Thursday, October 2, 2008

Change: Noun or Verb?

I'm taking a class, with a group of other Jewish communal workers - we meet monthly and discuss a variety of topics. It's an eclectic group and so we often get a variety of viewpoints.

One of the topics that arose last week was the subject of "change." The instructor asked, "How do you feel about change?" Being the forward-minded people we are, we all agreed that while others might have problems with change - we don't.

Pretty pat answer.

But the question's been echoing in my mind all week. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the start of the New Year (5769) this past Monday at sundown.

After a while of turning the question around and examining it from different perspectives, it occurred to me that what we'd done, as a group, was to treat "change" as one word - without distinguishing between the verb change (which refers to a process) and the noun change (which is the outcome or product).

I maintained in class that I don't necessarily have a problem with change-the-noun. After all, I'm all about change - my life is vastly different than I ever could have envisioned, growing up in a German-Catholic-Lutheran farming community of 5,000 people. I learned a long time ago that "5-year plans" weren't part of my makeup.... "Seize the moment" or "the road less traveled" was more typically my style.

And yet.... and yet, it's not quite that simple.

I hate change-the-verb.... I hate feeling disoriented... the unpredictability that occasionally catches me unaware and makes me scramble to regain my equilibrium. I hate having to be oh-so-very-mindful until new patterns become routines.

We did a lot of moving when I was growing up -- I always felt at a loss until our new house became a "home." And that generally seemed to happen around the time I would enter a dark room and automatically hit the light switch on the first time.

I like routines.... I like grabbing my briefcase and knowing that all the materials I'll need for a specific class are there: pencils, glue sticks, books, notes, stapler, markers, tzedakah box. Since I teach different classes in different settings, I have separate bags for each -- I can just "grab and go" and not think about all the discrete items I need.

I like routines.... when I get up each morning, I grab a cup of coffee and sit at the computer. I check my email accounts, log on to Facebook, read the comics, peruse the headlines, and follow some blogs (in the same order every morning). Only after that routine is completed, can I go on to something new.

Any yet, if I'm totally honest, despite my discomfort at the process, I look back over the intentional changes I've made - and I would make them all over again: moving East, leaving my career path, meeting my husband, converting to Judaism, having children, becoming a Jewish educator, engaging in volunteer work (Judaic and secular). How different my life would have been if I'd not been willing to engage in that process!

May the year ahead hold sweetness, good health, and sufficient challenges to keep life interesting - but not overwhelming. L'shanah tovah!

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