When you are right inside a transition, in that stage where you might have only just begun to recognize shifts around you, particularly in a transition that doesn’t quite fit into any category of transition you’ve experienced before, it can just feel like a murky, unformed abyss disconnected to anything. If it isn’t a traditional transition (got married, lost a job, new diagnosis) it may even take time to recognize it as a transition to start with. Not yet being able to name it or explain it is SUCH an uncomfortable place to be in. It can feel next level impossible to make it clear to anyone else, let alone yourself, exactly why you are feeling drained, incapable of doing things like you used to, out of sorts for unknown reasons. And the naming and clarity of what kind of transition it is and will be in your life may be a slow, long process. What can help when it all feels murky?
First, it may be empowering to simply note that you are in a transition. You may not know what you are transitioning out of, and certainly may not have a clue what you’re transitioning into. Yet. But just by recognizing that yes, shift is happening, may be what’s needed to help you with my second recommendation:
Give yourself so much grace, patience, space, and love and release the need for total comprehension. If you can name that yes, you are in a state of change, then you can start to gather your inner and outer tools for living into and through that change. Things like: rest, time for reflection, time for absolute nothingness, permission to not make yourself perform, trusted friends, professionals like a great therapist or coach, routines to take the mental load lighter, time off, time focused, the permission to tell people you can’t yet explain what’s happening but you know something is shifting and you hope to use the shift for good. And permission for that to be enough.
Clarity will come, but not necessarily in the timeline you’d like. At some point in the future you will be able to look back and have the perspective you need to describe why and what was shifting, and what came from that. You will be able to describe it’s meaning for you, and maybe even how you made it meaningful. If you can’t do that now, that is only because it is still unfolding for you. Release the very human desire to control that unfolding.
Transitions are fertile time for personal growth and meaningful change, if you let them. If you are open to navigating the uncomfortable, temporary mystery at the beginning and middle there will be payoff in the end and beyond, a foundation you can build strong things from. You don’t have to, but you are invited to mine the moments in and after for things you need.
All of 2022 was a period of shift I couldn’t even name until about halfway through. There was a traditional transition point in there – the death of my father – but it was the other, way more ambiguous changes afoot that took me a while to recognize. Simply put, it felt like all the ways I’d been able to succeed at things in the past (creating clear goals, and a timelines to achieve them, and pushing through all along the way) stopped working. The accumulative pressures of pandemic life, early parenting, the drawn-out grief of my dad’s Alzheimer’s’ journey, all just stopped being things I could white-knuckle my way through. Survival mode was no longer working.
I knew I needed to emerge from it, and I wanted to emerge from it. And I was beginning to gain new ways forward through what I was learning from my coach certification journey. Thinks like making conscious choices, being honest with all my emotions, understanding all of life as energy—constructive and destructive energy—and that I have power to choose how to live with both. The other thing that helped was the radical, life-affirming experience of being coached and being listened to and seen and affirmed and built up by my coaches who were also learners along the journey.
I could not explain what the transition was while I was in it, and I hated that. I love being able to name things. But I also knew slapping a label on it would stifle what good could come from it. I wanted the meaning to emerge, and I knew it would if I let it. And my wonderful therapist helped me see just how fundamentally I needed rest, and more than one form of it. And I made choices to pause on being the productive self I wanted to be (but also just was not able to be, what with the brain fog and exhaustion and not-clear thinking going on), as much as I could. It was so uncomfortable to rest. To release the appeal of forward progress. To find a new orientation to time and how I value mine. To decouple productivity from self-worth. But I also had a strong hunch it would lead me where I really needed to go.
It's only been a few months now of feeling like I’m in the sweet spot of the transition: mining for meaning and building strong things on top of the foundation of what I learned from and in it. I don’t want to lose the tenderness I felt during the murky middle, that tenderness connects me to others.
If you are in a mysterious beginning or murky middle of a transition I invite you to trust yourself, and trust the process. And if that feels like too big of a stretch, then at the very least acknowledge you are in a shift. That knowledge can be the first step in the path toward letting that shift be an opportunity to grow.