Transitions are a bitch. And so many in my community are in the midst of one right now. As I listen to their frustration and confusion, I’m reminded of a cartoon:
A frog is leaping from one lily pad to another with a look of sheer terror as he realizes he’s about to miss his target. The caption read: ‘Just when you think you’ve made ends meet, someone moves an end.
That’s exactly how it feels to be in transition—whether it’s a conscious choice (like taking a sabbatical) or an unwelcomed disruption (like being laid off). You’re poised mid-air between the old and the new, wondering “what do I do now?’
I remember my first big transition, back in the 80’s, when I moved from the Midwest to San Francisco…a dream come true. But as soon as I settled in, I felt untethered, disoriented, anxious. This wasn’t what I expected.
Thankfully, I discovered the book Transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes by Bill Bridges. It was a godsend!
Bridges points out that primitive societies had rituals to give meaning to life’s transitions. Initiates were taken out of their villages, into the wilderness, where they didn’t know what was going to happen next.
“Every time we make a change,” he explains, “We take a metaphorical journey into the wilderness.” But nowadays, no one is there to guide us.
Bridges became my guide, reassuring me that uncertainty is a vital part of the transition process.
This ‘in-between’ period is not a time for commitment, but contemplation.
It’s a time to feel our feelings, grieve our losses, and, like the primitives, commune with our spirit guides. We need to unhook from the past before we can create a new future.
To this day, whenever I’m in the midst of change, I hear Bridges reassuring me: the more you can tolerate, even embrace, uncertainty, the quicker you will get through it.
Eventually, at some point, you’ll feel a fresh burst of energy. Opportunities will appear. Loose ends will come together. Out of the chaos of uncertainty, new beginnings will inevitably emerge.
But until that happens, I have to say: Traversing uncertainty is like taking foul tasting medicine. Just because I know it’s good for me, doesn’t mean I have to like it.
When in the midst of a transition, have you ever tried embracing uncertainty? How did it feel? Leave me a comment below.