I was reading a book on a plane the other day called Change Your Trajectory by Bishop Dale C. Bronner. This isn’t the type of book I expected to make me cry, but it did.
As soon as I read this:
“Transition is a terribly uncomfortable place for you to be in your life. You will start hurting and not even understand where; you’ll think, I’ve never hurt like this before. I’ve never dealt with these kinds of problems. I’ve never been at this point in my life before.”
There is something about a writer articulating for us exactly how we feel that is just so helpful and comforting and healing. When I read that paragraph, I began to cry because I thought, “Yes, that’s why I’ve been so ‘weird’ lately because I am so freaking uncomfortable all the time!”
Now I can put a word to it.
Bronner went on to speak to my soul by explaining the difference between “change” and “transition.”
In short, change is external whereas transition is internal. You move to a new house – that’s “change.” You have a breakdown during your first month in the new house because your miss all of your old stuff and want to go back to the things that are familiar because change is hard – that’s “transition.”
“All change requires transition;” Bronner writes, “it requires an internal adjustment that our flesh recoils from.”
I’ve experienced this recoil and I bet you have too.
I quit my job exactly a year ago, and I’m still recoiling against the change in pace and hours and workplace. I’m recoiling against the uncertainty that comes with being a freelancer and the wonderful things that come with it, too.
It’s like I’ve just been fighting through uncomfortable feelings for a year and honestly, I’m tired. I want things to feel steady and normal again, but I’m realizing that more than that, I want to learn how to weather change and transition.
Because I’m beginning to suspect that those are the constants of life.
After reading Bronner’s definition of transition, I’ve decided there are three things that are important for me, and all of us, to do during a time of change.
1. Be Aware
I remember when my parents helped me move to England for school. They were there for a week and I was a complete terror the entire time. I was moody and short-tempered and for seven days I declared that nothing was going right for me or the way I wanted it to.
I hated that I was acting this way, but I couldn’t stop myself.
It would have helped if I had been aware of the internal things caused by transition. I could have told myself while I was boarding the plane to Heathrow, “Ok, this is going to be hard. This is a big move and you may experience big emotions as a result.”
It might be helpful to make the loved ones around you aware of this too. Give them a head up on your crazy. It might prevent some potential fights.
2. Give Yourself Time to Process
I think in a time of transition, I need to be extra sure I’m giving myself time and space to process things. This could look like simply journaling or using whatever outlet you use to think about things intentionally.
Or it could look like talking to someone.
A few months into my recent transition into freelancing, I hit a wall of anxiety. I couldn’t get out of it. My thoughts turned dark and weird and I felt out of control, so I made an appointment with a counselor I had gone to a couple of years ago.
On a white board, she drew a diagram of my brain and what the brain looks like under severe times of anxiety. It was so helpful just to sit with a professional and talk things through. Some seasons in life call for extra help.
3. Be Nice to Yourself
Did you have a spontaneous breakdown in the grocery store? Have you been crying at stupid things? Did you snap at the technical support guy on the phone? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t let the weight of shame press down on you. Let yourself feel what you feel and don’t “should” yourself too much.
It just adds to the pressures that change has already brought.
Transitions take time to adjust to, and they are uncomfortable. Let yourself feel uncomfortable for a while.