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Field Guide to Modern Day Transition #101

Change and Transition…and Seasons of Life

 

…Preparing for Winter…
On the East Coast in the fall, when the leaves start changing, we start to think about what we need to do to winterize our homes.  We get out the winter clothes, put the storm windows on, stack wood, clean the chimney, bag up piles and piles of leaves, find the ice-scraper (although, for most cold-weather folks, that never leaves the car.)

Months later, in February and March, those who garden will start their seeds, and everyone begins their preparations for summer.  Eventually we open the house back up and start our summer activities.

A New Season / Adding On
When my friend Lena had her firstborn, she kept up everything that she was already doing and added on the expanse of duties and expectations around motherhood, all while on a reduced diet:  of sleep, of personal time, of nourishment.  She says now, “there was no moment in the day during this time that I felt fulfilled or satisfied.  All I knew was that I should feel happy, but every moment was on the way to the next moment, and I longed for the baby to nap, just so I could have some quiet.  And even then, it felt like there were so many things that needed to be done.  I couldn’t take the sage advice of ‘nap when the baby naps’ – and that is when I needed it the most.”

It created an existence of constant anxiety throughout each day during a time that should and could have been joyous. It doesn’t take long for this pace to wear seriously on the psyche, on relationships, on well-being.  It began impacting her feelings about work and it created tension in her relationships.  She kept this up for a while, until she realized that she had walked down several steps towards depression, and by necessity had to start letting things go.

The Equation
What makes us believe we can continue to add, without subtracting?  If you’ve filled the car for the camping trip, but still need space for the tent, you either add a roof rack, or decide what to edit.  There is an obvious limitation here, easy to visualize and by necessity, some things get left behind.  With our bodies and minds, this is much less obvious, and we are always taking on more than our capacity and resources can provide.

Part of it is our American culture – we always want more, and this has both benefits and drawbacks.  In terms of living life well and achieving fulfillment and some measure of inner peace, the very water we swim in can make it very hard to see when we have taken on too much.   It is often only after we’ve missed work deadlines or too many family events, or noticed the erosion of cherished relationships that our brains begin to catch up with our reality –  some editing is necessary.

What Season Are You In?
As Lena and I continued to talk about that particular time in her life, she shared this insight, “Much later, I began to realize that this time could be considered a season.  It was something that could be prepared for, and by necessity, other things would have to be put on hold for awhile.  Of course, if I had realized that earlier, I could have allowed myself more moments of joy and peace during this time.  But what this experience has allowed, I hope anyway, is to be aware of the other seasons in my life, while they are occurring, so I can adjust.”

Change and Transition – Not the Same
We often talk about transition and change interchangeably, but they represent two different phenomena.  Change can be traced to an event or initiative and transition is the response to the change.

As humans, once we experience a change, there is a very real and often significant amount of time it takes for our brains to truly comprehend the scope and scale of the change and begin to respond appropriately.  Understanding this can be the balm that soothes the pain of both.

This idea of seasons has application and implication for so many areas in our lives.  The terrible two’s, adolescence, mid-life.  Kids going to college, a sick older parent, a friend in need.  Birth and death.   Work changes.  These significant life events require attention, and trade-offs in time are necessary.  Understanding this can make it easier to see what is essential, what needs to be added on, and what should be put aside…for now.

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Hi all! I love to write on the things in life that bring joy and encourage clarity with the goal of sharing ideas and tools for building a fulfilling life.

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