I’ve never been a very adaptable person. I don’t handle change well. I am hard-wired to avoid it. When I was working, people often called me “stubborn” because I was usually the last to let go of an old philosophy or procedure. I clung to the last scrap of past practices like a drowning woman clings to a life preserver. It wasn’t stubbornness. It was sheer terror.
In the years since my retirement, I’ve thrown caution, if not to the wind, at least to the strong breeze. I plowed my way through the numerous changes involved in retiring, moving to Florida, caring for my mother, and other such challenges of life. Most of the time, I survived by closing my eyes and pretending it wasn’t happening. Kind of like a root canal. At least with the root canal, they gave me laughing gas.
Despite my best efforts, I have learned a few things about responding to change in my post retirement life. The other day, I experienced living proof of my increased ability to adapt. Actually, it was a bit too living, if you ask me.
I was outside spraying the weeds around my house with Round-up. This is a routine summer activity. In fact, during the summer months, spraying weeds is something like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time I circle the house once, more weeds have sprouted and I could just go around again. If I didn’t call a halt to the madness, I’d be spraying perpetually. I limit myself to one circumnavigation of the house per spraying episode.
What I would not call exactly routine is that I saw a snake outside our lanai. That never happened in California. In Florida, it isn’t exactly abnormal, but it is not an everyday occurrence. It happens a couple of times each year. This guy was a big fellow, though. He was about six feet long and about as big around as a garden hose. I don’t think he was a poisonous variety, but seeing any variety of snake around the house always creeped me out in the past (please see http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/07/the-great-snake-chase/ and http://www.terrilabonte.com/2019/01/snakes-why-did-it-have-to-be-snakes/).
The evidence of my new adaptability is that the noise I emitted when I saw the enormous black snake was more like a startled “eek” and less like the screeching gurgle of someone whose throat has just been slit. I was immensely proud of myself when I realized the progress I’ve made on the adaptability front.
Really, though, does a more measured reaction to a snake sighting mean that I’ve learned to adapt to change? Or is it just that seeing the occasional reptile no longer constitutes “change” for me? That is a frightening thought.
I’ve always thought that “adaptability” meant “flexibility.” That may be going too far. I don’t think my “startled eek” demonstrated any Gumbyesque ability to morph effortlessly into whatever shape is necessary for survival and thrive-al. Truth be told, I’m still not very good at adjusting to new situations. Gumby and I have little in common. My approach to adaptability is more like the little boy who sculpted animals from rocks and sold them on the side of the road. A lady once marveled at one of his cute little renditions of a donkey. She asked him, “How do you make these beautiful carvings?” He replied, “I pick up a rock and chip away anything that doesn’t look like a donkey.”
That’s me. My ability to adapt is not immediate and beautiful. I don’t transform myself gracefully and fluidly and effortlessly. I just doggedly chip away the parts of me that don’t serve my new reality. The new version of me I create is fairly rough and primitive. So far, though, I seem to be able to churn out the donkeys when I need them.
What pieces of your life have you chipped away because they “don’t look like a donkey” in retirement? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a flexible day!