Learning to roll with the changes life presents

There is great fear of change, especially when it is not of one's choosing. Although our lives are full of it - in our jobs, our health, our relationships - many of us still regard it as at least negative, and often frightening.

We feel the chaos, the unsureness of it all, and it makes us squirm. Change challenges the way we regard the world and that false sense of security we hold as truth. "I'll retire with these benefits." "My wife and I will travel the world." "My kids have a great life ahead of them." However, fate has its own script. There is an old Yiddish phrase: Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht - Man plans and God laughs.

My beloved uncle and aunt died unexpectedly within 10 days of each other. The company I worked for was bought and, days after they told us our jobs were safe, they fired us and made us interview for our positions. Right after we were able to pay off my car, my wife's car died. These changes made me wonder about fairness. They made me angry. Why was God punishing me?

These feelings and responses are normal. We develop certain habits, and they become the way things are - and will be. My son wakes me up at 6:30 a.m., I go down to feed the cats and the dog, I open up the laptop for work - it simply is the way life is.

Until one day, it isn't.

At this point in my life, I find change enticing. I like meeting new people, hearing of new attractions, learning new information. I like saying "yes" to new ideas and pushing myself to accept new points of view. I am attracted to innovation and fresh concepts - being able to say, "Wow, that is so cool!"

But I wasn't always that way. I used to be terrified of change - as in stay home and pray to God that some things would never come to pass. I exhausted myself trying to contemplate every conceivable outcome and believed that worrying about it enough would make it not happen. How God must have laughed.

It took awhile to realize what all this faux control was doing to me. It was heightening my terror while reducing my involvement in life. I was substituting being part of the world with escalating obsessions over "What if?" It was imprisoning me inside my head, while diminishing my everyday existence.

My actual path to change is almost unnecessary to share. There was no magic bullet, no moment of divine inspiration. It wasn't something I read in a book or heard in a song. I wasn't visited by three ghosts who helped me buy a Christmas turkey for Tiny Tim. It was a very long process, and I wasn't sure it would work. I stumbled greatly and often, unsure of an end goal or even how to proceed. What I was sure of was that I didn't want to be a scared, self-hating, life-fearing fella. I needed a better way.

Like the me of a few years ago, many doubt they can survive change or make their life better. But by giving in to that fear, they remove themselves from the world. What do they miss? How life's unpredictability can lead to great experiences, conversations, opportunities, and possibilities. Not every change will make your life better, but I found the odds increasing once I was able to stop giving in to apprehension, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression.

By giving over some of the control I never really possessed and allowing life a little leeway, I presented fate/God/the universe with a new reality: one where I was able to laugh with God, instead of being laughed at by him.

Daniel Kaye is the director of life enrichment at Rydal Park in Abington, and is the writer/illustrator of "Never Take a Hermit Crab for Granted" (www.danielkaye.net). daniel.sean.kaye@comcast.net.