Transitions are a bitch. I’m smack in the middle of one right now. Maybe you are too.
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 my partial sabbatical) or an unwelcomed disruption (like a job loss). 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 to San Francisco…a dream come true. But as soon as I settled in, I wanted to jump out of my skin. This wasn’t what I expected.
By chance, I picked up the book Transitions: Making sense of Life’s Changes by Bill Bridges. To say it changed my life is an understatement.
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.
Fortunately, Bridges became my guide, reassuring me that uncertainty is a vital part of the transition process.
This ‘in-between’ period is not a time to commit. It’s a time to contemplate, to feel our feelings, to grieve our losses. Even, like those primitive societies, commune with our spirit guides. We need to unhook from the past before we can create a new future.
Even now, I hear Bridges reminding 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.
How have you embraced uncertainty in your transitions?
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