We’ve heard it, read it, or said it: “The only Constant is Change”. A man named Heraclitus was apparently the first to make this observation, in his writings around 500 BCE. Let that sink in, and nurture your spirit for a minute: we’ve been stressing over changes in our lives for a while. As long as there’s breath in our lungs, change is coming: ready and welcome… or not.
A certain kind of change is particularly tricky for a lot of people; I’ll definitely include myself in the group who struggle with endings, and new beginnings. For about four straight years (I’m out of that period for the moment), the endings in my life felt like freeway pileups. Instead of twisted steel it was emotional wreckage.
When endings come – whether they’re expected or a total surprise — they can wreak havoc. The ending might be the loss of a life, a job or lifestyle; a friendship, marriage or significant relationship. It can be a choice, or something imposed on us. Even in the most positive scenarios, endings force us to adapt to new feelings and circumstances. There’s a process we go through, at our own pace, in our own way, according to what feels right for us.
As I grow older, most aspects of Life seem to have gotten so much easier. Maybe clarity and wisdom have just made me more patient and tolerant! But change is always lurking. When a major ending turns my world upside down, I turn to survivors of life-altering shifts. I want to understand. I want to feel that All Will Be Well; that an ending will always be followed by a New Beginning. I want proof, in the version of someone else’s story. Author William Bridges and his book “Transitions” is one of my trusted guides. Not only does Bridges reassure with “Here’s why you feel what you feel,” but he describes the process without sugar-coating it. I appreciate that.
Following a big life change the body, mind, heart and spirit need a period of quiet time known as the Neutral Zone. A friend and I were sharing stories recently about our dogs. She’d lost a beloved Huskie she’d had for 15 years and went into a months-long funk. Her adult kids immediately began urging her to get a new pup.
But Mary pushed-back; she needed time to process her loss. The Neutral Zone is essential rest, and also preparation for a New Beginning. Even if an ending feels more good than bad, it’s still disorienting: it’s detaching from what was, and preparing for what comes next. Whatever and whenever that gets revealed to us.
We’re encouraged to “roll with it”, “walk it off”, and “go with the flow” when Life’s changes upset our inner balance. But Bridges says, that isn’t enough. “…it’s important to do more than simply persevere. We need to understand what’s within us that might be undermining our resolve…” and allow it to surface in our minds and hearts. Let it tell us what we need to know, before we move on.