on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Adjusting to Change

This is the seventeenth in a series written by Malcolm Marler and Mary Bea Sullivan, husband and wife, about their journey as Mary, an author, prepares to go to Virginia Theological Seminary.  Malcolm is a director of pastoral care at a hospital in Alabama.

“He Said.” . . . by Malcolm

One of the lessons Mary and I learned from our recent two week spontaneous road trip is that we can’t really know what most things will be like until we get there.

Mary has settled into her dorm room in Alexandria, attending classes, learning her way around a new city, and making new friends which she has such a gift in doing.  She has discovered many things are better than she had originally imagined, while others call for a new plan.

Brendan packed his car this weekend and moved into his apartment for his junior year at Auburn. Kiki will come home for a few days before she leaves for her junior year at Birmingham Southern.

This is a new version of an empty nest for me.

I am working on developing a new routine at home, sometimes struggling to do so.  I’ve been surprised how much I have been out of sync all week as little seems routine, because well, it’s not, yet.

Mary and I are a great team in our relationship and family, but when she isn’t home it seems as though I forget everything I learned during my eight years of singleness before we married.

I’ve had to laugh at myself when simple things have seemed so hard.

  1. I drank decaf coffee without realizing it for three mornings at home until I realized the cause of my daily headaches.
  2. I left my tie at home (an hour away) one day and had to go shopping at 7:30 in the morning in Birmingham.  Note: Walmart does not have a good men’s tie selection.
  3. On Friday, it took me two hours to get home instead of one because I kept leaving things at work that I needed for the weekend and had to return to my office over and over again.

There were many more examples of my wrestling match with change.

Change is hard for most of us.  When it happens, we have to think about even the simplest details in our day.  It is uncomfortable and it will wear you out.

I’m learning to take a deep breath when I get frustrated or sad, and give myself a little grace and space instead of the negative self talk that I should be doing better.

The truth is . . . we can’t really know what it is going to be like until we get there, no matter how much planning we do beforehand.  Change demands that we go with the flow.

How about you?  What has helped you adjust to significant changes in your life?  What secrets can you share in the comments below?


  1. Tracy Clancy

    Wow. Malcolm, as you well know, this hit so close to “home” for me, having experienced significant change in recent months.

    You are so right about not really knowing how things will change until you get there– just as you are discovering, JP, Aiden, the girls and I have found that some things are so wonderfully different in our new “home,” while others require a lot of patience and creativity. Deep breathing is something we’ve all gotten pretty good at.

    We are thinking of you, Mary, Brendan and Kiki as you adjust to your new normal and discover, individually and collectively, what the new definition of “home” means to you. There is no doubt in my mind, (being fortunate enough to call you all the dearest of friends), that it will be a deeper, richer and fuller perspective despite the hilly terrain it requires to get there.

    Enjoy the ride! Love, Tracy

  2. Malcolm

    Dear Tracy,

    Thank you for your encouragement from a person who embraces change as well as anyone I know. I too believe it will be deeper, richer, and fuller as we move through this maze of change.

    I also understand that does not mean that it will be easy at all. At the same time, I do have the confidence that we are doing the right thing.

    Hugs to you. Malcolm

  3. Caroline

    You are right up there at the top of my list of great men…..one below Fisher. You and Mary are a great team and your being open to her doing seminary work is the supreme example.

    Over the years I have not had a good history of handling change. I am much better with it since I have begun to practice contemplative prayer, as I know that you and Mary do also. I think that it must be that I desire to live in the moment which keeps me from fretting about the future, and that helps me just take one day at a time. I don’t know……….

    Mary, it is good to know that you are now there. You are in my thoughts through the day and I offer you up to God each time. I love you both and wish for you two the best.


  4. Malcolm


    I am honored to even be mentioned in the same sentence with your own Fisher. He is one of my heroes as you know.

    Mary continues to teach me about contemplative prayer through her example. I have a lot to learn. I couldn’t be more proud of her journey to seminary and eventually the priesthood.

    On the other hand, I also wish I could afford to fly up to see her every weekend in Virginia, but we’ll figure it out as we go.

    Thanks again.

  5. Melissa

    Thanks so much for this post!

    I was just remembering Mary and you in my prayers this morning and wondering how she’s doing in seminary.

    No secrets to share; just that I’m reminded of the predictability of change and my/our need to relax and lean into the flow.

    Blessings to you both!

  6. Malcolm


    I appreciate your friendship and sisterhood with Mary. It makes all the difference in the world for her good friends to encourage her in her journey.

    Peace to you

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