What You Choose Determines What Comes Next

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.

29 comments to What You Choose Now Determines What Comes Next

  • Louisa

    Hi Sheryl, thank you so much for this post – your work has helped me so much over the past 18 months and I am now consciously ready to get married on Saturday. I never thought this day would be possible, and can visualise my anxieties trying to creep in during this final week leading to it. I notice them and acknowledge them and am working to accept them as I move through this important transition in my life. Thank you so much for this site, your blog and the other users who post here, knowing others who have gone through similar struggles has been priceless.
    Louisa x

    • Congratulations on your hard work, Louisa, and many blessings for Saturday!

    • Time4love

      Louisa,

      I would just like to start by congratulating your amazing hard work and dedication.
      Reading this made me invision myself, behind the keyboard, writing this post one day.

      Thank you for sharing this with us and have a beautiful wedding day and many blessings x

  • Kendra

    Hi Louisa,
    Did your anxiety start in engagement or before? This site has been a Godsend for me as my anxiety started soon after deciding to be in a committed relationship with my boyfriend. My wonder, emotional availabile boyfriend. How did you get through it?

    • Louisa

      Hi Kendra,
      It hasn’t been easy. It started very soon after we got engaged, a few days after although I definitely had some underlying anxieties then. It was awful and I spiralled into depression as I couldn’t understand how I could go from being so in love and happy one day to being so conflicted the next. I found this site and as you say it was a godsend, I also coupled it with CBT local to me and that has taken me the best part of 18 months to really get to a place of feeling content and confident about my relationship. As Sheryl says you need to do the work to get there, only by accepting that this is happening to you, trying to understand how to get through it whilst also being kind to yourself is key. I still have my bad days and anxieties about this weekend are trying to creep in, but I’m doing my best to remind myself how far I’ve come. Love isn’t something that is electric and exciting every day – though obviously it can also be this at times – but it’s about having someone that will pick you up during these hard times, will sit and talk to you about them even if they don’t quite understand them, will cook you dinner or give you a hug when you most feel like you don’t deserve it. I never thought I’d be capabale of writing a post like this and believe me I will be continuously working on myself for many years to come. I hope that you can find patience and trust within yourself and get to where you want to be x

  • LovingKindness

    Hi Sheryl,

    I just wanted to thank you for your reply to my email and for your healing words every Sunday. I have slipped doing the daily practices because I have been feeling SO good for the last few months, and when the discomfort of my current engagement-marriage transition reared up, I felt a bit lost! I have restarted my meditation practice (and am GOING to make it consistent this time) and have begun to journal again to process my thoughts. I had a wonderfully refreshing chat with a married friend who echoed many of your sentiments on this blog even though she has never read it. It was a great reminder that life and relationships can be uncomfortable at times, and the work is to meet and accept the discomfort and realize it is all normal!

    Thank you for your wisdom!

    LK

  • M

    This was very poignant for me. I have now been married to a wonderful man for 2+ years. I went to my parents house on Friday and had a really lovely day with my dad. When it was time to go, i was a bit sad to come back to my adult life and realize I’m not “daddy’s little girl” anymore. Fear whispers, “you’re so comfortable in your childhood home, maybe you’re not meant to grow and you should stay there after all,” but that sounds so ridiculous. I suppose i am not as far out of this transition as I thought I was!

    • The grief of growing up and growing older will always find us even if we’re not in the midst of a transition. The more we name the grief and allow ourselves to feel it, the less convincing that fear voice will be.

  • During my last pregnancy which resulted in my daughter, I took your Birthing a New Mother course. Having had depression before, and for other reasons, I was at a higher possibility of getting postpartum depression. It was a combination of many things that I did and didn’t do, and also I think a good pinch of luck, that enabled me to have a postpartum time that was filled with joy and tears, a heart bursting with happiness and love, and also times of healing other grief. I was so grateful that I didn’t fall into a depression. Your course was an important piece of taking care of myself before and after my daughter’s birth.

  • Anna

    Thanks. What if one experiences that internal rightness about a decision to be with a certain person, but for whatever reason it has not unfolded as anticipated? The person I love, and who despite my anxieties (undulating internal “no”s or “yes”s) felt internally very right, through their own concerns, broke up suddenly.

    How does one navigate? Is it possible to sense this internal rightness, and yet have it not be so?

  • K

    You are such a gifted writer Sheryl. Your words speak to the soul. Thank you.

  • Dee

    Sheryl,
    As always, your writing is so eloquent and a true guiding light or a life buoy to those of us that are, or occasionally flounder in the sea of emotions, thoughts and anxiety.
    Thank-you.

  • Northernlass

    Thank you Sheryl, this is just what I needed to read today. We have recently moved and are now renting our first house. I’ve found myself deep in relationship anxiety, which I thought I had left behind me for good about a year ago or more. (Or at least would only have to deal with in low levels!) The subjects have been fast-paced and ever-changing. What if I don’t want to live in a perfect little cottage away from the city and not be able to keep up a social life like before? What if I’ve settled with the wrong guy? What if I’m boxing-in my life? What if, what if, what if?

