerating itself by growing new cells and pushing the old ones out. It takes about one month for this old-to-new cycle to complete, meaning the skin you have a month from today will be completely new compared to the skin you have now. So what does this little biological tidbit have to do with anything?
For reasons I cannot explain, I consistently think of this when I encounter people who ask, “Can’t we just stop with all of this change? Give me time to get used to things!”. Years ago, when I was a supervisor of a group of physical therapists, our organization was undergoing some substantial transitions. One of the staff, who was known to have a particular desire to ‘keep things as they are’ approached me imploring, “Can we just stop all of this for a little while?”. She was genuinely distressed and I had little to offer that would alleviate her anxiety. Change was happening, we were moving on.
This did however get me thinking about the value and risk of taking a ‘pause’. In certain circumstances, stopping briefly is a really useful step. Bringing your nose up from the grindstone to be sure you are still headed in the direction you want to go is a good idea. Stopping to ‘catch your breath’ after an intense sprint helps bring you back to greater awareness of how you are doing. But while you are on hold, the world around you continues to move forward and the risks associated with taking too long a break increase significantly. Often, stopping at all is not an option. Asking someone to just please stop breathing for 30 minutes is a ridiculous request. It would be a counterproductive act and as is the case with many things, we have no choice in the matter.
Complaining that our skin is dropping off our body at a rate of almost a million cells a day does nothing to stop it. Simply bemoaning the new direction your organization has decided to take will mostly cause you to suffer, in ways big and small. Resisting the shifts to the ‘established’ social order may provide you with a temporary sense of relief and control, but the train is still moving and even if you make plans to derail it, you will ultimately have to get on, or be run over.
Coming to terms with the reality of constant change puts us in a position to decide for ourselves how we want to navigate this in our own lives. The way we approach it determines if we will struggle or thrive. A reframe that focuses on all that is miraculous along this moving walkway of life has helped me shift any change-related anxiety I feel to excitement instead. I am grateful for the constant movement and transformation that is life giving – the daily sun rise, our different seasons, the movement of the tides – and shedding skin:-)