I have a love-hate relationship with life changes and transitions, no matter how much I tell myself they are good for me. Ready or not they always hit on a complex of emotional and physical responses; struggle and triumph rarely come in equal measure. As children we happily charted our growth in inches and delighted in our emerging abilities and skills. The surprise and exhilaration of suddenly realizing I was actually riding a two-wheeled bike without any help remains sharp in my memory as a major highlight of my childhood.
There is the sound of my mom’s footsteps beside me on the bike, the pumping of my sneakered feet when I looked down, the bright edge of sunshine and passing trees as I focused straight ahead, and then, realizing I was on my own moving at what seemed a great speed. The moment coalesced around physical coordination and self-awareness and flashed to the realization that independence was within reach. Not only could I ride to the end of our street I could discover new streets! That moment which I can see so clearly still in my mind’s eye, presented the real opportunity of skill building and mastery as steps towards goals. More than that, it showed how reaching beyond fear into the unknown could result in unexpected and highly desirable outcomes.
Anticipation is the most delicious appetizer!
Attaining mastery is not the end goal in itself. It’s how you get to use it that matters. As humans we are specially equipped to anticipate by envisioning ourselves in a variety of future situations. Imagination can be a pleasant escape or a great motivator to action. We can also construct behavioral steps to arrive at those imagined outcomes. Making plans, that feat of coordination involving time, resources and relationships fuels a good part of our daily life. Meet ups, coffee dates, day trips, the vacation of a lifetime, leisure and life events can all be anticipated from the safety of your sofa, office keyboard or, yes, bathroom toilet.
In fact, we actually need these plans to keep ourselves vital. Planning for the future, after all, means you think you’ll have one.
When we’re stressed with changes, whether it’s a toddler discovering tantrums, how to choose an educational option or a midlife career change, planning actually contributes to well being. How many times have you said, “I’ve got to get away?” Turning that sentiment into a plan and then an action and experiencing it fully when you get there is part of how we are able to put one foot in front of the other each day. Just be careful you aren’t spending more time planning than doing!
There are more than a few scrapes and stumbles along the way in transitions, no question. Pedaling fast can lead to a nasty crash, I know firsthand. We can’t guess what external forces may be waiting to block our way around a blind corner. Sometimes we can even trip ourselves up or undermine our best efforts. Nothing stays the same and we are repeatedly encouraged to embrace change. Certainly the times we live in are altering everyday existence at a much faster rate than in previous history.
Friendship and Connection
Whatever our level of enthusiasm for change, big or small, it’s helpful to make a connection or two to others navigating the same path. Not all friendships can withstand change. Proximity and similar life circumstances often lead to long-term association, and that’s rewarding. When life changes arise it’s good to remember that we all compare ourselves to others and comparison and competition can further unbalance a precarious outlook. Turning the situation into a positive change for yourself and your friendship is tricky; you may not be on the same page for awhile. Overtures must be made to test the waters, to open up an opportunity for conversation, but the astute among us will be aware of signs that indicate enthusiasm or reluctance. Tread lightly and you will sometimes be rewarded; 50-50 is good odds in the friendship game.
Mistakes and Compassion
Misunderstandings can reveal cracks in an otherwise intact façade. And, wow, I’ve made plenty of errors of judgment when it comes to friends—how reserved or open do I need to be to make a connection? Should I offer help or keep my mouth shut? Do you remember this old TV ad—“are 4 enough, are 6 too many?” Verbal diarrhea can have disastrous results!
Acknowledging that you’re going through a stressful transition, knowing that your present plan may not yield a full outcome but will be a step along the way to new goals, you have to have compassion for yourself and others. Today’s pundits say–Fail early, Fail often, Learn something. I hasten to add, Don’t forget to forgive yourself. I make mistakes, follow false leads and get stuck in blind alleys. I’ll probably do it again.
Which brings me to Charles Dickens. He famously made use of available social media, aka newspapers, and produced his now classic novels in serial form. Using the innovations of trans-oceanic commerce he held readers’ attention on both sides of the Atlantic through the tribulations of his characters. Pip had great expectations, and they did not turn out exactly as he’d planned. What he learned along the way, though, added up to what we call a life.
I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.
Je ne sais pas où je vais, mais j’arrive.
photos Claire Mauro