At what point can an old dog not learn new tricks? I like to hope it's about 5 minutes before death, personally. I think it's the age of our minds and spirits, more than the age of our bodies, which determines how well we learn, and adjust to, new things.
Usually, when we have a problem changing something it's less because the new thing is so difficult and more because it's not what we had expected. We build up a list of how things "should" be in our minds, and when life doesn't provide them, like it or not, it bothers us. We "should" have gone to this or that school, we "should" have married this or that person, we "should" have got a promotion, we "should" have stayed young, slim and virile, with a full head of hair forever. Life tosses us curve balls and sometimes it just doesn't feel fair, does it?
Well, it's not fair, dammit. But it's the only game in town, so we're stuck playing it, aren't we? Maybe Buddha was right when he said that what causes pain in life is attachment to things. In this case, I think the "things" is our list of "should-have-been's."
When I was in the hospital after my car wreck six years ago, I had to learn how to do a lot of things differently from how I was used to doing them. Now, I could have just seized up and refused to try new ways, clinging to the comfort of the familiar, or I could relax and see how else I could do things. This holds true in my thinking, too. It's easy to dwell on how life "should" have turned out, but what's the point? I have to scrape off the barnacles that cling to my mind every now and then because they make it rough going when a wave hits. I think this is probably something everyone needs to do from time to time.
When we get used to doing something the same way, it eventually becomes the "right" way to us. After you've been on top (or on bottom) long enough it seems weird to switch positions, for instance. When you've relied upon a body part to faithfully obey your whims, it feels like a betrayal when it refuses to do what it's told. Investigating other ways of satisfying a need feel like failure, instead of exploring exciting alternatives.
There's nothing we can do about what has gone before, but if we've let our "should's" become concrete dancing slippers, it's probably time we changed our shoes.
I don't want to lay on my death bed and weep over what "should" have been. As scary as it is to push my boundaries, I owe it to myself and to the people around me. I don't know about you, but I spend way too much time worrying about how people (including myself) are going to think about me and how I "should" behave. It's important to learn new skills, take new risks, discover new horizons in order to keep our doggies young as long as possible.
As an example of my intent to keep trying new things, I've decided, after six hard-lovin' years, to buy new bed sheets. That means I have to "change" the old ones. These bits of fabric are like an archeological chronicle of my days and nights of passion and nude contemplation and they bear the marks of... well, if sheets could talk these would tell you exactly where I sit when I read without any panties on. I read a lot. Serious bids for these sacred bedcovers can be sent to: Darklady's Sheets c/o PO Box 14801, Portland, OR 97214. They're more fun than the Shroud of Turin... and they're authentic!