Life is a marathon – How to get ahead of change?

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Copyright Maria Lehtman I Espoo, Finland

“If you change nothing – does that mean nothing changes? No, everything changes eventually. You have to ask yourself how much does it cost not to change with the times. You will soon find the answer. The cost of changing nothing is high.” – Maria Lehtman

Is it possible to keep ahead of change? Or do we live in a paradox of time that never allows us to conquer the potential outcomes of change? If a change is not enforced upon us, how many of us look for it either way? Do we realize the ripple effect that every transformation has?

In a crisis, it is sometimes easy to look back and say: “If only….” In the transitional times we now live, it takes a lot to keep breathing and continue ahead, one day at a time.

Living Interesting Times

“Well, we are wizards,” said Ridcully. “We’re supposed to meddle in things we don’t understand. If we hung around waitin’ till we understood things we’d never get anything done.” ― Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

The adorable Discoworld inventor and parody writer, Terry Pratchett, wrote a fantasy book about living Interesting Times. What I always found fascinating about one of the characters (Twoflower), is that the world remains how he perceives it to be – as long as he perceives it to be.

Even now, people are debating about climate change, the impact of human actions on the environment, and the pandemic’s potential impact – is it real, invented, exaggerated. I do not spend one minute denying a change when I see it exists. The perceived reality changes when there is a potential alternative reality – even before any facts of it exist.

Consider this: If you, like me, love roses. What if you had never seen a rose with sharp thorns on its stem? What if someone told you that they exist and are sharp enough to cut your finger? Would you ever look at a rose the same way you looked at it before? Would you not, even if unconsciously, pick up a rose with more care next time around considering the possibility of a thorn?

This is where we are today. The thorns in our society are real, but the beautiful roses still exist. It is up to us to decide what we do with the information we have. Our potential reality touches everyone else. We cannot ignore it. What we can do is accept, no matter how much it hurts, that the world, as we know it, has changed. And hope that humankind has also changed for the better because of it. Even if only some percentages of humanity changed, it has the potential of picking up momentum and conquering more and more hearts for the good of everyone.

Extraordinary life in transformation

“If you’re raised to believe nothing about you is special, if the benchmark is extraordinary, what do you do if you’re not?” The Umbrella Academy, Vanya Hargreeves (Original Netflix Series)

Now that I have established the ground about change and the consequences of perception – how are we more prepared to not only live through change but get ahead of it? Our lives were not extraordinary just before – they remain so. Life is what not just what you consider the benchmark to be. If you take the opportunity to understand your life’s current potential, a new standard, your whole mental framework changes.

Accept the new reality. I can tell you for certain: changing nothing when you have the intuition, knowledge, facts, assumptions, perceptions that you have – has a high cost. You need to let yourself become accustomed to reality, no matter how odd it seems. I speak from the heart. I know what it is to have one personal loss after another. When people close to you pass on, and you cannot even leave farewells in fear of the pandemic-potential in crowds, big or small. Still, I lived through those bad-dream-like-days knowing that one day I would feel more like myself again. I accepted that everything seemed strange and weird, and I needed to rest more, give myself time to understand that it was so.

Follow the new norms. Living in a socially distancing country I started to avoid situations where I needed to wear a mask, i.e., I stayed home and found another way to run errands. The mask itself was a sign that the proximity was too close. I started to have physical sensations, heartburn, anxiety, even panic when I was too close to other people. I would see the world like Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory, in slow motion, calculating the odds of potential exposure. Having been in the hospital only three years ago – in the grips of blood poisoning and pneumonia – I am in no hurry to expose myself again. I wish I could help everyone understand what it means to extend illness exposure to someone else. I went through utter pain and despair during my days in the hospital and months of an exhausting recovery phase. I still carried a hope – expecting to keep getting better and better. However, after such dramatic circumstances, I already knew – my life, body, and physiology were forever changed. Honor your fellow humans. Do not take away other people’s choices because of your freewill spirit.

Appreciate nature. I take steps forward in every way that I can. If nature is welcoming, the day is calm – you may spot me outside photographing. I have enough photos of every day of the year, and if I run out of ideas, a cat/dog meme saves the day and brings up smiles. There is nothing quite like photography to quickly tune out of the world’s disruptions and focus on the small beauties of life.

Keep up hope. It is the greatest strength and even a small weakness in our shield. If you want to get ahead of change, you have to accept that crisis exists. You have the be pragmatic about the future. I ordered what I needed to get a stock of necessities like medications and nutrition. Hoarding is not a solution; it disrupts the entire global supply chain – rather, stay a little bit ahead of the curve so that you have the basic requirements.

Save your energy. I have dropped off the ‘network’ more than once when crises have entered my life. The most prolonged isolation I have had was for seven months. My sensitivity did not allow me to watch monitors, movies, exercise. I was able to read a few chapters of a book on good days. In the beginning, I could talk a maximum of one hour a day. It was in the middle of the winter, and my immune system was not strong enough to support me to go outside for more than 30 minutes now and then. I had two rescues to my circumstances: listening to calming music and the company of my husband. I envisioned myself singing at Christmas and worked for several months towards that goal. That was my achievement for the first part of my sick leave, small vocal exercises. Come Christmas; I sang two songs for my family. I did little things every day, but only so much that I had energy the following day as well.

Prepare for a marathon. My prior manager and mentor told me: Remember, life is not a sprint; it is a marathon. This crisis we are in now is not a sprint either. The more you wish things were different, and exactly as they were, the harder it is to settle into the current reality. If you set your mind to a survival mode, you will be surprised that good days and moments also find their time and place.

Consider if this situation does continue – what would you do differently today? I had to do that years ago. I started when I saw my mother retiring at the age of 50+ years. I learned from her that no matter how invincible we feel in our 20’s or 30’s – age has a way of catching up. My only soft spots were traveling and buying gifts for others. I love making people happy. Suddenly when it all changed, I was shocked, in denial, angry – but I soon realized: it was time to make changes.

Let go of your stress points. Whatever causes you the most signifigant stress, consider if it is possible to let it go. Naturally, I do not mean unavoidable circumstances, like losing a job. Rather, adjusting before you have to – thinking ahead of a possible change and potential outcomes. Making your moves before you realize transition time was yesterday and transformation is already upon you. I have done that several times in my life, and I never regretted them. I consulted facts, my husband, and my intuition – months, years, sometimes a decade later, I knew my decision had been right.

I may not leave a great legacy behind – but what I have is what you are now reading. My thoughts. My lessons-learned. My heartfelt wishes that you and yours stay well. Remember that everything in life is not about happiness. Set your course towards peace of mind and a balanced heart.

“You gotta dance, boss.  You can think and you can fight, but the world’s always movin’, and if you wanna stay ahead you gotta dance.” – Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents

If you are interested in my life lessons, and have the opportunity, I share more about my NDE (Near Death Experience) in the latest Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy anthologies: Chaos to Clarity and Crappy to Happy.