A little less than two years ago I decided to leave.
I made a decision to leave a position of 10 years at the local church that I served, while (at some point) also deciding to leave a marriage of 15 years. I left a whole life behind.
It’s complicated and I never knew that these two events would overlap or coincide with one another, but it’s the way things worked out. Many who know of these transitions or are even reading this now may be saying– “Wow, what a nutcase”. But most never knew the pain. And so to use the well known saying, “You can’t understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes”. Well, that feels appropriate for now.
Maybe over time I’ll be sharing more of my story, as it might be helpful to others, but for now I share what I’ve learned over the past two-ish years about transitions. (This will likely be over several blog entries)
Some of the hardest transitions have to do with divorce, death and identity and there are no road maps for these transitions. Maybe that would be easier in some way, but here’s a freeing thought: the path is really all our own— for better or for worse. The decision or circumstance around the change is deeply personal. And guess what? So is the path through the transition. That said, it’s really nobody else’s place to assign judgement, criticism or critique about how or what you are doing on that path. You get to be the one who invites whoever you want to be on that path with you– joining you in exploring and finding insight & wisdom to navigate these sometimes shark infested waters.
And to those who feel that they have the authority or take the opportunity to force their viewpoints on you when you are walking this path well feel free to push back. There is nothing wrong with letting those know to, “Back off– back WAAAY the F off”, because it is not their place or their path. This is sacred ground meant for those that can handle with care, humility and kindness– all others, no entry. Know that this is not unkindness– this is firmness to protect the space you will need to heal, grow and move forward.
In the next few entries I’ll post some of the topics of transition, but I’ll leave this entry by saying that the in-between of transitions can often feel like a kind of pit– not like a deep, black hole but like a plateau-ish space that is in-between the thing that was left behind and the new thing that you’re moving toward.
The plateau can be marked with all kinds of emotions: confusion, grief, discomfort, loneliness– even anger. It is often uncomfortable and when people ask how you are it is hard to come up with any words to describe how you are feeling or what is even going on. It’s like trying on a suit that is four times too big and trying to figure out how to make it work so that it puts out the appearance that it fits you and it expresses some semblance of your personality and style. The longer you wear the suit and reflect on it the more you begin to ask, “Who am I, anyway”?
This is awkward– and so the instinct here is to run and to get out of this stage of transition as fast as you can. This space is the most ambiguous of the stages of transition and it can feel as though one is not moving, but just standing still.
Pause for a moment. Don’t rush. This stage is a vital part of the process. There is something to be learned and listened to in this moment. And although, it’s uncomfortable and difficult and– even painful it is an important stage. In his book called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes William Bridges talks about this shift and he states that you cannot move into the new without the old ending. This in-between state which Bridges calls ‘The Neutral Zones’ is something we have to go through and not around.
So you might as well sit back and try to incorporate a few things at this stage:
1) Stop fighting & Surrender. The struggling about and trying to fist your way through this stage is only suspending the inevitable. So relax and accept where you are at.
2) Pause & be patient.
“A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” Henri Nouwen
3) Take this pause to write your autobiography or your passage journey. Find time alone– reflect and listen.
4) Be ever so kind with yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong to be in this particular space in the process– it’s just a natural part of the process so do some self-care and have grace for yourself in all the awkward moments.