The Trempaleau Bay transitioning into the Mississippi
Dear Transition Master,
The first thing you need to know is that yes, you are a transition master. By this point in your life you have mastered many different life transitions: new schools, graduations, moves, you’ve done this. Some transitions you may have rocked and some you may wish for a re-do. Take the lessons and apply them to your current transition. Here are a few more hard-earned lessons to help you ease through your current transition:
Trust yourself. Transitions bring about uncertainty and uncertainty can bring self doubt and shame gremlins. “What do you think you are you doing?” “Who do you think you are?” “You can’t get through this”… sound familiar? Remember that you have the power to talk back to these self doubting messages. The simple statement “I am enough” connects you back to yourself. You may have made mistakes before, you may be making one right now, but YOU, my dear, are absolutely enough. Trust yourself to know that even when the uncertainty of transition sets in, you’ve got this.
Offer grace and self compassion. Remember that any time we are in transition we are learning something new. A new job, a new relationship, a new way of living life, a new pattern of behavior. This can make us feel vulnerable and in turn, pretty hard on ourselves. Visit Kristen Neff’s website: www.self-compassion.org for exercises and guided meditations on self-compassion. Give yourself a break by offering grace. You can and will make mistakes; it’s what makes us human.
Do no harm. While you are working on being kind to yourself, pay attention to how you are treating others around you, especially those in your inner circle. Transition often brings stress and it is difficult to see how your stress affects others around you. But believe me, IT DOES! Let your loved ones know you are working through your emotions and ask for a little extra patience, but also hold yourself accountable for not hurting those around you.
And speaking of working through your emotions, know when to get professional help. It makes complete sense that you may be feeling lost, overwhelmed, scared and maybe even a little depressed during this transition. A psychotherapist is trained to help you to assess the ways in which you are currently managing your stress and to help you build healthy coping skills to navigate this transition. And some (ahem…) will also help you to get rid of those shame gremlins for once and for all.
Know when you need alone space. It is okay for you to ask for more personal space during this time. Maybe you need to spend some time alone reading or meditating or taking a hot, relaxing bath. Maybe you need to spend some time in nature reflecting on what this transition means to you. Make the time.
Know when you need to be surrounded by people. This part requires consideration. The first step is awareness that you don’t want to be alone. The next part is honing in on what kind of people you want to be around. You know the friend who drops everything to listen, reflect with you, maybe hold a hand or hold your heart? Or the friend who will help distract you from your sadness with a night out filled with fun and laughter? Know what it is your heart is longing for and ask for it.
Transition is continual … don’t fool yourself into believing there is a set point or finish line. I think part of my difficulty writing on this topic is the question “transition to what?”. You transition into a new stage, but don’t get too comfortable; it will change again. If we are growing in our lives we are continually transitioning, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. No transition, good nor bad, will last forever.
Honor the steps you are taking along the way. Maybe today you cried less than you did yesterday. Maybe you reached a mini-goal you had set for yourself or followed through on something that moves you through this transition. Stop and celebrate. Remind yourself that change and movement occur in small steps. Bring awareness to these steps.
Stay in each moment as long as you need to and then move on. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention on purpose without judgment. It is bringing awareness to each moment. It is getting curious about what is going on inside you and/or around you. It is sometimes difficult to be mindful when we are in transition as we often want to look to the past which is familiar, but can also cause depression, or the future, which can bring more anxiety. Being in THIS moment and then letting it go is key to healthy transition.
Visualize how you WANT to be handling this transition. What does someone going through this transition in a healthy way look like? How do you see them handling themselves? Do they look calm and cool? Are they expressing their emotions in a healthy way? Are they asking for help? Are they setting boundaries? Visualize yourself handling this transition in a healthy way, whatever that looks like for you.
Control is an illusion. Here is a little secret. You do not have complete control over the outcome of this transition. If you do everything you have deemed as “right,” if you have crossed your t’s, dotted your i’s and checked every box, life is still unpredictable. This is both scary and relieving! Recently I was on a kayak trip and found myself in over my skill level. I kept trying to paddle the rapids, to get around them in what I thought was a better way. After a lot of internal freaking out, my self talk turned to “you can’t control the speed or the rapids, but you can use your paddle to navigate”. I let the flow of the water take me and used my paddle to move my kayak to the most strategic places in the rapids. I knew then that this was a metaphor for life and transition. Go with the flow, don’t paddle against the current and keep navigating.
Other than taxes and death, one thing is certain: life will continue to bring change. Sometimes these changes will be anticipated and planned, sometimes they will come unexpectedly. Regardless, with change we transition from the old and move toward the new, taking ourselves a little further along that river.