    I remember that these ‘what-ifs’ are evidence of relationship anxiety at play. There are moments when I see my life for what it is. We have been given this perfect opportunity by the Universe to rent a lovely cottage, it’s like something from out dreams. It all happened so fast and amazingly, we’re so lucky to have found something like this. We’re within driving distance from my favourite towns and I we are in the country so peace and quiet — just what our introverted souls have needed.

    Anyway, thanks for this post. It’s helped a lot.

  • Angela

    Thanks, Sheryl. Last year I have relocated to a new continent and accepted a new job with the hope to settle down and making this my home, only to have been let go of it 5 months later, after having been mistreated by my manager for the whole time. And now I find myself looking from scratch for a new job, a new place to call home and a new life.. Talk about transitions and grieving.. Aside from the bullying and the unfairness of it all, another big part of my anxiety now comes from having been stripped away of my already shaky self confidence and not to know what the future will look like for me. This affects me greatly also my search for new opportunities. It’s like I am not able to look at my future with courage and hope anymore.

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    I guess life is a constant transitioning path. One thing after another, i have been through the marriage, the move, now i feel that i have to transition into not being a part of my families life, they have abandoned me like mother whom I have heard on the news, like im nothing. With no loving reason. Its hard this has been my life with my mother and brothers for the last 5 years on and off. Narcisstic behaviour is very difficult to deal with. I choose to sort things out because their my family but they wont budge. Over completely nothing. Mothers day is coming up this sunday and I choose not to call her she blocked my number. Its beyond me how she can do this to her only loving, caring selfless daughter. It really hurts, i feel so angry, and I feel 😐 😢😢

  • Angela

    I guess life is a constant transitioning path. One thing after another, i have been through the marriage, the move, now i feel that i have to transition into not being a part of my families life, they have abandoned me like mother whom I have heard on the news, like im nothing. With no loving reason. Its hard this has been my life with my mother and brothers for the last 5 years on and off. Narcisstic behaviour is very difficult to deal with. I choose to sort things out because their my family but they wont budge. Over completely nothing. Mothers day is coming up this sunday and I choose not to call her she blocked my number. Its beyond me how she can do this to her only loving, caring selfless daughter. It really hurts, i feel so angry, and I feel 😐 😢😢

    • Have you read Stop Walking on Eggshells, Angela? And also daughters of narcissistic mothers. I think more reading and support could be helpful, but I know that nothing takes away the pain of being the daughter of a narcissist. Sending you much love.

  • Gopika

    Hai,my transition is from being a single person to being in love with a wonderful guy despite each of our shortcoming.But sometimes I have feelings to cry and be in despair,sometimes I lament about a friend with whom I broke up unconsciously(worst thing that could happen,and I got into a relationship after this)

  • Leslie Stobbe

    I too am one of the ones that took your course in 2012 and feel free from relationship anxiety. I see it come up in other ways (new motherhood, moving) and I have noticed the things I learned in my relationship anxiety directly help me with these other transitions. I feel a peace with myself, my spouse and my life decisions like I couldn’t have imagined before I got married. Thanks Sheryl.

  • rochelle

    Thanks for this post Sheryl. I wonder if you can help advise me the best way to encourage none conscious family member to embark on inner work. My elder brother has had many girlfriends but never been able to stick with the relationships as he views them as “not right” for one way or another. I don’t want to mention your work or relationship anxiety to him, as I worry this could be anxiety provoking in its self (when currently he doesn’t suffer from anxiety in these relationships- the last thing I want is for him to have relationship anxiety like me). Regardless of whether he has a form of RA or not I really feel like he would benefit from doing inner work, like you said, you need to do the inner work to become a more confident adult. Ive suggested he sees a therapist before but he isn’t so keen. How else can I encourage him without being too judgemental etc, is there any books you could recommend for a non-conscious but very sensitive and loving person who isn’t familiar with this realm of inner work.

  • Angela

    Thanks very much for your help and continuing support 🤗❤️
    I purchased the book, but i found it to be more on the topic of border personality disorder, is that the same as narcissism behaviour, im confused. Not sure if my family are BPD.. 🤔🤔 do u suggest i see a therapist about my pain and in knowing what to do? I feel i have no answers.

    • There’s a lot of overlap between borderline and narcissism, but the book Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers would also help. And yes, I strongly recommend seeing a therapy about your pain. It’s very difficult to navigate these waters alone.

  • Angela

    Thanks Sheryl,
    I feel for over 6 yearsnthat i am having trouble breathing like im not breathing normally and i focus on it. Am i suffering from hyperventilating? If so can you do a course on the this on these physical, i am seeing a phychatrist about this. It bothersome to me and it interfereswith my daily life. What r ur thoughts on this?

  • Alyssa

    Sheryl, I’m reading this post after I wrote my comment on your more recent blog post. THANK YOU so much for this, as I’m in the midst of transitioning to a new house. This post brought me to tears. I am at work right now so I can’t fully let my sadness out, I think I will go for a quick walk – I am certainly looking forward to a good cry tonight! Thank you so much for acknowledging moving as a death of sorts and validating what I’m feeling. Sending you love during your transition as well. <3