Transitions are part of being human. Some are relatively easy and often welcomed like transitioning from the work week into the weekend but others can be so difficult like transitioning from renting into home ownership. There are several factors that go into your experience of a transition including your personality type, the support you have, your mindset and the other people involved in the process.
As a teacher it was obvious to me how some children naturally flow through their day with relative ease whereas others needed a lot of support to be successful. I felt it was important to give these children tools that they could use to build their skills in this area.
I’m sure as you’re reading this you can think of people in your life that struggle when there’s an unexpected change in a plan or routine, or maybe you yourself have a hard time when the unexpected comes up or you’re preparing for a planned transition like moving to a new home.
I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone and although I’m someone that doesn’t often struggle with transitions I sometimes also find them hard to deal with. I’m currently preparing for the transition of having my middle child leaving home for college in Canada.
It’s funny because at the start of her senior year in high school I remember telling her that it was possible I might start acting clingy or awkward over the next year knowing she’d be leaving home. As months went by I noticed her struggling with the stress of college applications, deciding on a school and then everything that follows with all of the paperwork that goes with a normal university experience in addition to being an international student. Intermittently I’d find that her hugs lasted a bit longer than they had before or she’d show up wanting to hang out when normally she’d be in her room reading or out with friends. Of course, I welcomed these moments and cherished each one of them. However, I hadn’t yet felt that tug of clinginess I expected from myself or even any sadness.
Throughout raising my children (my other 2 children are 23 and 17) I’ve always enjoyed each stage of their growing up. Many of my mom friends would tell me how they missed a stage that had passed or wished time would slow down so the current age could last awhile longer. I found myself happy with whatever age we happened to be in and looking forward to what was coming next.
Then it happened and it surprised me. I had clearly been in denial about how I was feeling about her leaving home when BAM I couldn’t deny it any longer. Picture high school graduation day. We’re having fun getting ready, posing for photos and I’m busy coordinating who needs a ride to the ceremony, what time we’re all meeting, all the usual details. I feel a bit of excitement and nervousness but that’s it. Just doing my usual busy mom thing making sure everyone’s needs are taken care of. We get to the ceremony without a hitch, stand in a forever line waiting to go in and grab seats. I’m still cool as a cucumber, happy to be in our comfy seats with air conditioning. When my son had graduated a few years before the ceremony was still being held in the high school gym on the metal bleachers with barely enough oxygen for everyone crammed into the too small space.
Finally it’s time for the ceremony to start. Happily I see that there are fewer speeches to listen to and that most of them are fairly enjoyable, even witty and intelligent. Then it happens. They start playing Pomp and Circumstance and I literally hear and feel myself getting choked up. I quickly realize a full on sob session is about to begin if I don’t get ahold of myself! I turn to my boyfriend and share that I can’t believe I’m going to start crying right here and now. I take a deep breath and regain some control. I tell myself that now is not the time because for one I’m pretty certain that if I start crying it may be awhile before I stop. In typical mom fashion I’m also concerned that if my daughter sees me she might get worried or upset herself.
So, all is calm again as I watch more students file past me. Then it happens for a second time. This time, I really have to concentrate on my breathing and mindset to calm myself down. Thankfully my daughter is one of the last students to walk past where we’re sitting so by the time I see her sweet face I’m all smiles. Clearly I needed to do some work on preparing for her move happening in the next few months or move in day at the university is going to be a big mess!
If you have a big transition coming up in your life or you generally feel like you could improve in this area I have a few suggestions for you that I will also be using for myself. I hope that you will find these helpful as transitions are simply part of the human experience.
First as in so many areas of our lives take a look at your mindset. Let’s say for example you’re preparing to look for a new job. The job hunt can be stressful but instead of being overwhelmed by the stress perhaps you can look at the stress as a challenge. Plan for how you’ll cope with the stress and challenge yourself to do so successfully.
Respect the impact that transitions have on you. Learn from my story above. I was clearly ignoring how I was truly feeling about my daughter moving. Instead of taking the time to sit with my feelings and honoring them, as soon as the harder ones would arise I’d acknowledge them and quickly move on. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel sad, angry, frustrated and any other feelings you have. By honoring them you actually help yourself move through the process. Stuffed or ignored feelings have a way of coming back up even at inopportune times (like a crowded auditorium).
Recall times in the past when you successfully navigated a transition. That time someone dented your car while it was parked and they just ran. Pretty upsetting but you got through it and you can get through this time too.
Rely on your support system. Relationships are based on give and take so check that you don’t just take in yours. That being said, it’s okay to call a trusted friend or family member and share your feelings. Often times just talking about them lightens the weight that they carry. Your situation can feel less sad or painful. Plus your friend gets the honor of being there for you just like you would be there for them.
Focus on the positive. I know, this can be a hard one! I don’t mean to go around with a fake smile and say how great it is that you’ve lost your job. I mean balance honoring the hard feelings with finding the silver lining in the situation. Okay, you’ve lost your job so paying those upcoming bills might feel scary and you’re unsure of where you’ll land next. However, in the big picture at least you won’t have to deal with that insane commute you dreaded every day. There is always something positive to be found in a situation if you’re willing to dig for it.
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