I have lived in Wisconsin all my life. I have experienced the changing seasons for more years than I am willing to admit. And yet, every year I look forward to the transition from summer into fall, fall into winter, winter into spring and then as the year passes and we are right back here again—to summer transitioning into fall. What do they say about Wisconsin? “If you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes and it will change.” And even if it doesn’t change that quickly we all know and expect that any particular season is only a breath away from yet another.
Some face the transition with sadness. The skier looks at the hill and mourns the warming suns of spring that threaten the frozen snow base. The wind surfer tries to stretch out the season with just the right wet suit and those who love the fall bike rides pray for the snow to hold off for just a few more weeks. As for spring… it might be safe to say it is our most welcome time of year as it promises us that the seasons won’t get stuck on winter.
And then, there are even those who like me, greet each season with a bit of ambivalence; sad to see one depart yet greeting each new season with anticipation for what those months offer up to us in terms of holidays and activities. I don’t believe my California relatives quite understand my fascination with winter. I love it when it arrives and yet I exult in the moment I can run barefooted and coatless to the mailbox with that first forty degree day.
Life is full of transitions. Some are seen as a door opening and others as a door slamming shut. Some, like our seasons, are expected and even welcomed. Learning to drive, going off to college for the first time, getting that first real job, parenting and retirement all mark the movement from one phase of our life to the next –each representing the letting go of a former time to allow us to head out into something new; each requiring us to leave something familiar behind in order to risk taking on the unknown.
However, some of our transitions are neither expected nor welcomed. Death, disease, divorce, job losses or transfers are just a few of such goodbyes that can bring fear, pain and grief. Whether they are welcomed or not they can throw your life into a tail spin. Like the dancer who twirls about on point, during these times you need to fix your gaze on something stable so you can maintain your balance. Below are some things that you can do if you find yourself in transition.
Find support from a group, friend, family member or organization –anyone who can prop you up or let you lean on them. Someone who understands what you are going though can help you feel normal and cared for.
Keep a Journalas this will help you process the strong, ambivalent feelings that can accompany change as well as help you see what kind of progress you are making towards moving on.
Review any expectations you had about the past as well as what you are headed into. See if your expectations are in line with reality. When there is a mismatch between the two you are more likely to experience unhappiness, let down or even depression.
Allow yourself to grievebecause you can’t by-pass this part of letting go. You have to go through it, experience it and find a new door to open. After all, each ending brings an opportunity for a new beginning but you can’t head for it until you let go of what is holding you back.
Maintain a routine so you have something to hold onto. Get up and retire at the same time each day. Get in your meals, do your laundry, walk the dog, go to church, read and relax on a regular basis to help reclaim the rhythm in your life. This will also help ground you while everything else seems in flux.
Maintain rituals and traditions even if you have to change how you do them. Holidays, birthdays, going away parties, or open houses? Just do them even if you don’t feel like it so you stay connected.
Listen to your gut or your intuition. It knows what you want and what you need before you may even be conscious of it and can put it into words. Do you need time alone or time with people? Is there self-care you are missing such as going for walks or getting a massage? Do you need to change jobs or the place where you live? Turning against your intuitive understanding of what if right or wrong for you might lead you down the wrong path. Gather as much information as you need to feel safe enough to listen to that internal voice that knows you better than anyone else.
Focus on the reality of the situation to help you find what things you do have control over and where your choices are. As Viktor Frankl reminds us in his book A Man’s Search For Meaning, even when everything we have is taken away, we are still left with the freedom to choose our attitude and how we will respond to a situation.
Set goals so you have something to focus on and work towards and then reward yourself when you reach them.
Rest from and reflecton what has just happened. Even in ugly packages like divorce there can be a miracle if you are willing to look for it. Being alone for a while can help you redirect your energy to finding new activities or friends or to travel to places you have never been. Maybe you will learn that you can be more independent than you ever thought possible.
Remember to find something to laugh about. Even in the worst of times a little humor and playfulness can lighten a heavy heart. This video was a nice reminder for me to enjoy this new season before the next one comes knocking.
Maybe you have been through a transition before and have learned ways to get through it that aren’t listed here. Feel free to leave your suggestions. Someone else might benefit from experience you have to pass on.