On Second Thought, You Can Keep the Change
“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange),
Ch-ch-changes, just gonna have to be a different man.”
Many people dislike change, some to the point of fearing it. According to author and motivational speaker Scott Mautz, writing for Inc.com, “Overcoming a fear of change can be as difficult as overcoming a fear of failure.” Change breeds uncertainty. Mautz cites neuroscience research showing that the brain actually chemically processes uncertainty the same way it does failure.
Perhaps change is feared because it means that outcomes are unknown. When we don’t know what will happen, we may make up worst-case scenarios and in turn, create worry. If we don’t know how something will turn out, we may rather not try, because the outcome could be bad. Trying something new becomes a risk.
For much of my adult life, I would have characterized myself as change comfortable, if not a change seeker. Often, rather than leading to a setback, change would yield a positive end result.
At the first company I was employed at after college, I had eight different jobs and titles while reporting to 12 different bosses in 15 years. I found the experience heady, and I thrived.
I took a similar tack away from work. My predilection was toward “the road less traveled.” Once, while off the beaten path, diversion left me lost in a nontourist section of Jamaica. Rather than panic, I regrouped in a Rastafarian bar, content to enjoy the intoxication provided by a bottle of Red Stripe and billows of secondary ganja smoke.
Both professionally and personally, when it came to change, I’d “turn and face the strange.” Over the years, it clearly made me “a different man.” Change was an ally, not an enemy.
That is until the wave upon wave, tsunami-like, of unimaginably destructive change that ALS wrought manifested itself. Suddenly, much like a deer in headlights, the mere thought of how painfully different tomorrow may be froze me with fright. “Please miss me.”
Unlike Bambi, the ALS version of Custer’s Last Stand plays out repeatedly and is of no surprise. We know that our muscles will atrophy, that our ability to perform the most meager of physical functions will be lost, and that all independence will vanish. We are relegated to watching our bodies crumble, as predicted at diagnosis, bit by bit, to nothingness.
Now, more often than not, I dread change. ALS-driven change invariably is failure of some sort. I yearn for the status quo. I pray for the boring serenity of the same ol’ same ol’.
Three weeks ago, the most traumatic change by far that ALS has forced me to swallow hit me like a building demolition. I won’t unpack the event any more than by offering that it was not unexpected, and that ALS was the lone perpetrator. Spoiler alert: Like all things ALS, the bad guy wins.
In its aftermath I was an emotional wreck. The collateral damage included depression, lethargy, and apathy. Seemingly, I couldn’t accomplish anything. Even my figurative inkwell ran dry. Hence, these empty pages.
My colleague at ALS News Today, Dagmar Munn, writes a column titled “Living Well With ALS.” It is an instructive and upbeat breath of fresh air. At my best, I strive to emulate her mantra. However there are times, such as recently, when “living well” for me is reduced to naked survival.
And that’s exactly what happened. I survived.
Eventually, some lyrical wisdom prevailed. Bob Dylan aptly observed “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Bowie’s aforementioned song concludes with the lines, “I said that time may change me, but I can’t trace time.” Dylan and Bowie speak to an immutable truth with universal application. Time is an agent of decay, arbitrary in its rate from individual to individual. ALS is but one of many perverse accelerants.
It helps when I am reminded that not every ALS coincidental alteration has rendered me the worse for wear. I have become more grounded, empathetic, open, and affectionate. My circle of friends has grown. My relationship with God has never been on such solid footing. All are outcomes that I can revel in while enduring change’s most onerous flip side.
There are those who agree with German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorism, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” That has clearly not been my experience with ALS. But it has made me more resilient, and oddly hopeful of brighter times ahead.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.