Thursday, October 25, 2012
HOPING, COPING AND MOPING WITH CHANGE
A change is coming up for me. It will happen on December 31. It’s not a change I wanted, but it’s coming anyway. Managing that change will take some focus, some thought, some flexibility. Is that a good way to start thinking it through? No, let me try again. A change has already begun for me. It’s the change that happens when you begin to plan for a change on a specified date, take for example, December 31. Managing my life during the change is taking some focus, some thought, some flexibility. So here I am, doing the three things I tend to do in the face of looming change: hoping, coping and moping. Hoping, coping and moping. Even as I write these three words I suspect I have put them in the wrong order. Of course it’s only natural for somebody who calls herself THE HOPE LADY to put hoping first. And, to be fair, I am hoping, quite a bit actually. Hope, as I often say in keynote speeches, is a positive and healthy experience. It permits us to consider the future and simultaneously be okay in the present. I am luckier than the average person. I have, at the front of my consciousness, at the tips of my fingers, engrained in my repertoire of habitual thoughts, a fascinating and varied collection of hope-fostering tools and strategies. I have a history that constantly reminds me of something my good friend Christy Simpson once said to me: “When you do hope work, it works on you.” So why am I thinking I have the three words in the wrong order? Well, it’s a matter of time allocation, I guess. The truth is, I seem to be spending a lot of my time coping. Coping, as I have often said in keynote speeches, is the process of taking each day as it comes and doing the things that need to be done in response to the things that are happening. It requires energy and creativity. It often involves deliberate activity. It is focused firmly in the present. Its rewards are twofold. On one hand, coping gets you through each day so you can start the next. On the other, it earns you a lot of praise. Everybody loves a good coper. You hear: “I am just amazed by how well you cope!” With feedback like that, it’s small wonder we tend to spend so much time coping. So I’m giving a lot of energy to coping, which is why I think it ought to go first. But then, yesterday, I started to wonder, if I really didn’t want this change, why shouldn’t moping get the chance to go first? Moping, as I have often said in keynotes speeches, is the expression of a natural constellation of emotions, sadness, frustration, annoyance. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Yet it’s the process most feared by the world’s best copers. They fear that if they let it show, nobody will like them. They fear that if they let it take hold, they won’t be able to make it stop. To be quite honest, I have been doing quite a bit of moping—mostly in secret. Moping in secret, I have often said in keynote speeches, is a waste of good moping. Moping is a process with a purpose. It was invented to give the best copers a bit of relief from the unceasing pressure of having to cope all the time. Moping, in its best form, is a message to others that you need to be comforted, or helped, or simply allowed time and space to get your act together. Moping, I have often said, knowing that copers won’t mope forever, is something you ought to do more of. Yesterday I decided to take a little of my own advice. I vowed to start moping more, to mope better. “I’m tired of all this coping,” I told my friends. “I am tired of being responsible, of being professional. I am tired of being a hero. I am going to be a victim.” My friends were very quiet. I could see they were thinking. Finally one of them said with great compassion, “I expect this change will be very difficult for you.” Now there’s nothing that makes victimhood more difficult than heartfelt expressions of great compassion. Nonetheless, I was determined to mope, and I would not be moved. “No it won’t be difficult for me to be a victim,” I shot back in my best victim fashion. “I’ve had more than enough of looking after others. I’m going to be hurt and helpless. People can look after me for a change.” My friends were quiet again. They were thinking again. They’re a bit like me. They don’t like to lose an argument. One of them said, “You’ll have to develop some new skills. Take the diva stamp, for example. (The diva stamp is something I do with my foot when I’m planning to go ahead with something and I won’t be dissuaded. Just doing it gives me power, resolve, hope.) You’ll have to find something to replace the diva stamp,” they said. “You always smile right after the diva stamp. Good victims don’t smile.” I was quiet. I was thinking. This was exactly the time when I needed to use the diva stamp, to show them I meant business. But what if they were right? What if the diva stamp was always a precursor to smiling? Tears would be the thing I needed, tears pouring down my face. I concentrated on tear production. I focused on it. I waited for the tears to fall, fall in public, fall the way they fell in the days after I first got the news of the change. Unfortunately, I’ve never been any good at producing tears on request. A sad song will bring them down in 1.5 seconds, but you are not always in reaching distance of a good stereo. I was not in reaching distance of a stereo with the right sad song playing on it. Still, a voice echoed in my head, advice from A TED Talk, or a conference speaker, or a book I read some time. “Be the change you want to see.” I approached my failure with renewed resolve. I would do it. I would be a victim. “I have to go now,” said one of my friends. This was my chance. “Okay,” I cried in my best, almost-in-tears voice. “Okay, just go. Just go and leave me here in my sorrow. Just put other commitment above your loyalty to me. Yes, you’ve go. Just go!” My friends were trying to be quiet. They’re a compassionate lot, after all. But they couldn’t be quiet. They were giggling. There’s nothing more difficult than being a victim when your best and most compassionate friends are giggling. So I gave up the task of trying to find the proper order for hoping coping and moping. I didn’t really have time for it anyway. I had to plan a keynote speech. Still, when I get the time, I am hoping to become a better victim, a more effective moper. Apparently it isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be. It will take some focus, some dedication, some learning. I am kind of looking forward to it. Learning new things always gives me hope.