Title: The Gifts of Change (Atria Books/Beyond Words)
Author: Nancy Christie
Genre: Nonfiction: inspirational/motivational
The Gifts of Change encourages readers to take a closer look at how they deal with the inevitability of change and ways in which they can use change to gain a new perspective, re-evaluate their goals and reconsider their options. It’s about making the most out of the changes that occur — even the ones that are difficult to handle. With change, we can build our strengths, uncover new abilities and discover more about who we are and what we can do.
[From “Exploring Our Possibilities”]
I remember watching my daughter, Samantha, when she discovered her hands. She turned those fat palms toward herself and then away, raised her arms a bit and let them fall. The look on her face was a mix of concentration and awe. She seemed truly amazed that those chubby hands were there and that she, by simply thinking movement, could raise them. There was no awareness yet of the hands being hers. They were just hands and she was seeing them clearly for the first time.
Everything infants do is for the first time. There is no past experience to draw on, no preconceived notion of an object’s purpose. A spoon can just as easily be a source of noise as well as a carrier of nourishment. A dog can be a playmate or a pillow. There is no right or wrong use of an object, no correct or incorrect behavior. That comes later, along with the word “no,” the act of toilet training, and the endless progression of conventions and dictates that turns babies into productive members of society.
For the most part, these series of rules and regulations are essential elements of growing up. Without them, we would be a society of anarchists or, at the very least, incredibly selfish people. But as we learn to behave and what constitutes acceptable use of objects, we lose our sense of imagination and wonder and place limits on possibilities.
A two-year-old sees a blanket as a comfort object, a six-year-old as a tent, an adult as a bed covering. Adults establish definitions for everything in life, and then refuse to explore alternatives. No synonyms are acceptable; there is but one word and that is the only word we use.
But this thinking is narrow and limiting. By not exploring other possibilities, we rob ourselves of life’s richness and gradually erode our sense of creativity. We must “keep writing talents strong and sharp, nourish the space where they came from… see fine art, hear soothing music, taste wonderful foods, touch fantastic textures or smell exotic aromas,” said poet Joyce Locking.
This advice even applies to those who do not write. Every time we see examples of another’s creativity, we should be encouraged to explore our own. Every time the world comes into view (which is daily, if we have our eyes open) we should make an effort to really look at it. A scarlet cardinal is not just a bird, a delicate narcissus is not just a flower, and the evening sky aflame with red and orange is not just a signal that night approaches. They are all causes for wonderment, appreciation, and gratitude that we are here to witness.
But it’s difficult to really see, to pay attention to the actual world, when we are too busy with the world in our mind. We are in such a rush to move on to the next thought that we perceive, identify, and dismiss in almost the same instant. We miss so much of what is really there because our vision never goes past the surface…
It is not impossible to raise our level of awareness and begin exploring possibilities; it just takes some effort. By recapturing a sense of imagination and wonder, we dazzle our sense and enrich our lives. Albert Einstein noted, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Given the choice, a miraculous view of life seems preferable.
But we shouldn’t stop at the outside environment as we are sharpening our sense of awareness. We also need to turn our eyes inward, take a fresh look at our internal landscape, and explore all our abilities; otherwise we rob ourselves of possibilities. If we shape our lives to follow only one path, we will never explore the hidden byways that may lead to a more fulfilled existence…
We must explore our inner world the way we would explore a foreign country. We need to throw away all our preconceived ideas, limiting beliefs, and restricting roles. We have spent a lifetime with ourselves, but do we know who we really are? To what extent has our identity been shaped by others or our perception restricted by events or circumstances?
Sometimes we refuse to look at ourselves because we are afraid of what we might see. Sometimes we resist searching within for fear that what we might find may upset the life we have so carefully created. When we find out who we are and all that we are capable of becoming, we may also find that we are outgrowing the confines of our current existence. But it is only through self-exploration that we can find out who we really are and what more we can do with our lives. If knowledge is power, then self-knowledge is the greatest power of all, for it affords us the ability to create a new reality that encompasses all that we are and all that we can be.
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After all the stress and fear that people, especially women, have gone through because of the pandemic, the prospect of a life that is no longer restricted by worries about the virus also opens the door to a new way of thinking about our future and the possibilities that are now available to us. The pandemic has taught us how precious life is. The Gifts of Change helps us make the most of the time and opportunities that we now have.
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Nancy Christie is the award-winning author of two short story collections: Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories and Peripheral Visions and Other Stories (both published by Unsolicited Press); two books for writers: Rut-Busting Book for Writers and Rut-Busting Book for Authors (both published by Mill City Press) and the inspirational book, The Gifts of Change (Atria/Beyond Words). Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary publications, with several earning contest placements.
The host of the Living the Writing Life podcast and founder of the annual “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day, she is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Florida Writers Association.
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