I’ve lived in my current home for more than a couple of decades and I’ve always voted at the same polling place that’s around the corner from my house. It feels familiar as I take the short drive there whenever there’s an election and I see the same volunteers and voters as we choose our candidates and hope for the best. I actually walked there (it’s very hilly), when I voted for Barack Obama twice, wanting to make a statement that I would support my candidate, whatever it took.
Going there to vote is one of the things in my life that has remained the same – up until now. For some reason, they’re allowing more days to vote, changing up the voting centers and the one I’ve always used has been eliminated from the list. I was scanning the other suggested places to vote a few days ago, and it didn’t feel good. I wanted things to stay the same, especially in the present political climate, but as Bob Dylan crooned, “The times they are a-changin’.” So I decided to vote by absentee ballot.
When I was signing up, trying to make sure I was filling out the right forms to get my ballot by mail, I began to think about change. It’s always happening and its so easy to resist it, to feel resentful that we have to learn or do something new when we don’t want to. It can be something as large as moving to a new house, getting a news car or something as small as getting a new remote for the TV or learning how to use an app on the iPhone. There is often a load of resistance we have to get through before it feels familiar and it takes less effort, but if we’re not encouraging our brains to do the work to create new synapses, we’re not doing ourselves any favors.
Years ago, I got a new computer and I had a friend who was a techie whiz. He helped me set things up with new programs and operating systems and I was leaning on him for all of it. One day, I emailed him a question (probably for the third time), and he sent back four letters. RTF.
I called him. “What is that?” I said.
“RTFM. Read the F—ing Manual,” he told me.
He woke me up. When I started to look things up and figure them out for myself, pretty soon, I didn’t feel like the entire techno world was an enemy and an enigma. I started trying different things, checking on YouTube for tutorials and I began to understand things in a whole new way. I felt less dependent and freer as I began to trust myself more. I felt smart instead of stupid and when I managed to learn something that I didn’t know before, I was elated.
There are still things that I can’t figure out but I give it a try before I go to someone else and I imagine how my efforts are expanding my brain power. Each time we resist reading the manual, we are stopping our brains from staying alert and vital. Have you ever decided not get the latest model of something, not because you wanted to save money, but rather because you didn’t want to have to figure out something new? This is how we get old, not so much in years, but in the way that we think. We have to start looking at “how to think” instead of “what to think.” I like to look at the new remote or the new app as a game, and spend a little time learning the rules. If I still need help, I can get it, but I’m often surprised at how much I can achieve on my own if I just give it a try.
Do you resist change? Do you figure things out or get frustrated and give up on yourself?