Whether we’re ready for them or not, transitions are a way of life. Changing jobs, getting married, having children, moving, death and divorce are only a few. They can be a source of discomfort, stress and anxiety, but they can also be a turning point and a transformation of the old to the new. Sometimes we choose the transition and sometimes it chooses us.
When life demands that we learn new ways to respond to old and new challenges, we have a choice. We can respond with fear and anxiety, emotions that keep us stuck or we can respond with a positive attitude and an open heart.
A loss is a loss is a loss. And any loss, big or small, requires a grieving process. When we deprive ourselves of this process, we not only bury any emotions associated with the loss, but we ensure that we will stay stuck staring at the closed door instead of peeking through the open one. Besides, those emotions, I promise you, will surface somewhere, somehow and when you least expect it! The transition between the closed door and the open one is like a hallway. It is a path to transformation and it doesn’t have to be scary and dark. As you walk through the hallway, take note of the floor, the pictures on the walls, are there other doors (possibilities). Transitions can be turning points and paths to transformation if we let them.
It is no accident that transitions and turning points are associated with butterflies and metamorphosis. The metamorphosis from the caterpillar to the butterfly takes work. The caterpillar has a job to do and even though it means that once the transformation is complete, the caterpillar will cease to exist in its present form…the beauty of the butterfly and the transformation of life, is simply a new more beautiful version of its old self.
So, how can we manage transitions and turning points so they don’t bring us to our knees? I’m no expert, but I have come through more transitions than I would like to count….and here’s what I have learned.
While it’s important to allow yourself time and space to grieve and give yourself realistic expectations and timeframes…be aware and don’t allow too much time to pass without taking any steps. Baby steps are good! Just take a step. Build on each step one after the other until you feel the momentum and let it take you to the next step. If you need time to process and grieve, cry or scream do it! Just don’t let it stop you in your tracks Choose to move forward.
Be patient and kind to yourself. No need to do it on your own. Find support, friends, family co-workers, counselors, read books, meditate, take care of yourself. I realize sometimes this can be difficult. People don’t always know how to help and can sometimes feel awkward and not know what to say. Reach out anyway. The support they do provide can help to keep you moving forward and to keep a healthy perspective.
When I think of all the transitions I have experienced in my life, I see that each time I had a choice, a choice of how to respond. Yes, there were times, like through my divorce, when I was paralyzed with fear and sadness and hurt and anger. But as I look back, somewhere inside I realized that I had a choice and that choice could either break me or transform me. Now, it certainly helped that I had a toddler to care for and therefore a strong motivating factor. Nonetheless, I still had a choice.
Find the thing that can drive you, the thing you can turn to when everything feels unstable and scary. It might be a person, like it was for me. It might be a goal or maybe a deep sense of purpose. Try not to lose sight of it. Keep it in front of you and every day, take a step to move closer to it. There is truth to the saying, when one door closes another one opens. Look for the open door.
“The hardest times in life to go through were when you were transitioning from one version of yourself to another.” – Sarah Addison Allen
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