When You Are Finished Changing, You Are Finished

‘Go with the flow’ in the Caithness dialect.

“When you are finished changing, you are finished.” -Benjamin Franklin

“Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” -Benjamin Disraeli

The Benjamins were right, weren’t they?

Some people are great at staying calm and unruffled even when being tossed about roughly on the sea of life. I am not one of them. Change is really difficult for me, even when it’s for good reasons. I inwardly howl like a child, mentally kicking, screaming, and holding on to the doorjamb until my fingernails break because I do not want things to change. Most of the time, though, there’s not much choice. The changes will happen, even if I squinch up my eyes and hold my breath.

I’ve tried, over the years, to cultivate a calmer attitude towards these redirections in life. Freaking out about them pretty much never helps, yet it’s a very hard habit to break. I dwell, obsess, stomp around, and rage against whatever it is before I eventually come to grudging acceptance. It is exhausting. Eventually, wrung out and spent, I find my zen and then the practical parts of me take over: planning, organizing, figuring out how to make it all work. Then, just when I’ve adjusted to things… blammo! More change! Argh! (Note: I am not building up to some huge life-change reveal, here. This is a more general sort of column.)

We had about two years to get used to the idea (as much as one can) that my husband would eventually have to undergo dialysis. I held it together as much as I could for Sem’s sake, because he didn’t need his still-relatively-fresh-off-the-rack wife to drift through the house like some kind of moaning spectre, but inside I keened with fear and dread. Sem, on the other hand, said, “It is an unpleasant reality, which we will have to deal with.” We made the most of those two years, and I tried not to think about how much life would change.

We did Sem’s peritoneal dialysis for four and a half years at home before he had to switch to hemodialysis. It was a change so swift and brutal that I hardly had time to think about it. All I could do was try to smooth Sem’s path somehow, and keep a protective watch over him during that terrible time. He had his hands full dealing with pain and shock and everything that went with it while I stumbled clumsily through those weeks, just trying to get my head around what was happening. I did a lot of inner flailing, wishing there was some way to resist this unwanted turn our life had suddenly taken. Of course there wasn’t.

When it became clear that we needed to move farther north to be closer to the hospital where Sem would be attending dialysis, there was more time to think about it, mainly because it took ages to find a suitable place to live. It was an unwelcome change in every single respect, except the one important matter of being close to the hospital. I yearned for our old life in our lovely wee village and for our sweet, small house and wonderful neighbors. I was angry about the situation, which was made even more frustrating because there was no one to be angry with; it was just what life had thrown at us. When we finally moved I saw all the changes that we would have to make, going from a house to an apartment, and I got even more upset, sulky, angry and depressed. I tried to hide it, probably not very successfully. I just wanted to go back to our formerly comfortable life, in our cozy little home. But you can’t wish away illness, and you can’t ignore change. Sem, meanwhile, embraced the move, making the most of an unwanted situation, as he is wont to do. I envied that mindset, even while continuing to begrudge the changes we’d had forced upon us. It really is very tiring to be me, sometimes!

In the three years since, we’ve settled in, of course. There are daily challenges, and life continues to throw curveballs at us like a hot new southpaw pitching for a major league team, but we take each day as it comes. As ever, for the most part, Sem faces changes and obstacles head-on in his stoic way. Sometimes it’s a matter of gritting his teeth and enduring, but he is typically the one who sees the good things in life, no matter what. He is more than just pragmatic, he is naturally more likely to see the positives than I am. Mind you, we can both get a good head of steam going about things that bother us, but he’s the first to appreciate an astounding sky, or enjoy the antics of the birds in our back garden. Sem rides the waves of change and looks around with interest at what’s happening all around him; I fight the tides and swim against them, tiring myself out until I have to accept defeat or drown. I want to find my way to the easier path, and not fight against inevitable changes; even somehow make friends with change, or at least find acceptance of it. It’s better to go with the flow rather than get knocked flat by it, right? I think it must be, but it is entirely against my nature.

I’ve felt it more than ever lately, in this strange and ever-evolving CoronaWorld in which we live. Sem and I have come to the conclusion that all we can do is keep ourselves safe, because there are so, so many people who seem to have decided not to change their behavior at all. That’s another thing about change: you can’t really force anyone into it. I could keep on snarling about inconsiderate neighbors who keep having visitors over even during lockdown… or I can accept that there’s nothing I can do about it. (I don’t want to accept it! Damn them!)

I don’t like that there are no Highland Games this year, and no farm shows. I miss going out to eat, even though we did so infrequently. It would be nice to drive down to our former village and see our friends there, or go to a store without getting anxious, or be able to fully open up our sales site again. It makes me really sad that all of these things have changed, and that life will remain this way for the foreseeable future. But I am trying hard to reconcile myself to it rather than stomp and pout and fret. (I’m so good at stomping, though!)

