‘A change is as good as a rest,’ we’re often told. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that; nothing quite rivals a good lie-down (preferably for two weeks, right around now, with a stack of books to read). But over the years I’ve learned to embrace change in a way that I never would have expected when I was growing up. I loathed change. I wanted everything to be the same, always and forever. As disasters unfolded (my mother’s death, my father selling our beloved childhood home, other relationships unravelling), I realised: change was pretty unavoidable. But I can’t say I came to like it much, even then.
You might have heard me share my love of yoga on VH in the past – but I do think that it was when I seriously started to practice that I truly learned to go with the flow. One of my favourite yoga teachers (hilarytotah.co.uk) has a wonderful saying, which I truly subscribe to: ‘Flexible spine, flexible mind.’ And I do honestly think that yoga enables me to deal with everything the universe throws at me, and adjust to the ever-changing landscape of my life.
Recently, I’ve had a couple of changes to deal with – one small, one more impactful. Someone who worked for one of my businesses landed her dream job – and was leaving pretty quickly, to take up her new role. I wouldn’t dream of trying to change someone’s mind when they make an announcement like that; by contrast, when someone’s decided to move on, they’re mentally half-way into the new job and I’ve learned to let them go as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it was going to leave a hole which everyone else was going to have to work that big harder to fill, short-term – including me.
We’d been all bobbing along quite happily, taking the status quo for granted – and suddenly, it was change-a-go-go. But after 24 hours wondering how to fill her job, I had a flash of realisation. We didn’t have to find someone to sit in an office in London – which in turn meant I had to trek up from the seaside for a few days a week, mostly to make that person feel motivated and ‘loved’. Before launching this venture, I’d always run my businesses close to home – and suddenly, the possibility opened up to do so again. (Infinitely my preferred option to spending a lot of time in bustling, polluted, overcrowded central London.) By staying calm – largely thanks to yoga and meditation, I’m 100% convinced – rather than run round like a headless chicken, in panic mode, I was able to see that this change really was a golden opportunity to do things better. And so often, I’ve discovered, that’s the way it turns out – if you embrace the change, rather than fight it tooth and nail every step of the way. When you become stressed and angst-y, it creates a type of mental paralysis – and you can’t see beyond the here and now.
The other change was pretty trivial, by comparison. It involved a tree. Or half a tree, laden with plums, that broke off when it got weighted down in a torrential rainstorm a couple of weeks ago. Trouble was, I’d built my much-loved shed under the shade of that tree – the only flat, shady place in my garden. Suddenly, there’s no shade. If I want to lie and read a book (are you sensing a theme, here?), then I now have to do it in sunshine. There’s something about losing a tree – or even half a tree – which, while it’s nowhere up there with losing a human being, is still incredibly upsetting. It makes a garden look like its two front teeth have been knocked out. (Old enough to remember the hurricane of 1989? There were countless homeowners and park-lovers who suffered from a kind of PTSD after all those trees blew down.)
I could’ve cried. I could’ve got hysterical. I could’ve raged. (Against the eternally unpredictable elements.) But instead, I decided once again to embrace the change. Look on it as the universe’s way of telling me to get a bit more vitamin D. To appreciate the way it opened up a view I hadn’t had before. To give that bit of the garden a little makeover (while also being grateful that the half-a-tree had missed my shed by millimetres).
What I’ve definitely learned about change, though, is that in order to be able to deal with it, I have to have in place a fundamental routine – my ‘wellbeing’ building blocks, if you like. Taking my supplements, every day (as advised by Shabir, of course!) Walking daily. Doing somewhere between 10-15 minutes of meditation every morning, while my Rare Tea Speedy Breakfast brews, in preparation for powering me through my morning. Yoga, at least every Friday (and more, if I can manage it). I also need to spend an hour a week in the aforementioned (and now sunlit) shed, writing letters and cards to friends (and feeling grateful, as I do so).
These are things that fuel my body, my soul and my mind – and knowing I will be doing them day after day, year after year, not only helps to ensure that I’m as healthy as possible, but sets me up for dealing with the other, way more unpredictable things in my life. Only twice in my life have I experienced a can’t-get-off-the-sofa depression (both after broken hearts) – but I’m convinced it was by establishing a routine every day that I could depend on that got me through it, when life felt deeply rocky and uncertain.
We never know what life will throw at us – and we’re often told that what matters isn’t what happens to us, but how we deal with it. I couldn’t agree more. But it was Stephen Hawking, no less, who once simply said: ‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’
I’ll take that, Professor…