In a number of my group Breathwork session this month, we spoke about how we are all dealing with some form of change, all of the time.
In my life I always seem to be the last one to realize that I am going through a major transition! I notice things seem to be off when I start to experience periods of depression and anxiety. I long for times past and start thinking if I could just engineer my life a little bit differently, I could get back to that place in the past where, even if I wasn’t entirely happy, at least I was comfortably unhappy. It always takes more time than I expect, but at some point, either I realize it myself or someone says to me: “Hey Anna, you just had a baby this year,” “you moved to a new country,” “your job just changed dramatically.” Oh yeah, Right! I am experiencing a transition.
Endings happen at the start of a transition and they are marked by a tremendous amount of grief. Even if the change is a good one, whenever a change happens, the “old you” has to die in order to make way for the new you to emerge. After the birth of my children, I first experienced profound denial about the fact that I had a baby at all. I tried to keep apace with my work responsibilities, despite my changing body and sleeping just 3 hours a night. I strove to be a hip Miami woman who just happened to have a baby, when in truth the baby was taking over my life, my body, my heart and definitely my sleep, and resisting that truth was causing a lot of suffering. I needed to accept that the baby-free woman was gone. That life was over and was never going to return. Cue the sense of loss, the tears, the sadness and grief.
And yet, once I opened up to the grief, even though I felt sad, it felt better than fighting with the truth. Once I acknowledged the loss, I could be more present for the new reality that was slowly taking shape. If you are in the endings phase, you have to be very gentle with yourself. You are shedding a skin and it can feel very tender, emotional and difficult. As much as you can, remember that grief is a natural part of this process (even for the good changes) and treat yourself with a lot of kindness as you say goodbye to what is gone.
Once you have moved through the grieving of your old life, suddenly you are thrust into a new space with no instructions and no experience of the terrain. It is a time that feels chaotic, uncomfortable, confusing, and disorienting.
These periods are also often marked by low productivity, needing to be alone, a feeling of suspension in time. The old structures that held up your life are gone, and yet you are not comfortable in your new way of life either.
When I finalized my divorce, I felt very float-y, very lost. I wasn’t exactly depressed, but I also wasn’t jumping for joy every day either. My identity as a woman had changed. Each day was a dizzying vertigo of trying to figure out who I was and what I was supposed to be doing with myself. It is very hard not to fill this type of silence or gap with distractions, anxiety, or excessive planning. And yet, if you can stay off your phone and open up to the feelings of not knowing, you will discover a great deal of creativity in this period of time. The middle zone is where our new route takes shape, one step at a time. It can feel out of control, but if we practice mindfulness and breathe through it, we will see that we are not just drifting…we are being guided to somewhere new.
Endings, transition, new beginnings...and on and on it goes. I think that when we learn that the only constant IS change, then we can begin to focus on managing our responses and developing our skills to adapt. Allowing us to not just survive these times, but thrive.