Sunday, October 24, 2010

Change - A Parkinson's Disease Challenge

"You don’t know what you don’t know", drawled the southern-born-and-bred construction project manager. We were in the middle of negotiating a multimillion dollar contract, trying to anticipate all the "what ifs" of the next 2 years of construction so that we might avoid those pitfalls in the agreement. I had not heard the statement before, but it baffles me still. It sounds Zen-like to me, ranking right up there with a current favourite phrase, "It is what it is". Some of his other southern colloquialisms were more easily deciphered, such as, "that dog don’t hunt", which he used whenever we could not make headway on a particularly difficult negotiation issue.

Whatever the statement may mean, it certainly applies to the experience of change. Life is full of twists and turns, most of which we do not see coming. Even before my diagnosis of Parkinson's disease almost 5 years ago, there had been plenty of unanticipated events. Things like conflicts that arose seemingly out of thin air, opportunities presented themselves unannounced and losses swooped in like birds of prey.

When it comes to the changes that Parkinson's disease brings, I relate to that iconic philosophical giant, Meg Ryan, who once said, "People are always telling me that change is good. But all that means is that something you didn't want to happen has happened.” Not only does the diagnosis of PD constitute an unwelcomed change akin to a stampede of 1000 panicked steers, it continues to morph and move, bob and weave, speed up and slow down on the evolving experience of the unexpected.

Change. It is inevitable, and often painful. And yet somehow it seems normal and necessary. It often requires a great deal from us: adaptability, strength of resolve, risking uncertainty and focused discipline. The curious thing about change is that when it just happens serendipitously, or occurs as a result of someone else's decision, we usually resent the interruption in our "normal life" and fear that the change will affect us negatively. However, when we are the ones to make a decision to change, we somehow believe it is for the best. In other words, change by our choice is preferable, perhaps because it creates a deluded feeling of control.

Whether change is of my choosing, or just "happenstance", and despite how I may feel from time to time, I choose to believe that change has an undisclosed purpose. If I search for that purpose, like the secret key to a hidden kingdom, I believe I will find it and in the process discover much-needed perspective. Though it may be with tears, change must be embraced so that we may discern its lessons. Retreating from or resisting change can leave us victims, clinging to the comfortable, never victors, pursuing the possible.

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” W.E.B. Du Bois (civil rights activist)

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