Two events that made me pause took place, almost simultaneously, last week.
First, I attended the retirement celebration of my husband's very good friend. There was a lot of love and laughter in the room. When her time came to speak, she stood up and delivered one of the most heartfelt and thought provoking speeches I’ve heard. She spoke about the need and importance of honoring not only new beginnings but endings as well.
She talked about her realization of the need to reflect upon what went between the two bookends of her life — as she called them — and took us on a journey of self-examination and gratitude.
A few days later, I happened to run into a young woman, my good friend’s daughter. She was on her way to freshman orientation and she stopped by to give me something from her mother. She was beaming. We spoke briefly, I gave her a big hug and wished her all the best. I watched her as she drove away, a little self conscious behind the wheel. I paused as I thought of the road opening up wide in front of her, her whole life beckoning to be explored and experienced, the various twists and turns unknown.
I took a deep breath. I thought of her mother and how she’s negotiating the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one, as her firstborn is moving on. I thought of myself and my daughters completing the dreaded freshman year in high school. Three more years before they're on their way to college. Are you kidding me?
There is a certain melancholy that comes with each transition. There are questions such as: “What does it all mean?” — “What comes next?” — “Why does it have to go so fast?” — “Where is a manual when I need it?” — “Was I a good parent? How badly did I mess things up?” — “Are they going to be all right?” — “Are they ready for this?” — "Am I ready for this?" . . . and so on and so on.
From the day we give birth to our children, we encounter a succession of stages. As soon as we get a handle on one developmental stage, they’re off to the next and we’re back to square one, trying to figure it all out and adjust our ways.
Whether we’re dealing with new and exciting beginnings, anxiety producing endings and everything in between, we’re bound to experience feelings of loss and a certain level of confusion and anxiety.
A change, whether it’s viewed as positive or negative, whether it's anticipated, initiated or an utter surprise, will affect us in surprisingly similar ways.
Think about what’s happening in your lives right now or in the life of someone you know.
- Was there a big change at work or personal life?
- Do you have less energy than usual?
- Have you lost interest in what used to excite you?
- Are you feeling less “social?”
- Are you trying to make decisions but end up feeling confused and unclear?
- Do you feel you’re walking through “molasses?”
All these are signs encouraging us to slow down and reflect upon what’s happening. The problem is that we haven’t been taught how to best deal with transitions. We don’t know how to honor endings. Instead, we tend to move too fast and push to get to the other side. We're fearful of the unknown.
Transition, the passage from what was to what’s next, allows us to grow and change our perspective. It polishes our understanding so we can see which direction our life is leading us to.
Think of how nature negotiates seasonal changes. There is the crescendo of summer leading to harvest and then it all slows down and goes underground. After the period of darkness and quiet, life springs back up and everything blossoms once again.
June seems to be the month of endings and new beginnings for many of us. There are weddings, graduations, retirements and relocations. It may be summer in our corner of the world, but with all these personal changes, we may be in need of slowing down to give ourselves time and refresh our perspective.
If you find yourself conflicted this way, don’t ignore the signs. Don't rush through it and don't dismiss the way you feel. Take time to get in touch with what it means that your child isn't a child anymore or that she or he is getting married or going off to college.
Allow yourself to experience the gratitude for all that was and the uncertainty of what may be. It's all part of us anyway.
Make time to be by yourself, even if all you can carve is fifteen minutes a day. Start by creating a sacred place for yourself; a room or a corner where you can go to sit and just be with your thoughts, read, journal, meditate, or listen to your favorite music. If you can, go for a walk. Nature is the ultimate healer.
Evaluate your commitments and let go of the nonessentials. Be kind to yourself. Identify the people in your life that are not supporting who you're becoming and put some space between you and them. There is enough self-doubt to go around. You don't need other people’s help for that.
It all begins with your willingness to act and honor your intuition. Then, it becomes a day by day practice. Every small step is taking you along your path to transformation. As insights turn to clarity and clarity into direction, you'll find yourself on a new path to where you're meant to be.
Enjoy the journey! It’s a gift!