How strange that the nature of life is change, yet the nature of human beings is to resist change. And how ironic that the difficult times we fear might ruin us are the very ones that break us open and help us blossom into what we were meant to be. Elizabeth Lesser
It’s early afternoon and as I look out upon Fishing Bay, I notice the shifting light on the water. The days are getting shorter and autumn is moving toward winter, reminding me how Life, like the seasons, carries us through cycles of change. Change is what we can count on, and while some love change, others resist anything that disrupts their sense of routine and the familiar.
Change, in the form of a move, job loss, serious health issue, end of a relationship or death of a loved one are significant life events and often precipitate a period of transition that includes grief and adjustment to the loss. Change, in the form of exciting life events a new marriage, new baby, or new job are seen in a more positive light, yet these, too, are preceded by endings and require a period of transition.
In those early years, the Springtime of Life, everything was fresh and new, seeded with potential and possibility. Developing capabilities, physically, mentally and relationally, through play, education and experiences, each of us changed rapidly through childhood into early adulthood. The suppleness and flexibility of youth may grant us greater ease integrating changes when we are young.
Shifting into the brightness of Summer, we found ourselves in a dynamic stage of life with increasing commitments and responsibilities. Many of us focused on building our careers and businesses, committing to long-term relationships and having children.
Moving toward Autumn, some of us have ended marriages, been dealing with life-altering diagnoses, and experienced our parents passing. Our children have grown, our interests and work may be changing and perhaps we are now grandparents. Still vital, our colors are vibrant as our energies shift and we begin sensing what lies ahead.
Winter is beckoning us into our Elder stage that of Wise Woman and Sage. Perhaps we have parents and relatives who are in their later years and, caring for them, we are beginning to see our future selves.
I was into my forties when I began noticing that the process of moving through a loss or ending didn’t result in a straight path to a new beginning. In fact, it was more like a winding road, a period of integrating the change. What helped was reading William Bridges classic, The Way of Transition. In it Bridges wrote Transition is not just a nice way to say change. It is the inner process through which people come to terms with a change, as they let go of the way things used to be and reorient themselves to the way that things are now. He named this place of uncertainty and confusion the Neutral Zone, where we may find ourselves feeling unsettled, unsure of our footing or the next step, low in energy and confused. In this act of passing from one state into the next, we often find ourselves transformed.
How can we recognize and best care for ourselves when we are in this process of transition? In our resistance to change, we may feel stuck, paralyzed by fear, gloomy and unable to see a way forward resulting in ongoing suffering. It takes courage to let go of the inner connections you had to the way things were. The question that always helps you to shift your focus from the change to the transition is, “What is it now time for me to let go of?” Stepping into this inquiry, through journaling, in conversation with trusted friends or counsel with professional support, you can find support and build the courage to keep going. As you discern what you are ready to release, and begin envisioning and building the next steps, create time and space for self-care, in rest, exercise and time in nature. Honor and acknowledge what is sloughing off and even create a ceremonial process to honor and release that old you. And celebrate what you are becoming.
As Bridges says, since change is a wall and transition is a gate in the wall, its there for you to go through. Transition represents a path to the next phase of life. May you walk this path with ease and grace.
Gretchen M. Krampf is a catalyst for change. A teacher, coach, retreat host, facilitator, wisdom-seeker and community-gatherer, Gretchen delights in holding space for people as they discover their courage, develop potential and move through transitions. The mother of three, grandmother of four, she lives on Orcas Island with her husband, Paul.