Here’s another well-known saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same. That is sometimes said ruefully but it’s also true that there are many good ‘constants’ even during an ever-changing life. Our back garden is filled with parent-birds busily feeding their clumsy, demanding fledglings as they do each year. The elderly neighbor on one side continues to tend his garden with surgical precision, and the old fella upstairs goes outside every sunny day and is always happy to have a chat in the warmth and sunshine. Sem and I have our challenges but our life together is filled with love and laughter. And that is the thing I would not change, for anything. Sometimes we have cross words, sometimes we have misunderstandings, but the one, constant, best thing in my life, is Sem. We have made a lot of changes for the sake of our beautiful life, and even though there have been changes which have grieved me, which I’ve fought against, which in some ways I will never fully get over, every single one has been worth it because of what we have. We are fortunate, even in these anxious, frightening times.

Top – starling parent and child; middle – goldfinch fledglings; bottom – rook fledgling

Life changes in ways both big and small, sometimes with a shout and other times a whisper, but our ever-present love for each other is an anchor, a safe harbor, and a soft landing, all in one. I figure as long as we have that, we can weather the ever-shifting storms of life, together… even if I never learn how to do it very gracefully.

“The Trinkie” in Wick.

Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands, sharing life with her husband, a Highlander she stumbled across purely by chance on a blog site. They own a small business restoring and selling vintage fountain pens, which allows Deb to set her own schedule and have time for photography, writing and spontaneous car rides in the countryside. She is grateful to the readers of ANC for accepting her into the North State fold.
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33 Responses

  1. Avatar Bill Vercammen says:

    Change is irreverent of desire.
    Things are more like they are now than they ever were before,
    or are likely to ever be again. And things were much more then, than they can ever be now.
    The change within withers when weathered with wishes,
    While change without sours, sweet virtue empowers.
    The nobler ‘tis change, the nobler ‘tis I,
    The nobler ‘tis thee, the nobler ‘tis we.

  2. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    I too am No Change Please type and I feel your struggles. Of course, my life hasn’t had the epic shifts yours has, but I struggle against it too. Even when I accept a change I kind of always pine for What Was.

    Corona World isn’t helping anyone but I still admire your strength and pluck even though I know it comes at great cost.

    Much love to you always my friend. MWAH!

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      More than likely the only changes people really embrace are the ones they choose to make themselves. Then again, I struggle against the changes I want to/try to make for my own good, too.

      I’m definitely in the What Was Club right along with you.

      MWAHs and big love to you, lovely friend!

  3. Avatar Jacqueline Breedlove says:

    Marvelous as usual!!

  4. Avatar Erika Kilborn says:

    There is change and there is change. Some of them are exciting, fun, new adventures type change – these are easier to swallow. The others… well, those are the strep throat type of changes – you have to swallow them while you have knives lining your throat. They don’t go down so easily.

    But you, my dear Deborah, for all your internal monologues and silent railing against the chaos, have handled life and body blows that could knock the Hulk off his feet, with grace and love and caring. I tip my hat to you – you are a wonder, whether you realize it or not.

    As Matt said, I send you BIG love and loads of hugs, even in this Covid-altered world.

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      The funniest thing to me is that the biggest change of my life was moving to Scotland, and I was neither afraid of, nor resisted, that change at all. In fact I could hardly wait for that change! Most other changes, though? Ack!

      Thanks for the lovely compliment and the big love and hugs! Returned tenfold!

  5. Avatar Erika Kilborn says:

    Oh, and thank you for all the lovely pictures!

  6. Avatar Pamela McCurdy says:

    Thank you for sharing; I enjoy your writing. Take care of yourself.
    We are all so different in our responses to life’s journey. I like change because it signals a new beginning to me, a chance to reinvent myself again. I bring the good stuff with me and leave the bad behind. That’s just me. The Enneagram helped me see myself. Lol.

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece, Pamela, thank you for telling me! You are fortunate to be someone who likes change – I envy you. I seem to see the bad first, leaving the good to sort of catch up slowly until I can see it. 🙂

  7. Beautifully said, Deborah. And that turquoise doorway – artistically and metaphorically exquisite. My feet are firmly planted in the “I Hate Change” camp, but I always counsel my kids (now adults) to: “make the best of whatever life throws at you” and they do. Sometimes I even take my own advice – after a bit of stomping and grumbling. 🙂

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      Thank you, fellow stomper-and-grumbler! 🙂 I try to make the best of whatever comes our way too, but yep… not willingly OR with much aplomb!

