Posts Tagged ‘Not being a victim’

#13 — On Behalf of Adjustments: “But why me?”

May 28, 2012 2 comments

Baseball is a game of adjustments.  Players, managers, and even owners are always making adjustments to improve performance.  Pitchers change the sequence of pitches to keep opposing batters guessing.  Catchers alternate methods for signaling the pitchers to keep base runners from stealing the signals.  A pitcher having trouble throwing strikes might adjust his delivery or his mix of pitches.  A batter in a slump might adjust his stance or his grip on the bat or the timing of his swing.  The manager might change the batting order or the pitching rotation if the team is not winning.  And the owners will always try to orchestrate trades or acquisitions to strengthen different aspects of the team.  Fans might not always be aware of it, but from game to game, from inning to inning, and even from moment to moment adjustments are being made all the time.  In fact, adjustments are so vital to the game that any player or team not prepared or willing to make them will ultimately lose.

Just as adjustments are an essential part of baseball, so are they an essential part of life.  Most of us are unaware that change is going on until some of this change impinges directly on our lives.  Naturally, change often comes when we are least prepared or disposed to deal with it.  Instead, we view the need to adjust as an inconvenience at best, or at worst a hardship or an injustice or both.  Many of us, faced with the need to adjust to some new situation, whether at work or at home or in the community in general, will complain, “It’s not fair,” or “I’m too busy,” or “What was wrong with the old way?”  Yet, whether we like it or not, life simply doesn’t care about our complaints; it just goes on being what it is — a constant swirl of ambiguity that ebbs and flows in all directions all the time without regard for our personal preferences. 

It is perhaps a basic aspect of human nature to resist change.  After all, change can be upsetting, often disruptive, even painful.  Indeed, the price of change is discomfort.  Yet despite all the hardships and all the complaint, most of us — perhaps after first groping and fumbling — find ways to adjust and deal with changing conditions.  We call this process coping.  Yet as difficult as coping with change can be, the greatest hardships tend to befall those who believe they can somehow keep change from happening to them.  And it does little good to point out to these people the futility of their resistance or to remind them of how aging affects us all or how living in today’s world means dealing with ever changing technology.  But of all the adjustments we might make, the most difficult and by far the most resisted involve the way we think and what we believe, especially about ourselves. 

I vividly remember “Ed,” a man in his mid-fifties who was referred to me because he was, according to his doctor, “mildly depressed.”  Within the first ten minutes of our first visit, Ed insisted that he was not depressed; he was simply “fed up.”  Married for over thirty years, he had worked the entire time at the same factory job.  He was a consistently hard worker, rarely missing a day of work, and he prided himself on being the “breadwinner” for his family.  He had insisted that his wife remain at home to see that their two children were “raised properly.”  Certainly, he said, he had made sacrifices; that was to be expected from the “head of the household.”  And his hard work had ultimately enabled his son and daughter to attend and graduate from local colleges. 

After his children left home, Ed looked forward to the leisure he felt he was due after all those years of hard work.  But then he was informed that his job was changing and to keep it he would have to spend a lot of extra hours on some intense “remedial” computer training.  He went home and began complaining to his wife about the unfair burden this change at work was imposing on him.  At that point, however, she informed him of her plans to attend college herself so she could finally pursue the career in journalism she had always wanted.  Angry and disillusioned, Ed spent the next several days alternately cursing loudly and then sitting, often in the dark, simply staring in silence.  His wife insisted that he see a doctor, which he finally did and was referred to me.  I still recall his plaintive objections:  “It just isn’t fair.  Why should I have to change?  Why now after all these years?” 

The man Ed had always believed himself to be, the one he had always seen in the mirror, had somehow been replaced.  Instead of being in charge of himself and his life, he now found that life had taken charge of him.  And none of his expectations for himself were being met.  The result was that Ed was angry and resentful and bitter, and he seemed defiantly determined to show life who was boss.  But slowly, painfully, and much to his chagrin, Ed came to understand and accept that life will always have its own way.  It is frequently problematic when we create expectations for ourselves, and perhaps the most problematic of all is the expectation that life owes us something.  The result, when life fails to deliver, is that we are easily tempted to protest this perceived unfairness.  Some of us, like Ed, simply refuse to move until life decides to cooperate, which it never does.  In the end, by refusing to adjust to change, we have shut ourselves off from growth and development and from the possible benefits of life.

There is an often-told story in baseball about the young hard-throwing pitcher who emerges from nowhere and begins to dominate batters with his blazing fastball.  For a while, perhaps even a few seasons, he seems unhittable.  Then, all too soon, age begins to take just a little off his fastball, and the opposing batters begin connecting.  Now the young pitcher faces a choice: he can continue to do what got him there and keep working even harder with his fastball.  Or he can make some adjustments and begin to include some off-speed “junk” — sliders, knucklers, change-ups — in his mix of pitches.  The choice this pitcher makes often spells the difference between having “a shot at playing” and having a career. 

Following my own open-heart surgery, the array of adjustments I was required to make seemed truly daunting.  There were adjustments in diet, adjustments in exercise, adjustments in medications, increased doctor visits, and a lot of self-monitoring.  Yet it has been these adjustments and more that have allowed me to keep moving forward and have a career instead of just a shot at playing. 

I believe that each of us ultimately gets to choose:  Are we going to approach life as victims or as volunteers?  Victims blame life for happening to them.  Volunteers create the lives they want by always moving forward and always making adjustments.  So, get ready; the next pitch is already on its way!

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