How To Survive Transition
Years 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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