After I broke my arm a couple months ago, I learned to do many things with my non-dominant (left) hand like eating, brushing my teeth, and wearing stretchier clothes that were easier to put on. I’m slowly returning to normal. But what is normal and the “right” way to do things? This got me thinking about how routines and the familiar make life easier. Being on auto pilot simplifies many of my daily tasks and frees up brain space for paying attention to traffic, focusing on difficult tasks, and even day dreaming. BUT, it can also keep me from stretching and learning new things.

For example:

  • When my kids gave me a smart phone for Christmas I was happy to enter the modern world, BUT it also meant my “phone” was no longer just for making calls but was a mini-computer. I’m still learning its finer points and I marvel at the speed with which others google stuff and keep much of their life on their phone while I still carry a bulky planner.
  • I recently rented a car for a trip. Now which side is the gas tank on? How do I switch the different lights on? How many miles are really left when the gas gauge says empty? How do I turn the AC on an off without having an accident?
  • I’m not good at finding my way to new locations. The GPS on my phone is a god-send – now that I know how to work it. It’s so much more comfortable, however, to take the same route to places that I know.
  • I wanted to post a prayer service to YouTube. I found directions on the internet but it presumed technical language that was unfamiliar to me. I defaulted to calling my son who walked me through it.

Of course there are more dramatic encounters with the unfamiliar that come with moving to a new home, a new city, learning a new language, traveling, getting a new computer, or deepening a childhood faith that may no longer satisfy a maturing mind.

The Nature of Change:
Change is often necessary. Change is good. Change is hard, but it does force us to grow.
At the same time, the familiar can be comforting and free one’s mind of information overload. Too much change, too quickly can strain one’s equilibrium.

Challenging the familiar:
There are also attitudinal changes that come from new information or experiences. Have you ever been challenged to let go of a long held belief or a stereotype? Our lifestyle or politics can sometimes give us tunnel vision as we surround ourselves with people who are like us. All That We Share is a 3 minute video that explores how we can expand our notion of familiar groupings. Enjoy!

Bottom line?
I think it’s a matter of seeking a balance between the growth that comes from stepping into the unfamiliar and the comfort that comes from holding on to the tried and true. Sometimes we have a choice. When change comes unbidden, allow yourself to grieve the loss of the familiar and then embrace the opportunity for the new. Comfort vs. Growth. They’re both good. For the record, I’m keeping my husband. He brings both comfort and growth.

What has helped you deal with change and unfamiliar circumstances?