Transitions

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Change is hard – the small changes as well as the big ones. Lately, there are moments when I think, I can’t believe the things I have been through, and where I’m headed – not in a “poor me,” kind of way. No, I rarely feel sorry for myself – I’m far too aware of how many people have it worse than me, and I’m grateful for my relative good fortune. But still, there are those moments when the transitions feel as though they are getting the better of me.

I like to know what to expect as I head into a day, a week, a month. I plan some of my activities seasons ahead, and as my schedule gets busier, I’m getting more of a sense of the overall shape of my year. So when curveballs get thrown my way, I tend to get a little anxious.

There’s the major life curve balls – the death of a loved one, losing a home. Even the good ones can throw your life into disarray – birth of a child, or a new job. With every significant change in our life circumstances comes a revisioning of who we are and what’s expected of us. It can be as extraordinarily unsettling to come into good fortune as it is to weather a tragedy. Just think of all those people who win the lottery, only to find their lives in tatters a year later…

I have lots of experience dealing with illness and death. They’ve been a part of my life and my family for decades now, and though it was never my intention, I’ve become quite adept at dealing with both the large impacts and the daily intrusions wrought by unpredictable health circumstances.

My husband, friend and life partner of 22 years passed away about three and a half years ago, from complications due to a lifelong chronic illness, sickle cell anemia. He left me a single mother to our son, and the owner of our two-family home. Now, my son is almost 10 years old, and I’m preparing to sell the house I can no longer afford to keep. At the same time, I’m busy launching my own business and digging into a new romantic relationship.

My changes are unique to me, and matter most to me and my family. In other words, I’m pretty sure they are not keeping other people awake at night. However, the way in which I deal with them does affect other people in my life. As they are all dealing with their own issues, my anxiety has the potential to rub off on them, just as my relative calm may actually reflect back to them another alternative.

This is the motivation behind my desire to share my experiences with you. I’m not in the business of identifying myself by my trauma. Sure, I could, but I choose not to orient myself around my losses. Instead, I like to think of my life as a series of stories – some more harrowing than others, each with a beginning, middle and end that when combined, have become an amazing blending of lessons and challenges, one informing the next.

And I guess this brings me back around to the topic at hand. Transitions. For me, each day is a series of transitions. Every time I wake up in the morning, I have to negotiate my way out of bed. Moving from one task to another requires a shifting of focus. Getting my son prepared and off to school is but the first phase of the day. From there, I have to put on my professional hat, my creative hat, or my domestic goddess hat (that’s the one I wear when I have to do the dishes, or fold the laundry). Sometimes moving from one small thing to the next can be as difficult as managing a major trauma.

I’m not sure why this is… I only know that fear and anger can rise up, ready to dismantle us, at any given moment. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have the patience to examine the reasons, and I certainly don’t have any advice as to how to prevent those feelings from occurring in the first place. Just be different? Ha ha.. I think not. We are who we are, much as we’d like to pretend otherwise.

What I do know for certain, is that in every moment of our lives, we have choices. We can act on our feelings impulsively, reflexively, in ways that we may even know to be destructive, but somehow feel helpless to change. Or, we can endeavor to take just a few extra seconds, enough for one good breath, long enough to give ourselves a chance to calm down a little, consider a different path, even wait on a response.

In all the complexity that comprises the many layers of our lives, there is one thing we all have in common. As long as we are alive, each of us continues to breathe. In that one mundane yet somehow miraculous act, we are, every single human being, connected. There has got to be some potential in that – some way to drill down from the biggest, most dramatic and complicated circumstances to the myriad of small moments in a day, each of which gives us the opportunity to pave the way for a smooth transition to the next…

Photo courtesy of LaserGuided

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6 responses »

  1. Breathing, like counting 1- 10 on the slow in-breath and then also 1-10 on the slow out-breath, is a great stabilizer. It is also an essential part of yoga practice and meditation too, following the breath. Breath balances us. I love how you end with breath in this piece, because breath is our most essential experience. Here is wishing you many happy filled breaths in March, the time of year the little flowers reappear with their hopeful fragrances.

  2. I had a period of about 6 years of tragedy, illness and grief and have come out the other side a stronger person. I will be thinking of you in the months ahead as you transition to the adventures and challenges that lie ahead. Thanks for sharing your story and your insights.

    • Thanks Sheila. I definitely feel the positive effects of having lived through many trying years. I have a resilience now about certain things that sometimes surprises me, and I find that I’m able to handle current challenges in a different way than before. Most of all, I seem to have a deeper appreciation for joy now than any other time in my life. I feel pretty happy most of the time – maybe because so much of the hard stuff has already happened. I kind of like the calm now…

      Sharing this kind of stuff has let me see just how many people there are who have also been through really horrendous things in their lives, and come out intact. I guess because they know I can relate, they tell me things just like what you have said. I’m sure you are stronger now. It’s good that you can claim that strength, since I’m sure you earned it!

  3. I think we all struggle with making plans to accomplish all the things we need to do as opposed to just taking things as they come, perhaps the more ‘spiritual’ way of moving through life. I haven’t yet come up with a solution to this dilemma. Part of me knows that I just can’t force something to happen, but yet how do I get it all done? Breathing helps, so much. You are so right about that. And perhaps it is in that pause that we realize that it all doesn’t have to be done. Some things end up just taking care of themselves.
    And, BTW, I LOVE the domestic goddess hat image. I will definitely keep that in mind. 😉

    • I know what you mean – there is a ton of faith involved. Lately I’ve been having these really unfocused days, and I realized today that maybe it’s not that I’m UNfocused – maybe it’s just that I’m not focused on what I thought I was supposed to be focusing on… either way, there’s definitely a letting go of expectations. I kind of like it… 🙂

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