Here in Atlanta the weather has been crazy.
One day it is 40 degrees, then the next it’s 70. The trees and flowers are starting to bloom, yet we are hardly out of February.The last few days it’s been looking like spring but feeling like mid-winter.
This struggle of the seasons is so analogous to our personal life transitions. Winter is desperately trying to hold on, while spring is emerging in spite of winter’s weakening clutches.
And just as predictably as there are changing seasons, life transitions for each of us are inevitable. Maybe you are in one right now. If not, hold on to your hat. One is right around the corner.
I have found there are two types of transition that we encounter several times during our lifetimes: the slow growers and the surprise attackers.
The Slow Growers
The slower growers are the transitions that creep up on you. You experience restlessness, inner tuggings, physical symptoms, yearning desires, and emotional changes, all before you reach a destination or outcome. Sometimes you are aware that transition is happening, and other times you don’t know what the hell is going on — at least not immediately.
These are some examples of slow growing transitions:
- reaching adulthood
- spiritual growth
- emotional growth
- relationship changes
- career change
- change in sexuality
- lifestyle choices
- friendship changes
- life balance
- aging, physical change
The Surprise Attackers
The surprise attack transitions are those that come at you out of left field. You never see them coming. Sometimes it’s because you have your head in the sand, and other times they are totally random for you and everyone else. All of the transition work must be done after the shock of the catalyst has worn off.
Here are some examples of surprise attackers:
- job loss
- end of a relationship/divorce
- a death of a loved one
- serious illness
- an unexpected move
- an affair
- a hysterectomy (early menopause)
- a shocking event (burglary, fire, destructive weather, etc.)
- a betrayal by a family member, friend, or business associate
- a financial upheaval
Whether life transition evolves slowly or is forced by an unexpected event, this period of time doesn’t have to be purgatory. You don’t have to just “mark time,” waiting to get through the freaky transition so you can reach the glorious destination.
Yes, there is often grief and pain associated with these transitions, especially the surprise attackers. But life transitions can be periods of enormous personal and psychological growth. In fact, some of these transition periods can be exciting, creative, and even liberating times of our lives. They are absolutely necessary and natural stages of our personal evolution.
Though we are often clouded in confusion and fear during these times, just the awareness that you are in transition can provide some direction and clarity.
Look at your life right now?
Are you in a settled place or a transformational time?
If you are settled, then you have time to prepare for the inevitable transitions ahead. You know one is coming.
If you are in the middle of one, then take a deep breath and know that by supporting yourself during this time, you are planting the seeds for a brilliant new phase of your life. Try to enjoy the ride as much as possible!
So how can you support yourself during transition so that you can bloom boldly for the changes or new phase of life ahead?
Here are some key ideas to help move past the fear and embrace the life transitions you may be facing:
1. Rely on routines
When mental, physical, and emotional chaos is swirling around you, the most stabilizing force in your life right now are your routines. Your basic routines of getting up, getting dressed, making your tea, going to work, etc., can provide you that sense of comfort that everything in your world isn’t topsy turvy. There may be some routines that change along with your transition. But hold on to enough of them that you don’t lose your footing entirely.
2. Let go of why
I’m one who needs to know why something is happening because I don’t tolerate ambiguity very well. But I’ve learned the hard way that the answer to “why?” isn’t always immediately obvious. It can take months or even years to get the full perspective on why certain events happen in your life. And sometimes you never get the answer. Tolerating that not knowing will relieve you of a whole lot of angst. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter why. It’s happening, so now what? Don’t waste too much time pontificating.
3. Don’t force it
You may think you know where you are going with this transition, but then again, maybe you don’t. Don’t force yourself through the transition so you can hurry up and get to the other side. The unsettled, ambiguous feelings that come with transition are uncomfortable, but you can’t jump into the first life boat you happen to see. Allow yourself to complete the transition process fully. But even if you don’t, your psyche will carry you back eventually to finish the business properly! You might as well do it right the first time.
4. Follow your intuition
Some transitions just can’t be analyzed and thought out. The changes and shifts you are going through may be so subtle that you have to sit quietly and listen to what you instinct is telling you. Once you’ve analyzed all you can, and there’s nothing further to think through, then turn the business over to your heart. It generally knows what you want and where you are going before your brain does.
5. Follow your actions
In some transitions, you are so muddled that even your intuition isn’t clear. You don’t hear an inner voice, you don’t know what you want, you have no idea what direction is best. In these cases, just take an action. Do something. Actually this is another way of your intuition speaking to you. If you look back in time over your actions, you will probably see a pattern telling you exactly what you want.
6. Allow yourself to grieve
Grieving your old life, even in minor transitions, is to be expected. This doesn’t mean you don’t want to move forward or that you aren’t ready to. It just means that you are letting go and releasing all that was and all that might have been. It is sadness for leaving something behind that you love or that you wish you had loved. It is sadness for having to get out of your comfort zone and do something new and challenging. Let the tears flow. This is an important healing part of transitions.
7. Don’t resist
Sometimes when we are going through transition, it is so uncomfortable or disconcerting that we fight it tooth and nail. We try to force ourselves to remain firmly planted in the familiar. But our psyches won’t have it. Eventually you must respond to the call of a transition, or suffer the consequences in the form of depression, anxiety, anger, or physical ailments. Accept, and if possible embrace, the changes you are encountering. Every change brings something new and beautiful into your life.
Transitions are the perfect time for experimenting. This is where the fun of life transition comes in. If you’ve spent your life doing it one way, now you can try the wide variety of other ways to do it. As you shift your thinking and feeling, you will see how much the world has to offer, and you’ve only been living a sliver of it. Don’t accept the first new whatever to come your way — take a look at everything out there. If you’ve got to change, you might as well find the best fit!
Write it all down, and then write some more. Journaling is so healing and helpful during life transitions. When your emotions and moods are shifting faster than you can keep up with, it’s good to be able to go back and read everything you’ve gone through and what you’ve been thinking. It is good for your soul to release your churned up feelings on paper. It is a great release and a directional tool for transition.
10. Get support
Just about every life transition can use some hand-holding along the way. Having a supportive friend, counselor, or coach to help you navigate the bumps and take the best actions is so beneficial. We all think we can do it alone, and we probably can. But we will arrive in much better shape if we’ve had someone supporting us through the transition period.
What is your experience with life transitions? What has help you? Please share your comments below.
Related book: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
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