Change Guaranteed

September 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Personal Development

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

This is such a great observation. It rings true not only because of its merit, but because it was stated by Charles Darwin. Clearly, Darwin  had superior insights into basic survival skills. Now that I’m on the verge of becoming a grown up (give me ten or so more years, okay?), I truly believe that adaptability to change is one of the most important life skills one can have.

Change is constant, inevitable. Sometimes it emerges slowly over time, marking teeny weeny steps that gradually build momentum over time. You may not realize all of these building blocks put together lead to change, but once you look back, you can trace the path of change to small pieces of crumbs lined up, one in front of the other.  Then there is kind of the change that  slams you with a bang, sending you into another universe completely. Your world stops. Time seems to suspend itself. Everything around you floats in mid-air, while you address the priority at hand.

This is the kind of change I experienced when, three years ago, my mother sustained a traumatic brain injury. Eighteen months prior, she had taken a bad fall down her steep, hardwood staircase in her tri-plex, landing with a thud. As my father had passed away a few years prior, no one was there to witness the event. Oddly enough, my Mom told me she felt fine. Just a minor fall. No broken bones, not even a scratch. I encouraged her to go see her doctor anyway, but she refused, saying that she had no symptoms of anything that would warrant attention. A perfectionist and a person who loved her work, she dismissed the fall and immediately went about her day, never looking back.

Cut to the future, when my Mom finally decided to take the vacation that she well-deserved. A three week tour of Eastern Europe with her childhood friend was planned for weeks. Prague and Vienna were the highlights. She returned spellbound with her travels, but came down with a splitting headache on her way home. The headache was an unrelenting throb that didn’t respond to over the counter medications. Again, I encouraged her to see her doctor, but in typical female fashion, she only showed concern with taking care of others, not herself. She was Superwoman. After all, it was just a headache. Chalk it up to jet lag. Chalk it up to being 77.

The next day I checked in with her to see how the headache was doing. It was early evening. I had just returned from taking our younger daughter to a soccer tournament out of town in sweltering heat. Odd that my Mom didn’t answer her home phone nor her cell. Maybe she was still at work (yes,  it was a Sunday), maybe she was in the shower. Countless calls later, I drove over to her home. No response. I sensed something was the matter. Big time. My hand shook as I turned the key to her front door. “Mom?” I called. Again, no answer.

And there she was, laying in bed, asleep at 7:00pm. She told me that the headache got so bad that she simply had to lay down. She didn’t hear the phone. Clearly odd behavior for her, for this was a person who had never taken a nap in her life. I insisted we make a bee-line for the E.R. Again, she resisted. I insisted, and I won. As we crossed the street to the hospital, she started vomiting. Now what? Was this the flu? Clearly, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Within a few hours, my Mom was having brain surgery. She had suffered a bi-lateral subdural hematoma, initially caused by a severe head injury. The surgery allowed for the blood to be evacuated, but because there was so much of it, it was questionable whether or not she would survive. She remained in a coma for thirty days after the surgery. I  quit my freelance job. I read to her, I spoke to her, I gathered her community around her. It was a long thirty days, complete with a tracheotomy and a bout with pneumonia.  Yet remarkably, my Mom survived.

This was the kind of change that one never sees coming. My Mom’s life was changed forever. The brain injury left her with stroke-like effects, with paralysis on her right side that has now lessened a bit due to intense physical therapy. With no short term memory, she has had to move out of her home and leave her work, the work which gave her purpose and meaning. Clearly, she has had to adapt to these new circumstances and has done so with grace and optimism. She doesn’t complain, she makes due. She savors time spent with friends and family, and is thankful that she is diseas and pain free. Her attitude has guided her recovery.

These days, change is all around us. A sudden illness, the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a home, a loss of the definition of whom we have become to be. Can we prepare ourselves for change? I believe we can, by realizing that sooner or later, something or someone will change. After all, our universe is changing every day; the fact that we age every day proves it. Fight it, deny it, do what you need to do. What matters most is just what Darwin observed; adapt, and that change won’t take you down for life.

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2 Responses to “Change Guaranteed”
  1. diane says:

    Tammy – Your article was very moving and beautifully written.  Thank you for sharing your experience; I was able to put my own in a more realistic perspective because of what I just read.

  2. tammyhasoomph says:

    Diane – Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my blog! Yes, the experience is very personal, but truly
    worth sharing. Hearing from people always propels me to write more…so again thanks!

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