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Monday, January 3, 2011

A Year of Change

While enjoying a walk outside a few weeks ago, before the Arctic Express hit us, I started thinking about change. Certainly my life changed during 2010 (retirement, move to a new state, daughter returning home, new house). But did I change as a person? And if so, how?

A few things came to mind immediately. The physical changes are the most obvious:
  • Hip pain frequently keeps me awake at night.
  • I have on-going pain in my arm muscles.
  • I have aged a great deal.
  • I have frequent pain in my shoulder.
  • I have lost a lot of muscle strength. 
  • I was diagnosed with osteopenia, or bone loss, in my hips.
Not so obvious are the psychological and emotional changes:
  • I am more introspective than in the past.
  • I am more aware of the beauty of nature, and I value it more.
  • I'm more outgoing (but still an introvert).
  • I'm doing a lot more fun things these days (hiking, photography, writing, exploring my new state, hanging out with wolves).
  • I am more aware of my blessings.
What caused these changes? Some are related to aging. I am acutely aware of the physical changes my body has undergone: loss of muscle strength, hip problems, shoulder pain, graying hair, changes in my skin, sleeplessness. And although I still don't feel 'old' (except when my hip and knee pop with every step), I am aware that the majority of my life lies behind me.

Some of the changes result from being retired. I now have the time to engage in activities I enjoy, which I couldn't do when I was working. I can now go hiking on weekdays, or go out and take pictures while my daughter is in school. And living in a very beautiful area allows me to just look up to see the mountains and the bluest sky I have ever seen.

Some changes result from long-delayed personal growth. Previous blog posts have explored the importance I place on personal growth and development, on continuing to stretch myself into areas where I am less comfortable, and on learning and doing new things. 

I know some people who are so afraid of anything new or different that they endure life, rather than embrace it. I don't do stupid things or take unnecessary risks. But how dull would my life be if I was afraid to explore, to stretch, to take a chance, to do something I'm not always comfortable doing? Whether it's trying a new recipe, inviting a stressed-out mom to meet me at a crafts fair for a couple of hours just to get away, or joining a hiking or photography group, these seemingly mundane things bring a spark to my life. I'm an introvert, so reaching out to people and joining groups isn't something that comes easily. But in 2010, I made a real effort to do these things. And you know what? I had fun! It feels good to stretch myself, even if 'stretching' for me includes things that are no big deal to more outgoing people.

It's OK to feel uncomfortable about trying something new. The important thing is to try. Life is about change and growth. We cannot control all the changes in our lives. Sometimes changes are negative, and they occur whether we want them to or not. Change can be scary. But even in those instances, we can control our reactions to change. We can accept, if not embrace, change. We can try to see the good in changes that may, on the surface, appear to include nothing positive. We can make the most of whatever situation we are in.

Changing how we think about things can actually change how we feel, both mentally and physically. Focusing on the positive, having a good attitude, can literally make us feel better. It isn't always easy to do, but it's certainly worth trying as 2011 gets under way.