The messy middle: Working with the tension of transitions
This post isn't about "surviving" transitions, nor is it about "putting your head down and plowing through" transitions - hoping you'll eventually enjoy the destination you're trying reach. Believe me, I know this self-defeating pattern all too well. I perfected these unhealthy habits for more than 30 years...until my thyroid broke, my adrenals failed. This post is about working with the tension of transitions, dancing with it, loving up on it, leaning into it.
"Transitions" refer to the messy middle. You enter a transition once you make a decision and you've stopped or started whatever it was that needed stopping or starting but you haven't yet launched into your new reality. The untethered limbo of time between a decision and a new reality is a transition. Decision - transition - new reality cycles last for two minutes ("I want pad thai for lunch..."), while some can last for two decades ("I'm not in love with my husband anymore...").
This summer I quit my job to travel the world indefinitely. This dream in and of itself has been a series of long transitions. From the moment I made the decision to quit till the moment I actually put in my notice...close to three years. From the moment I bought the backpack I'll travel in till the moment I actually sold + donated everything I owned, rented my condo, and packed that backpack...seven months. From the moment I got on a train to California till the moment I step on my one-way flight to Bali...one month. There have been innumerable transitions and tensions brewing in my world over the last two years.
I want to share with you what The Universe taught me when I leaned into the transition, close enough to hear her. Take what you need from the lessons below, bypass what doesn't serve you.
The tension created by transitions does not have to be negative.
The more you can see your life as a series of adventures, the more successfully you will navigate transitions. If you immediately throw up a wall of negative resistance to any tense situations or sensations in your life...you will stay stuck. You're too powerful to stay stuck, love, I promise you. To pull out of this tailspin, just understand that conflict is not always bad, negative feelings are dangerous when they're repressed, and transitions do not have to be of the "put your head down and plow through" variety. Perception is queen.
Every experience in your transition is a teacher.
...if you let it teach you, that is. When you recognize that the tension of a transition has come into your life to teach you something, it becomes easier to lean into that tension instead of running away from it. Think of yourself as a detective during your transition phase. Crank up your creative juices and figure it out. What lessons are you learning, what are you learning about yourself and other people, what are you learning about how The Universe operates? We're here to learn and evolve. Transitions are our classrooms, our training grounds.
Something is meaningful because you say it is.
Do not for one minute waste time comparing your transitions to the transitions of other people. Don't do it. You can obviously learn macro universal lessons from the experiences of others, but getting lost in the weeds of the micro details will not benefit you. "She moved to France...my transition into a new home is so lame compared to that..." "Her divorce is catastrophic...my breakup with that guy I was dating is so small compared to that..." Sound familiar? Stop. Something is meaningful because it's meaningful to you. Period. Your experience is your reality. If it feels big and scary, it is big and scary.
It's okay that it's not okay.
You are allowed to take up space. You are allowed to be discontent...even pissed off. You are allowed to express yourself. You are allowed to not be fine. It's okay if it's not okay. The whole "put on a brave face" thing? Trust me, a lifetime of that makes you really fucking sick. Also, remember that this too shall pass. Your transition may be two minutes or two decades, but it will eventually pass. You are stronger than you think you are. You can do hard things.
Self-care is critical.
You cannot take care of those you love and serve the world in the way you want to serve if you are exhausted and threadbare. Let yourself take an extra long salt bath on a Tuesday at 5:30pm simply because you want to. Treat yourself to a movie when you just can't face the logistics of it all for one more minute. You know what fills you up and soothes your soul. Crank that way way up during a time of transition.
You don't have to do it alone.
Confession: I'm not great at asking for help. Please learn from my deficit in this regard. My lone wolf stubbornness has taken me to powerful places in my life; but without fail, the moment I let my guard down and bring a trusted friend into my transitions...is the moment my entire body breathes a sigh of relief. The moment I hired a health coach to get me through the psychological storm of my Hashimoto's diagnosis...the moment I hired a business coach to introduce me to the world of entrepreneurship...the moment I finally break down and call my mom in tears. We are tribal, communal animals. Here's some beautiful truth: "Being tough doesn't make you stronger, it just makes you tougher" (Danielle LaPorte).
I want to hear about the transitions you're moving through in your own life. How do you make sense of the messy middle? How do you work with the tension of transitions? Let's chat in the comment section.
Love + lots of patience,