Mark Harvey — It’s a new year … now what?


You probably know, on some level that, as of four days ago, it’s 2014. If you’ve written any checks since 11:59 p.m. last Tuesday, put the newspaper down RIGHT NOW and go check to see if you wrote “2014” or “2013” — go ahead, we’ll wait.

OK? That could have been a particularly less-than-amusing oversight if you were paying a health insurance premium or bailing your brother-in-law out of jail — no need to thank me. Cookies would be nice.

So, assuming that the finances are in as much order as they’re going to get for the next few days, welcome to 2014! Weird, huh? Remember when “1984” seemed wildly futuristic? I know — me, too. And, each new year brings the opportunity to sit back and ponder the age-old question, “Now what?”

Indeed: Now … what?

If you’re among the many who have made New Year’s resolutions, I wish you the best of luck and may your motivation exceed your inertia. If you’re among the many who have concluded that New Year’s resolutions are bogus, because every day is pretty much like any day when it comes to “change,” let’s get a head start on our overly-optimistic neighbors by re-posing the question: Now what?

Due to a multitude of personal circumstances that would be exquisitely boring to anyone who isn’t me (which means, most of you), I’ve been forced to confront more “change” in the last six months than I probably have in the last 10 years, so I feel uniquely (if temporarily) qualified to comment on the topic.

Most of us just naturally pursue stability, predictability. We just naturally want to know where the money is going to come from, where the next meal is going to come from and where the spare toilet paper is kept. We feel more secure when we know which drawer the pot holders are in and how to set the alarm clock. We like knowing which pills to take when, where they are, that there are enough to get through the weekend AND (on rare occasion) who might actually pay for them.

It comforts us to know when the sun comes through which windows, when the grocery store is least crowded and when the odds are in our favor for finding a parking place within two miles of the post office. And we appreciate knowing what time the neighbor usually goes out to get the paper, so we can avoid doing the same thing at the same time, thus avoiding an awkward social interaction in our 14-year-old jammies.

It’s perfectly natural: Patterns, cycles and some degree of predictability that allows us to weather the rest of it.

The downside of this perfectly natural pursuit is that it’s perfectly natural to become, over time, anxious if our little patterns and routines are disrupted. We come to depend upon them so much that we can become fearful of deviation — of “change” — because we secretly wonder if we could even function any other way. Could we survive?

Can we even imagine the rhythms and landmarks of our lives any other way? Scary! This is a “routine,” not a rut! It’s a “tradition!” (Heard that one more than once in the last two months?) Well, here’s something I’ve learned in the last six months: A “box” is still a box, even if we built it ourselves.

Even if I built it, MYself.

And here’s another interesting thing I’ve learned in the last six months: I can change, AND survive!

I can follow directions and I can find the green beans in a different store and I CAN find the new place for the spare toilet paper! (NOTE: A little pre-planning on the latter element will serve you well, in a crisis)

I can figure out a different microwave and I can move the underwear to a different drawer. And I can get the paper at a different time! (NOTE: The jammies stay the same — “change,” like anything else, can be taken to extremes)

I can even learn to utilize, on a very basic level, a new electronic device that is capable of doing things I didn’t even know needed to be done! But what one can do with said device is…amazing.

Hmm … so, a box is still a box, even if I built it myself.

All this change isn’t convenient or efficient. It’s rife with frustrations and missteps and wasted time and effort, and going to the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong thing because “that’s how I always did it” and it’s tiring!

It’s also invigorating! Exciting! Energizing! And here’s something even weirder: I mentioned “inertia” above, right? Well, it’s true: An object in motion DOES tend to stay in motion! Meaning, the more you force yourself to change, the more you can change — the more you do change! And, the more you welcome change, because change becomes “normal.”

You begin to feel … alive. Competent! Capable! Out-of-the box!

… That you built yourself. But you are, still, who you are — with funny ways and wonderful ways and skills and talents and stupendous inadequacies!

And so, on the fourth day of 2014, now what? Well, we’ve been awash in mega-change for a while now, and it appears that the world isn’t going to stabilize any time real soon, so we can stand up straight, against the wind, or we can hunker down and hide, in little boxes, that we built ourselves.

Or we can go get down that old box that’s behind the bowling ball in the top shelf of the closet in the spare bedroom, because that’s where we packed away the “courage,” and unpack it. Try it on — see if it still fits.

You might be surprised.

Happy New Year.

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance.

 

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