Transitions, as breaking and renewal points, offer choice-points that determine how we unfold into the next stage of our lives. Many people find me during their wedding transition when when they’re broken open not only by relationship anxiety but also by the earthquake of feelings that erupt because of the transition itself. The same is true for the transition into parenthood, career changes, moves, and deaths. Because we’re not schooled in the language of transitions and we’re terrified of big feelings, people tend to feel burdened by what feels like an unfair onslaught of anxiety: “Why does everyone else seem to happy when I’m so sad and anxious?” My response, as I’ve shared many times here and in my courses, is, “You’re one of the lucky ones. You’re being shown your core stories, and the seeds you plant now toward healing the flawed stories will serve you in your next stage of life in ways that you can’t even imagine now.” Sure enough, I’ll receive an email months or years later from someone who was struggling through a transition that confirms this response. Like the following (shared with permission):
“I’ve been meaning to write you for the last couple years to thank you for your E-Course and for the three private sessions I got to do with you over Skype before I got married in 2015. Your work is spot on. I went from the most intense yearlong anxiety – having constant panic attacks, not sleeping, having a constant upset stomach, ruminating about whether or not I should marry C, etc.- to where I’m at today with my (now) husband. I LOVE him, and can tell that I love him almost all the time. Our relationship has deepened to levels I could not have imagined before going through the relationship anxiety (and doing the subsequent healing work, made possible by your roadmaps). I’m so grateful to be with C, and look forward to our relationship continuing to grow and shift over the days and years. I am just so grateful to you.”
When we’re broken open and rendered more vulnerable we’re given an opportunity to see our places of wound more clearly. It’s like a bone that hasn’t quite set, and how we treat it determines what happens next. Our emotional bones are broken during transitions, and it hurts. We want the pain to go away. We want to return desperately to our former selves. We can’t imagine anything positive being birthed from this death experience. And a death experience it is. As we leave one stage of life and we shed and peel away the unneeded layers of habits and holdings, the beliefs and stories that we no longer need fall away.
What we choose to focus on during the wedding transition determines how the early stage of our identity as wife or husband unfolds. What we choose to focus on during the motherhood transition determines how our first year of motherhood unfolds. We can choose to focus on the “stuff” – the dress, the flowers, the baby’s clothes and room and stroller – or we can turn inward and focus on the constellations of stories and the twin rivers of grief and fear that bubble and froth up daily.
And the transitions never end. My husband asked me last week if I think people naturally grow more confident with age. As I recently shared, I’ve entered the portal of midlife and I’m keenly, and sometimes painfully, aware of both the opportunities and the challenges of this next transition. I told him that, from what I understand, people only get more confident as they age if they do their inner healing work. Otherwise they follow the path of least resistance, which is to follow their wounding. Aging alone doesn’t usually create more confidence; think of all those old people are become more and more stuck in their negative and painful patterns. I see midlife is a major choice-point where we’re offered a potent opportunity either to choose to heal at a deep level or remain in our stuck patterns. What we choose now determines how the second half of life unfolds.
When we walk through these thresholds of monumental change, the mind will work overtime to convince us that “something is wrong”: wrong relationship, wrong house, something wrong with health. This is when it’s essential to draw from the practices that you learned during the last transitions(s) so you can send the taproot into the well of Well and know beyond words that you are okay, that a vitality runs in your blood like wolves or like some wild thing flapping waiting to be birthed anew, and when you dip down far below the stories you can breathe there. Grief lives in that underground place; it always will.
For me, the grief at this stage is the next-layer pain that there will be no more babies, that my sons are growing up, one will fly this summer and I can feel a slow unstitching from the other as he separates from me and steps into the next layer of his own skin. The pain splinters me, but only when I keep it at bay. When I open to it and I cry at night, the tears fall onto the page, and in their falling I feel the rush of vitality that comes only from feeling the depth of our grief. The silver mercurial lining that lives in tears awakens me and ushers me forward into my own next flight.
So it goes with pain and loss, growth and healing. The tears form the bridge that see us through the tenuous crossing from one stage of life to another, from one way of being to another, from one habit that is no longer serving to a more loving and authentic way of being. When we cry not from self-pity or shame but from the pure intersection of love and loss, we touch into the very core of what it means to be human, and there in the breast of Mother Moon and Mother Sea we find the wisdom to light the way through the night and into the break of each new day.