Transitions

I just read a Post from a Vlogger who’d connected with me yesterday. She’s decided to move to another country (radically different from her own) and begin chronicling her new life in her posts and videos. I’m loving how many women are out there, doing things that satisfy the soul ! 

I realized, as she excitedly related her transition process (choosing personal mementos to bring to her new apartment, for starters), that a lot of my major Transitions have felt disruptive to my inner equilibrium in some way. Marriage; the birth of a child; a change of job; moving to a new city; divorce; the death of a parent; a major rift in my family unit. My Transitions have always involved or impacted other people, so the ‘ripple effect’ of change reverberated all the more. How will my husband adjust to our salaries being out of balance? How will my son adapt to his new school? How can I possibly cope with my extended-family’s ‘drama’—while I’m trying to work, parent,  and go to graduate school?

There was a period in my life that the Transitions came so fast and so furiously that I felt like I was being pummeled by huge waves, similar to an actual experience I’d had in Hawaii. After my son was born, when he was around 5 months old, we went to the island of Kona for ten days. The birth had been brutal (after 23 hours of labor, my body said “No Way!” to the 10-lb. watermelon trying to make his exit). When my feet finally hit the warm sand (my husband was setting up the pup-tent with the baby, on the beach), I’d failed to notice a large, red, triangular flag, flying straight-out horizontally, in the gale force winds. I entered the water and almost immediately, when I turned briefly to wave to my husband and son, was clobbered by a wall of water that felt as solid as a mountain. If you’ve ever been struck by this kind of wave, you know that your first sensation, after the initial body-slam, is tumbling:  end over end, flailing with arms out, nothing to grab on to but water. And the ocean, forcing itself into your mouth, up your nose and into your eyes, which have been shocked wide open. This is how my series of Transitions over, I’d say it was maybe two years, felt. Exhausting. Fearsome. Over-whelming. The kind of changes that impact your sleep, your ability to keep healthy routines, and, ultimately, your certainty that you will even survive them.

When I was tumbling around in that huge wave, knocked off my feet (and out of my entire bathing suit, by the way) in about 10 or 12 feet of water, I had the weird thought, “Ah…so this is what drowning feels like!” My husband was on the beach, with the baby. It wasn’t likely that he’d plow into the surf, infant in his arms, to rescue me. In the seconds that I was tumbling, with a pressing need to gasp for air, everything got calm – even with this monster wave roaring in my ears. I remembered something I’d read. Instead of trying to right myself vertically (struggling to find the seafloor with my feet, or, to tread water), I did my best to tuck my legs in, making my body into a ball-shape that the wave would then toss up onto the shore. Which is exactly what happened. I’m convinced I would have drowned shortly, had I not done this.

And so it is with our Transitions, when they plow into us en masse – or, when a singularly frightening change hits us, without our having time to prepare. The impulse is to ‘resist’; to rail against the confusion, the force, the nonsense, the threat; and, to dwell on the powerlessness we feel. There’s a particularly cruel irony (and bizarre logic) that drunk drivers often survive crashes that kill their victims precisely because their bodies are so relaxed (intoxicated) at impact. The body’s urge to ‘resist’ can hinder survival.

The best book I’ve read on coping with difficult or painful times of change is by William Bridges, and is titled “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes”. At this point in my life, my ‘seas’ are mostly calm; but I’ve also committed to the habit of never taking my eyes off the waves (though I’ll admit here that my Nature is to still ignore Red Flags from time to time).

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