Those darn treetops are at it again! Anyone who has taken the time to read a recent piece entitled “On Treetops” knows what I am alluding to. At a point along my daily jogging path, regally stand a dozen or so trees as silent witnesses to my labor. But are they really silent?

You will recall, if you read the previous work, that at this particular place on my chosen path only the tops of the trees are visible. Most of the trunks, lower branches, and roots are obscured by a bridge but, to return to the question, are the trees silent?

Upon observation and reflection concerning this question, the following proposition is offered, that far from being silent, on the contrary, they speak eloquently concerning the basic premise of this piece. The observing occurs daily as I pass these faithful friends, noting how a late Fall in North Texas has finally initiated their resplendently colorful salute to Winter.

The changes are subtle at first, like the low hum of an orchestra warming up. Dark greens slowly morph to lighter greens, lighter greens to yellows, orange, red, and other familial shades. Several times recently I have been compelled to stop, not for a breath, but to listen. It is as if the Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s Messiah has been on constant play for the last three weeks!

But this reflection is not based on Mother Nature triumphantly hitting a high note in Fall, thus thumbing her nose at the inevitable onset of Winter...nature's intermission before Spring. Rather, it is about changing. Specifically on the challenge of changing oneself and the impossibility, at least in my opinion, of changing anyone else!

Think of the times in your personal history when you have attempted to change something about yourself. How successful were your efforts? If successful, does the credit go to your herculean striving or because the change was more akin to going from darker green to lighter green? If unsuccessful, was your failure due to lack of effort, giving up too soon, or by virtue of trying to go from dark green to orange in a fortnight?

Personal change usually does not occur overnight but it is possible with time and patience. Five years ago I was overweight and out of shape. My doctor said, after a complete physical, that I basically had two routes to choose from. One would be easier, the well-worn path and one more difficult. “Medication is easier’, he said,’ and is the route most of my patients choose.” Upon further inquiry he added,”Diet and exercise can also work but few patients follow through with such a drastic lifestyle change.”

That sounded challenging to me but I decided to try that road anyway. You see, my body had slowly, subtly changed over the years and I had become a walking cliché. Overworked, overstressed, and overweight people are ticking time bombs, and the question is not a matter of if but when they will explode. My physical body had morphed from being a fit, active young adult to a middle-aged sedentary lifestyle and it was time to make a decision. You can probably discern from my current daily routine what that decision was.

So personal change, although difficult and challenging can be accomplished through dedicated and sincere effort. Of course, I could readily list a plethora of broken New Year’s resolutions to assure you that I, like you, am human and still a work in progress, even at fifty-four. But what about changing someone else? Is it even possible?

Returning to nature to answer this perplexing question, I think of Sukila Maiya, my cat. Yes, she has two names because she is both beautiful and regal (one name just seemed unworthy somehow). Maiya has many traits that are indigenous to cats. She is meticulously clean, constantly preening herself with her tongue. When I brought her home as a kitten and observed her doing this, since I had never had a cat friend before, I assumed it was a learned habit that she had picked up from her breeder. I knew it could not be me since, most of the time anyway; my tongue stays at home in my mouth.

She has other cat-like qualities, perhaps because she is one. She dutifully uses her litter box, she loves to sit in a sunny window and observe her bird and squirrel friends that she would love to be playing with, and occasionally she approaches me for some love, at least when she feels like it. When I am home, usually she can be found in various favorite nooks and crannies, in repose and posing for photographs. Maiya has a singular dog-like quality that mystifies me. Every time I come home she is waiting at the door for me. I will know when her ninth life is up when she fails to greet me at the door!

If I asked Maiya to be a dog, could she be one? What if I pleaded with her to become one, could she? How about if I demanded, threatening to withhold food and water in order to force her to change, do you think she could? Preposterous right, even delusional to consider the possibility of a cat becoming a dog? Well please ponder this before you write this off as nonsense, what if I sent her to a world renowned pet therapist with a proven track record for helping cats to become dogs, what then?

Changing someone other than you is just that simple. If you can figure out how to make a cat into a dog, then you have the secret formula for changing someone else. If so, I suggest you bottle it and sell it on an infomercial because, congratulations, you have discovered the Golden Goose (or Dog?). This observation, my reflection on this truth, is based on spending most of my life trying to change cats into dogs.

Not every cat have I tried to change mind you, just the ones closest to me, both physically and emotionally. Despite years of dedicated effort, my attempts proved futile. What was truly accomplished by all this wasted effort? Most of the time my endeavors only frustrated and made them upset with me. This, in turn, hurt my feelings for their ungrateful reaction to my thoughtful attempts to help them. You see the question really is not whether it is possible for a cat to become a dog for that is a given fact of nature. The question is what is our real motivation for attempting to change those persons closest to us?

I cannot speak to your rationale for trying to change someone but I can reveal, after many years of deep introspection, what my own ulterior motives usually have been. By surrounding myself with people who, at least I believed, NEEDED changing, I avoided focusing on my own behaviors/characteristics that needed reprogramming. It was I that required the transformation all along, no one else. So I have decided to get out of the cat-changing business and concentrate on effecting a new me in 2012. In fact, I think I will place it at the top of my resolution list. Time to get out that tongue!

Author's Bio: 

The acting and writing bug bit Michael at an early age, performing his first role as Peter Pan in a sweeping 3rd grade production. That early play became a catalyst for future leading roles in productions ranging from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ to ‘The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia’ to ‘Our Town’, and, his personal favorite, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Currently, Michael is playing the role of a detective in his first feature length film. He is a writer and is working on a book of his original poetry, as well as a novel. Additionally, he has done radio work, PA announcing at sporting events, and served many organizations as a motivational speaker. He is the founder of Final Word Solutions.

Michael is the proud father of three children and grandfather to two amazingly gifted and extraordinarily handsome grandsons! Taylor Nicole is a professional actress and lives in Santa Monica; CA. Clayton is a restaurant manager and also lives in Santa Monica. Cody is a Music Minister and is married to Kristin, parents to the aforementioned unsurpassed grandsons, Kailas and Conner. Michael’s greatest pleasure in life is playing with his grandsons, proving that he still NEVER, NEVER, NEVER wants to grow up!