One of my favorite books is one by Robert Brumet, Finding Yourself in Transition. As we leave behind this unprecedented 2020, I wanted to offer you a personalized summary to share some of the author’s insight to build perspective regarding a year packed with significant vicissitudes.
Rosemary Filmore Rhea asserts that change is the keynote of life. We see changes everywhere in the cycles of nature, particularly in season trees. When the air chills, the leaves change color and shower down, leaving the trees dark and bare. The trees come alive when winter moves into spring with a new ghost of green and then bursting forth with rich foliage. Trees do not resist but cooperate with the cycle of nature.
Just as trees, there is a divine rhythm at work in our individual lives. Endings and new beginnings mark the patterns of our days. Although we intellectually understand that transitions are part of the creation, when change comes rapidly in our individual lives, we feel threatened. We resist and question the meaning and purpose of what we are experiencing.
“We experience many transitions in our life journey. Some are wanted, pleasant, expected, and some are unwanted and unexpected”.
I had experienced many life transitions. As a child growing up, we had three relocations due to my father’s work. At a young age, I experienced changes in my environment, leaving friends, schools, houses, and more. Then when I married, dual carriers got us moving cities. I had lived in 20 different dwellings in three countries. I had changed jobs six times, from which 3 were layoffs. I married and divorced twice, and I had experienced all the lifespan changes related to raising a family, from having children to become an empty nester. My last big transition was to leave a long corporate career as an HR professional to become a consultant and a professional coach.
All these life and career changes had made me very interested in working in personal, career, and corporate change. I feel a sense of purpose when I help my clients find meaning in transitions leading to breakthroughs and personal transformations.
Transitions are often a time of crisis containing both threats and opportunities. Even as uncomfortable they might be, they bring chances for pivoting into a new life. According to Bridges, Each transition has three stages: Endings, The Void, and New Beginnings.
Everything has a beginning and an end. During our life span, we experience many beginnings and many endings. According to Brumet, in our Western culture, we tend to celebrate beginnings while we fear or resist ends. Unfinished ends tend to cloud our ability to deal with and process change in our lives.
To me, an ending is like ‘walking away’ from something or somebody and can take the form of a job, a career, a partner, a place, a lifestyle, or more. Either by choice or imposed, the time has come to walk away, leaving behind that aspect of our lives.
When ending something or someone, we have to let it go or disengage to open to other possibilities. Instead of clinging to the status quo, we can learn from the trees that are willing to let go of leaves to prepare for a new season.
“What we call the beginning is often, the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from”. T.S Elliot.
Sometimes change comes to our lives like a landslide, impacting several areas. Radical change challenges our basic assumptions about life. That was the case for me in the Spring of 2017. I divorced, I walked away from the place I called home also left my corporate career. The road maps of my reality did not work anymore. I had to learn to navigate uncharted territory. Processing the pain from these simultaneous endings allowed me for a new level of understanding that carried me through to a new life.
Brumet calls it a stage of emptiness, the place in between the old and the new, filled with strong conflictive emotions such as fears, uncertainty, and anxiety. Paradoxically, if we are willing to face these emotions, the void could lead to personal transformation.
The void to me is like ‘standing still’ in the middle of a desert and feeling disoriented when surrounded by a bared open space. Then we are forced to look inside of us for strength.
Not all the crisis bring transformation unless we are willing to follow a process of mindful observation. Making decisions based on the present and not necessarily based on our past.
Just as there are seasons of nature, there are seasons of our inner life, when something ‘dies’ and is reborn.
I experienced the void when building a new career as a solopreneur. This uncharted territory of reinvention has required trial and error, wins and loses, fears, and uncertainties. This creation process for my new career has led me to a vocation filled with purpose and meaning.
A New Beginning
To embrace the new in our lives, we need to shift internally. Then we become ready to attract external circumstances that reflect the transformation that has already taken place inside us.
Instead of clinging to the bared branches of our tree, we have to let go to be ready for our next season.
To me, a new beginning is ‘walking towards’ something or somebody. It commences when we have completed the work from previous stages, and we are internally ready.
New beginnings bring a new set of challenges. We are facing with new territories that make us feel unprepared for the new task. New beginnings require a commitment to change and the willingness to learn, grow, and expand to possibilities.
As I look back, I am not interested in returning to my old life because I had changed inside. I am not the same person anymore.
It is real for me that change has been the keynote of my own life. The year 2020 has not been an exception. Just as the trees that follow the flow of nature, our lives are filled with transitions that will help us grow and transform, only if we surrender and let go.
Let’s process all the transitions that we experienced this year to create new beginnings in the year ahead.