Changing It Up

September 21, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Living With Intention

In every employee training session everywhere there is a truism universally accepted that people do not like change. When one company takes over another there is always the warning to go slow so people have time to adapt. I work with non profit Boards and I am always warned going in that there will be some resistance to change and that I should be aware and proceed cautiously. I am not sure that I agree. I think there are plenty of people who relish change. Perhaps the trick is for change that they get to pick and then control.

When I look at my own life I can see that change has long been my friend. I get restless by too much sameness in the weather. I have never stopped wanting another baby. I like my old friends, but can usually make room when a real new one shows up in our life. One constant is that I have always read and written for pleasure and company. But the books and the essays change constantly so I wonder if the built in change is part of the pleasure.

I have already in 46 years lived many incarnations. In my early career life I spent a long time in the book business. I love books more than any other inanimate thing and still I grew bored. I figured if I bought my own book business, a book publisher or wholesaler, that I would be satisfied. And I was for a while. Then I grew old enough and confident enough to accept my thirst for the next bit, those desires to live out as many lives as tempt me.

Now I have been in sales one way or another my whole life. In the businesses that I have owned I’ve always hired somebody else to do the making, or the shipping, the counting and the communicating while the sales and marketing I kept for myself. I have run book wholesale companies and political campaigns. I owned a country store and I have published and been an agent. I have helped investor groups evaluate companies and increase their sales after they bought them. Through it all I have raised my own children, (the most creative and real soul satisfying work of my life), and flown with babies, brief case, diaper bags and car seats to meetings all over the US. The sales and entrepreneurial gene mix mostly allows for a life lived on one’s own terms, so now I teach my non profit clients how to raise money which includes good governance, and strategic planning and in between I run their campaigns and direct their annual giving drives. But I get to eat breakfast with my family, make everybody’s games, and then in and around I work mostly from our library with barking dogs and kids flowing always in and out.

We loved our lives in the Midwest and thought that moving across the river to the city would keep them fresh and exciting. It did. But then Vermont began to call. That’s how it happens. You begin to imagine and dream and then one day you are packing up the books. I have lived in small bungalows, and big city apartments. I chose a restored three story Victorian on a tree lined boulevard blocks away from really good Thai and Indian, before this farmhouse in a mountain valley surrounded by owls and bears, fox and coyote. So far I like country living better than city even though I do miss the movies and the restaurants.

My marriage to this one man has been steady, but we moved 1000 miles across the country and regularly take on spur of the moment trips and projects…(chicken raising, and sustainable gardening) to keep the program fresh. We have done public schools and private. We homeschooled for the last five years and now are back in a little hip hop school nestled in the mountains. Our kids have tried colleges far away and near, same sex and co-ed. We love our lives here above a tiny village surrounded by waterfalls and woodsy trails. And yet we wonder what it would be like to live in Italy. We also think about retiring in another huge bustling city when we are very old….(Cities seem made for seniors with movie houses and restaurants, good coffee houses and bakeries, all on one city block) And wouldn’t New Orleans be a fun place to spend a few months sometime surrounded by jazz and blues, sexy heat and really good Cajun food? Our oldest boy wants to live on a beach. And our girl is thinking she might like to try India for a semester at least. I grieved when they left for the summer, but after all this is what we have taught them to do, and so we joined them and had oysters and jazz on a fisherman’s dock one gentle Sunday night. Now they will bring us their lives with all of their special choices and ours will be amplified by this next generation.

Over time I have come to believe deeply in the power of change. That is not to say that it has always been fun or positive, or that it should be thoughtlessly chased. The horrors of losing a small fortune and all of our safe financial foundation during the quagmire of the HQCS was ample reminder to take care. But even then the lessons that bubbled up were ones we relished. As we continue to dig out I have already begin to think about what will come next.

