According to my calendar, March 20th was the first day of spring in our Northern Hemisphere. Interestingly enough, when it’s spring for us, it’s autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. In my mind, spring and autumn are the “transition seasons” that help us prepare for winter and summer, and summer and winter.
When I lived in the Midwest, autumn was my favorite season. I enjoyed watching the leaves change from green to so many brilliant colors before they turned brown and made their journey to the ground.
Texas is already so brown that my favorite season living here has become spring…when everything comes to life again. My grass is beginning to turn from brown to green, perennials are finding the sun and starting to poke their heads through the earth in the flower beds, and just yesterday, I saw a new bird’s nest in the small Live Oak in our backyard. It is definitely a time of rebirth, renewal, and regrowth.
While I very much enjoy watching the events of the transition seasons, I suspect I’m like a lot of people and don’t handle change well with the transitions in my own life.
Navigating through the unfamiliar waters of change isn’t easy for any of us. The transitions are always the hardest parts of life…the beginnings and endings, the takeoffs and the landings are the things that give us the greatest challenges. They are also often the things which bring us the most opportunities for happiness.
We’ve had three weddings in our family in the past two years. While the actual wedding days were full of joy and fun, each of the three couples have been adjusting to new marriages and all the changes that go along with wedded bliss.
For some, marriage means adjusting to life with a new roommate/spouse and learning about that person’s habits, needs, likes and dislikes. For others, who have already learned to live together, it means adjusting to sharing things like money and taxes and family holidays, and knowing that life as a single person is now part of the past.
Another major life transition is the birth of a baby, especially a first child. A new baby is such a source of pride and joy, but it is also unfamiliar territory for most first time parents. Sleep deprivation, learning to care for a child, the constant worry that we are doing everything right, and the adjustment in the relationship from “couple” to “family” are transitions most of us have made in order to make children a part of our lives.
My niece, Jessica, had her first baby in September. When I asked her about her transition to motherhood, she said it has been “easy at times and difficult at other times.” But once her daughter began sleeping through the night, it became a lot easier for everyone.
My brother and his family are moving to another part of the state soon after living in this area for many years. Moving is another transition time in life that can be difficult for a family. Whether the move is to a new state, or simply across town, it can be exciting and traumatic for all family members. Getting used to a new home, new schools, new neighbors and even a new time zone, all present their own unique opportunities and challenges. If a new job is a part of those changes, the transition becomes greater still.
For me, the loss of a loved one has been the most difficult life transition. In the past five years, I’ve lost three dear friends…all very suddenly. Time may dull the pain of loss, but it never completely goes away.
Those who read my blog regularly know that I wrote about my family’s difficult adjustment after my brother died. As I said in Proximity Rule, “Death of a loved one changes how we define ourselves and our vision of the future, and how we fit into that future. Life takes on a new shape when a person we love is gone. Family takes on a new shape.”
It seems like the one constant we can count on in life is change. But it’s been my experience that change also brings opportunity. For instance, I would never have started this blog and published my book if I hadn’t experienced a job loss transition in 2012.
Change happens to all of us and many (like me) fear or dislike it. People often become emotionally distracted by life changes and dwell on what they might be losing, instead of focusing on what they need to do to make a successful transition to the new turn their lives have taken.
After I went through a major life change five years ago, a good friend had the wisdom and insight to ask:
“What are you doing now to move forward with your life?”
That question stopped me in my tracks, because I wasn’t really doing anything to move forward, and I wasn’t even sure what it was that I should be doing. Her question made me realize that some people, perhaps those who are more accustomed to dealing with change, know that there are things one can do to make the transition times in life easier.
Some people handle transitions more gracefully than others. I’m always amazed and impressed by those who breeze through transitions as seamlessly as if they are simply changing clothes. I suspect they must know something the rest of us don’t and they have some personal strategies for dealing with life changes and the accompanying challenges.
We create our own experiences by how we choose to deal with change. We can choose to resist change and cause ourselves much pain and stress, or we can choose to embrace change and open our hearts and minds to new experiences and opportunities.
Author’s note: After doing a little research on the subject, here are some things we can all do to help us successfully navigate life transitions. It seems the majority of these strategies involve some changes in our attitudes, or in how we think about and approach life transitions.
*Let go of your old life and think of it fondly as a dear departed friend.
*Give yourself some time and space to accept and get used to the changes in your life.
*Savor the people and things in your life which haven’t changed.
*Realize that you have a blank slate and can make your new life whatever you want it to be.
*Consider the many new opportunities you have as a result of your life changes.
*Embrace your new life and consider it an exciting new adventure.
*Have a positive outlook and acknowledge that change can lead you to a new and better place.