How To Survive Transition

We get lots of chances to become butterfliesYears ago when I ran my little shop in California I used to freak out when a key employee handed in their notice. This happened way too frequently in this small college town, since most of these employees had larger ambitions than working in retail.

“Oh no! Not again!” I’d moan to my (now ex) husband. “I depended on her for so much! How will I ever find someone as good?”

And my husband—who could actually be quite wise at times— would intone, “The only constant in life is change.”

Oh, how I hated hearing that!

Especially because I knew he was right.

There’s no escaping transition in today’s world. There are the transitions of our own making—such as a big move, leaving a job, or retiring—and the ones that hit us out of nowhere, like the defection of a spouse, a scary diagnosis, or the death of a loved one.

Then there are those transitions that are anticipated yet not welcomed—think menopause, empty nest, or ending a relationship that simply isn’t working.

Whichever type of transition you’re facing—it pretty much sucks to be in the throes of it.

Whether it’s a huge life shakeup, or something as minor as switching cell phone carriers, change usually serves up an assortment of not-so-pleasant emotions.

Fear. Anxiety. Sadness. You know, all those feelings we do our best to put the lid on.

And, weirdly, transition can also make you feel stuck, like you’re treading water in some sort of limbo-land and nothing will ever change.

We all react differently. Some people want to dive under the covers and hide from everything, while others get lost in an overwhelming flurry of activity that doesn’t bring any satisfaction.

Personally, in my own attempt to escape the pain of transition I veer towards the latter, throwing myself into action, rushing toward the next phase.

And this is problematic. Because all transitions, whatever their scale, are like a metamorphosis. And, like the caterpillar transforming to a butterfly, transitions take time. They require pausing for each phase.

And for me the phase that is most uncomfortable is the melt-down, or cocooning.

That’s the part where the caterpillar crawls into its cocoon and literally melts into a primordial ooze before it can even begin to take from as a butterfly.

I HATE the cocoon phase!

I’m like, what?! Slow down? Stop and rest?? Integrate??!

This is so NOT my M.O.

However, I’m learning (the hard way) that if I try to skip or skimp on this important step, then my butterfly cells get all wonky. The wings don’t get a chance to fully form, they just don’t work right.

I find myself on a frustrating treadmill of trying, without ever quite slipping into the satisfying final phase of transition… Flow. Or flying.

Now, you may be different. Some people actually get stuck in this first cocooning phase of the transition cycle. They never want to crawl out from under the covers and turn off the Netflix to start dreaming about what comes next.

The thing is, we all must pass through all the stages of transition before we can come out on the other side, even the uncomfortable ones. And the quicker we allow that discomfort, the quicker we can move through it.

We get lots of chances to become butterflies.

Some transitions take ten years (hello menopause!), others can be passed through in a day or two. Most are somewhere in between.

When you can notice that you’re in transition and allow whatever uncomfortable feelings that are present to simply be…you take a powerful step toward easing the pain and shock that transition brings.

If you’re feeling stuck—this is the ‘secret’ to moving past it. This is how to survive transition. And even to thrive through transition.

It’s to actually stop and acknowledge what is present. Feel into what’s going on underneath, allow the tears, the anger, the fear, to bubble up and pass through your body.

Because… for all his faults, my ex knew what  he was talking about: the only constant in life is change.

Shift happens. One transition will end, another will begin.

And it’s in that scary and empty space between one thing and the next… in that slippery transition space… where a portal can open. And we get some wind at our backs to step into that next evolution of self.

We get lots of chances to become butterflies.


What challenges are YOU facing with transition? What helps you get through? Share in the comments!

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Showing 6 comments
  • Cindie Chavez

    Such a lovely post! And right in time for Mercury Retrograde – such a powerful time to “cocoon”! This post brought to mind what I heard someone once say that we always talk about the butterfly and how wonderful it is to fly free but we never talk about what that damn caterpillar had to go through. lol. Thank you for bringing this idea to the forefront, we need to remember that it is so valuable to allow those times of quiet and stillness and waiting. 🙂

    • sarah

      So true Cindie! And what a good point about Mercury Retrograde being so supportive for the cocoon phase. It’s such a crucial step toward truly flying free as the Butterfly you are meant to be. I’m not a biologist, but I understand that if someone tries to cut open that cocoon before the caterpillar is ready to emerge then the caterpillar just dies! Reminding MYSELF of that now. Cocooning is OK! Cocooning is good! Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Lisa

    I’m with you, Sarah… I hate that cocoon phase! All those years of programming made me a really good do-er and a not-so-good be-er. Thanks for reminding me that the cocoon phase isn’t just okay… it’s a really important step to what’s next. 🙂

    • sarah

      I hear ya Lisa! Our western society pushes DO DO DO, be productive at all costs. I’m still kicking the habit of measuring how good the day was by how much I got ‘done.’ But how much more delicious to measure the worth of my day by how I felt whether activity was involved or not… and how connected I felt to myself!
      Skipping the cocoon phase just leaves us in an endless spin of doing, and so little clarity. And I keep saying it because I need to constantly remind myself LOL.

  • Shane Osowski

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m new to holistic hot sauce and I must say that your post was right on time!
    After being a successful single mom for 20 years, I married a wonderful man in 2011 and went back to college to finish my bachelor degree when in March of 2013 my in-laws could no longer stay home alone. So my husband,my 12 yr old son (whom I homeschool) and I moved in with them to watch over them. Within 6 mo. I left school and quit my job because they needed 24 hr. Care. Not one time have I ever regretted my choice. They passed away in February of this year just 11 days apart (they were married 62 yrs). After the initial shock and trauma of fighting to keep them alive, to having them both slip away so close together my life role has completely changed and I have no idea who I am anymore. I totally lost all of myself in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient and a cancer patient. I see this as an opportunity to choose who and what I want to be. The possibilities are limited by only my imagination. I’ve cocooned and every time I feel to reveal my butterfly wings the negative evilness of my husband’s sisters prevent me from flying. Thank you for your post to remind me that I am not alone:)

    • sarah

      Wow Shane! That’s quite a story of transition! I’m glad you’ve taken some time to cocoon after that intense and somewhat traumatic experience. It sounds like it’s definitely time for devoting your energies to YOU and to begin to dream and scheme about what’s next. It also sounds like it would be helpful to work with your thought about your husband’s sisters and to possibly remove yourself from any toxic energy. Sometimes big transitions require some guidance and impartial listening. Let me know if I can assist in any way! ~Sarah

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