      That turquoise doorway is in a little block of streets near the harbor – there are other similar doorways in quirky buildings with lots of slate signs scattered around on the walls. I love that area and would live there in a heartbeat, it is so unique and picturesque.

  8. Avatar Janet Stortz says:

    Thank you for bringing us little glimpses of your beautiful Scotland and your section of humanity.
    I love the pictures and that you and Sem have each other.

  9. Avatar bruce vojtecky says:

    Deb, love your pictures as usual.

  10. Avatar Diane Hawthorne says:

    “There is nothing permanent in the world except change.” Heraclitus, Greek philosopher. 500BCE

  11. Dearest Deb, what a timely piece for so many of us as we navigate, as Matt so aptly refers to it, Covid World, chock full of changes, many of them rude and unwelcome.

    You have such a way with words, and sharing how you process life’s internal and external complexities that make me feel I have a kindred spirit in you on the other side of the world. And as always, the photos are perfect. (I also love that photo of the blue door. I may steal that color for my front door.)

    Thank you, Deb!

    Here’s to rolling with the changes! Virtual hugs to you from Redding. xod

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      Thank you Doni! I’ll never be good with changes but I keep on trying… I think changing oneself is the hardest thing of all!

      I love that color, too – it’s sort of part of the color scheme in that little block of streets, I love it there and would live there in a heartbeat, the buildings are so cool!

  12. Avatar Sue says:

    I SO identify with all your descriptions of your resistance – it’s very familiar in this mind/human being!!! Thank you for your wonderful sharing and writing.

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      You’re welcome, Sue, glad you enjoyed it. Sounds like I’m not alone in my resistance to change!

  13. Avatar Doug Cook says:

    Great article Deborah. I had the pleasure of visiting Scotland many years ago. A lovely place and wonderful people.

    After reading your bio I just have to ask…is there really a market for vintage fountain pens?

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      Hi Doug, thanks – glad you enjoyed it (and Scotland).

      Yes there is a market for vintage fountain pens, albeit a small one. I used to joke to my husband that all of us vintage fountain pen enthusiasts are selling each other the same few thousand pens in a round-robin of sorts :). But there are a lot of people interested in fountain pens, both from a collector’s and writer’s standpoint. I’m not sure if anyone makes a full-time living at it, but it’s a nice sideline.

  14. Jon Lewis Jon Lewis says:

    Underwear and the oil in my pickup are about the only changes I come close to accepting on a regular basis. (However, others have trouble accepting them when I do both at the same time. My apologies, Jiffy Lube…)

    Thank you, Deb, for sharing

  15. Terry Turner Terry Turner says:

    Deb, what a marvelous column, as usual. I’m so impressed with your self-awareness, and your encouragement that we can learn to cope with change, even when we do Not like what’s happening. This is very inspirational to me. Thank you, Deb, and best wishes to you and your dear husband!

  16. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article Deborah. I almost choked on my beer when I read ” he didn’t need his still-relatively-fresh-off-the-rack wife to drift through the house like some kind of moaning spectre”! I will remember this the next time I’m trying to put on a brave face when disaster befalls us. Maybe I will drift through the house moaning! Thank you again.

  17. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    In my many, MANY years existing in this life I have come to the belief (and if it’s erroneous, I don’t want to know) that how a person faces change and life in general, is simply a result of how they are wired. (I said WIRED, not WIERD). Knowing that about oneself relieves one of having to try to change oneself… We simply must deal with how we choose to deal with results of that wiring. I’d like to tell myself that I am Pollyanna and always looking for what’s around the nest corner because I am so brilliant and beautiful well adjusted.… NOT EVEN CLOSE!!! Being of that mind set has it’s foibles too. Lack of forethought and preparation come tp mind.So we take our private motherboard in hand and do our best to deal with the consequences….
    Oh, Deb….I haveSO enjoyed getting to know you and your part of the world. What a huge picture window you have provided for us to see into your life and world….THANK YOU!!

    • Deborah Segelitz Deborah Segelitz says:

      I have enjoyed getting to know you as well, Adrienne, you are such a lovely person! It’s true that we are who we are (and how we are), and fighting against our nature is probably a losing battle, or at least an uphill one! One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that I have some of the traits my mother has, traits which haven’t made her life happier – the opposite, in fact. I see how that has affected her, and it makes me want to change my own behavior that so mirrors hers, because I don’t want to live my life in that way. And on the other hand, I see her many wonderful traits, which I know that I also share, which are worth holding onto. Trying to look at myself from outside myself (if that makes sense) but also with my inherited traits in mind sometimes helps me see how I want to react to things – actually consciously change how I react to them, rather than just REACT.

      See you around Facebook, and now and then here in ANC too, if I’m fortunate!

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