Our endings and our beginnings blur and we have friends from every life we have lived. Now we have a couple of pretty well grown-up children and their passions to follow and join along with our own. Friends made along the way are a constant as is our family and the foundation which gently moves, makes way and room for whatever comes next. The lesson I have learned is that change is the pursuit of hope. It is how we experience otherness, how we meet new people and try on the variety that just this one life cannot possibly cover. We have had mountains and cities. We have lived in the Midwest and the Northeast. I think we must try Italy and and maybe a beach life somewhere before too long.

Change is how we go from having dreams to living them.

I wonder how i will find the non profits in Tuscany. I better to take some language lessons first…..


  • caterina

    “Change is how we go from having dreams to living them”

    And I love that you just think up these wants and then wham bam you are making them happen in real life.

    I am change resistant and though I would love to live on a beach, like how exactly do you make that work? I get stuck in some negative vibe….I am going to think about this

  • jamie

    I hope you end up in Tuscany! What a beautiful place…I would go back there in a heartbeat! All that gorgeous landscape and really great wine! 🙂

  • starrlife

    I wish you were on our board! That old saw of staff will be resistant to change burns my butt! maybe, if once in awhile we had input (real not token) into the decisions put forth and then, maybe if leadership wasn’t so threatened if their ideas were challenged we’d deal with changes better. As I say, nothing stays the same except that everything is always changing.

  • library lady

    Lovely essay on change. However, reading it the first thing on Monday morning, it instantly made me think that it was the Long Goodbye to your Midwestern friends. And in the past few years, I have come to believe that one’s attitude toward change depends entirely on whether one is the changer or the changee. (BTW, Dixie is retiring next Tuesday.)

  • Tranny Head

    I love that you accept that you raised your children to go off and try things out on their own. Isn’t that what parenting IS, after all? My poor mother never seems to get it and doesn’t want me living more than a block away! I hope when the time comes for me to embrace my children’s choices I can do so wholeheartedly (if somewhat sadly)!

  • Kellan

    You have lived a really full and rewarding life – that is for sure. I would love to follow you to Tuscany – follow your writings of that adventure!

    Take care, E – see you soon – Kellan

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    This is such a great reminder. Change is so hard for everyone but the value of it is so evident!

    (now please tell that to the 60-year old at my work…) 🙂

  • Jennifer

    My general motto is “Change is bad”. *grin*.

    Change does unsettle me. But it thrills me, too. What I’ve found is that I need the little things to stay the same. I don’t want new formats on websites I visit, I don’t want my favorite television show to change the night it is shown. But the big things? Moving? Babies? New jobs? Bring it on. I’m not sure what this says about me, except that I make no sense, even to myself. 😉

    What a lovely piece of writing. Thank you.

  • Kate

    I have been a change perpetrator and a change hater. I’m currently playing the role of the latter. Too much unexpected change derailed me for so long, that I am reveling in the sameness of my days. And yet? The urge is there. I am unattached, no children, I could go anywhere. But for now, I stay stuck. Because right now, stuck is safe.

  • TheCynicalOptimist

    You are a wonderful writer- no wonder you love books!!

  • jamie

    Yes, I loved the book!! I thought it was a really cool perspective. And I loved Charlie Kate. Although, the part where they were draining that boil on the guys neck and catching the gunk in the bucket…that was ridiculously graphic and I think I gagged! 🙂 Great recommendation! Hope all is well.

  • Anonymous

    I hate change. I hate it at work and I hate it at home. I hate new phone plans and new co workers. I especially hate new TV schedules and new lipstick colors. I actually think you are a little nuts :)….with your good cheer and optimism even when it is obvious that you are sad and should be bitterly complaining like any other sane normal person would….. but I love reading you all the same

  • molls

    Change is hard to embrace since I am almost never the agent. What does that say about me????
    Thought provoking post e

  • laurwilk

    Oh, those non-profit boards!

    I’m not sure if you read my last post, but mine too discussed change. I have been one to constantly embrace change as it is a way for me to thrive. I am quite an adaptable creature.

    Right now, though, I am tired of change. I really want to stay right where I am for a little bit.

    Well, except for maybe that whole non-profit bit. But that’s a post for another day.

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