There are many times in life when stuff happens and there are changes that can really create an emotional storm if you allow it. Some of these whirlwind changes can include transitioning to a new job, retirement, a new baby is born, or a parent comes to live with you just to name a few. I have to guard myself from the momentary drama of events and remember the keep the main things the MAIN Things: Priorities. For me, these main things are the People, Places, Routines, and Rituals. Think of these as parts of a wind chime. If there is a change in one then others are affected. The trick to weathering change is to keep as many of these “wind chime” elements as stable as possible.
It begins with the relationships that mean the most to you. Typically, this includes family members (biological or chosen), friends, and consistent, positive influencers. For example, many children are transitioning back to school and some of the main people in their lives are teachers. Hopefully, there is a certain level of comfort knowing that the same teacher will be there almost every day. As a student, I learned the teachers’ expectations and formed a working relationship even with the “toughest” teachers. Today, I count on my close, level 10 relationships to keep me grounded and on the right path. Their perspective, wisdom, and love keep me grounded and secure.
If change includes losing contact with one of these People, then the other elements can help stabilize the system.
I like belonging someplace. There are secure places that are important to me so that I can relax, unwind, and contribute my gifts and talents. For many this can be home, places of worship, schools, community meeting places, etc. When things get tough, there is a safe place to go. When things are going great, there is a place to go. Sometimes the important People are with me in this place and sometimes I am by myself. Either way, having a Place provides a safe shelter from the whirlwind.
If for some reason the element of Place changes (job moves, divorce, natural disaster…) the other wind chime elements can help keep me protected until this element stabilizes.
Depending on your temperament, you may like or dislike routines. For me, there is a stabilizing effect of routines. There is an ebb and flow to the day that is consistent and comforting. I see the positive power of consistent routines in families. If my morning and evening “bookend” routines are in place then I can handle whatever the middle of the day will bring.
Now I’m not saying that there is no room for surprise and spontaneous decisions, but having a certain level of consistency is a healthy way to keep the wind chime intact and not flying off into a hurricane.
Routines can be personal or communal. If the People and Places change then you can still stick to appropriate Routines yourself (exercise, reading, etc.) while working on stabilizing the other elements of the wind chime.
My family has a list of rituals that help keep me grounded. These are the practices that mark special occasions and are passed down from generation to generation. You may be thinking of holidays and birthdays. Yes, but what other rituals come to mind that bring together People in a certain Place at a Routine time? How about family reunions, weddings, births, baptisms, funerals/ celebrations of life, worship?
At this time of year, a ritual in my family is choosing school supplies and clothes. I still love the smell of new pencils and the thrill of a new notebook. I know, this may be a bit old fashioned in this age of technology but there is still the ritual of preparing for a new, fresh start of the public, private, or home school experience. There is another part to this “getting ready for school” ritual and that is to take a first day of school picture. It’s amazing to see the growth each year from child to adolescent to adult.
One of the positive changes that can happen regarding rituals is that, as you get older, you get to choose which rituals to keep and which ones no longer make sense. Have you heard the story about cutting the end of the holiday ham? The story goes that each year the end was cut off the ham because that was how Granny used to make it (Poof! Instant ritual…). Come to find out that the reason Granny cut the end off the ham was because she didn’t have a pan big enough for the entire ham. Some of our lingering rituals no longer make sense. I have a pan big enough for the entire ham!
The point of the simile comparing life to a wind chime is to show the importance of the connections between the People, Places, Routine, and Rituals. Even when change happens or disaster strikes, getting these elements as stable as possible as quickly as possible is what is really important.
If you need help navigating the whirlwind and find that your wind chime elements are swirling around in a hurricane of emotions, please call me.
If you are interested in learning more about individual, couple, or family therapy please call me for a 15 minute consultation 940-222-8703 Ext. 705. To schedule an appointment online go here and click on “Dr. Pam”.