Why is it so difficult to acclimate to changes?
Let’s not step too deeply into that question and instead contemplate how changes trickle into our lives, the way surface water trickles into the ground. The topsoil absorbs the water, and drip by drip, the excess water descends through all the other wonderful layers of sand and slithers into cracks in dense rocks. Eventually the drips come to the water table and become ground water residing in an aquifer.
Major and minor changes have this effect in life, just as a light rainfall or a flash flood both affect ground water levels. For instance, changing my name at marriage was a MAJOR change. As a flaming feminist (can I borrow “flaming” from the LGBTQ community for a second? Thanks), it seemed anathema to me to follow a tradition based on being transferred from father to husband as property.
Yet, my romantic heart had always longed to rid myself of my very common surname in favor of anything with two syllables. Additionally, having grown up in a time of hyphenated names and multi-named families, I was open to this option, as was my husband, but we didn’t come up with any creative choices that suited us. So, I opted to take his name as our “family” name.
Taking on the new name came with many legal responsibilities, and interpersonal conversations, as well as gentle reminders to friends and family who I saw less frequently and who still used my former name.(I still abhor the phrase “maiden name” – and I’ll tell you right now, there was no maidenhead in our marriage bed.) Adjusting to my new initials was a bit odd, though adopting a new signature was really fun!
As I looked at my “new” name recently, I started to realize that I am really beginning to see myself as the person represented by those letters. My identity went through a drip by drip process and was starting to gain mass. I was no longer play-acting, or fantasizing my wife role, and some of the bright shiny newness of the sense of possibility had worn off, too.
The most surprising jolt of emotion was the dissonance in my mind when I attempted to name a family reunion that is coming up. I am no longer the same as my mother, father, sister and brother. Nor several of my cousins and dear friends (who mask themselves as aunts and uncles). I am other. I am different. But I am still me.
On the other end of the change spectrum (minor), I am now spending a lot of Euro instead of USD. Yes, I have to do a blink of math, but imperceptibly my mind has created a scale for me. I no longer do a direct calculation of the exchange rate. Instead, I have a sense of how much something is worth to me in Euro and in Dollar. If you were to chart my values and show true currency, you would find that I have different values depending on the currency.
This seeming inconsistency is directly attributable to my keen desire for efficiency and round numbers. A one-Euro tip for the gas man? Of course! But I feel terrible giving him a 75-cent Euro tip (which is about $1 USD). Why? Why would that matter? Well, of course it would matter because I prefer an efficient and smooth process and the 1 Euro coin is the perfect option for appropriate tip balanced with efficiency.
(For the record, a 75-cent Euro tip really would never happen, anyway. Euro coins come in 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent denominations. I would have to put together a three-coin combo of varying sizes to get to 75-cents. In the U.S., I can see myself giving a 75-cent tip, if appropriate to the situation. It is easy to feel three quarters and pull them together quickly. It is a little weird, I know, but yes, I think about these things.)
The same concept applies as amounts increase, though there is much less disconnect in my so-called values. A 750 Euro plane ticket gets the same consideration as a 1000 USD plane ticket because the reality of my bank account reflects that difference much more clearly than my pocketbook does a 25-cent Euro difference.
When water collects underground, the journey to arrive at the aquifer is long, unpredictable and requires squeezing through some tight cracks in dense rock, and as the water collects the aquifer becomes a meaningful resource. As we acclimate to changes in life, the journey may be a long and uncomfortable one. Certainly our lives are unpredictable and often require us to squeeze through cracks of opportunity to make our way ahead. Once we allow change to wash over us and fully infiltrate our lives, we too will amass a valuable aquifer of experience. We can draw from that well to fuel our futures, to laugh or groan at a memory. My aquifer stores, feeds, and builds my spirit and serves as an enduring asset of knowledge.