It’s been a little while since we let all of you sit in on one of our happy hour conversations. In this chat we explored the topic of transitions as each of us are STEEPED in change! Between my big move, Krista’s shift in jobs, and Sarah transitioning her 3rd child (who also happens to have Type 1 Diabetes) into kindergarten in the midst of undergoing treatment for her Lyme disease – we are certainly 3 therapists in major flux.
I (re)introduced the gals to a model of transitions by William Bridges explored in his book, The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments. Essentially he breaks down the experience of transition into 3 stages (we kinda like the number 3): The Ending, The Neutral Zone and The New Beginning. Listen in as we process these stages together…and laugh a little along the way too.
Immediately after I sent all but the toddler off on their first day of school with that giant smooch they secretly love but pretend to loathe, I felt a wave of emotion that I instinctively knew I’d need to spend the day unfolding. This was not a surprise arrival. I knew this emotional release was inevitable months ago when we first discovered that life as we knew it would be dramatically shifting in a nanosecond. Look at me trying to sound witty and smart. Confession: I don’t really know what a nanoseconds is, but it sounds super fast, so I’m sticking with it. You see, nanosecond life-shifts by nature don’t allow the time and space to dig into deeper levels of the emotional and psychological processing of our experiences. But emotional data left unprocessed is persistent and perpetually attempts to make its way to the surface. I’ve learned at this point in life that it is much kinder to myself (and SO MUCH kinder to any and all creatures who come in contact with me) to greet the (re)surfacing of emotions with arms wide open. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few days – holding space for all that needed to surface.
Perhaps I should back up and catch all of you up just a bit. At the very beginning of our summer, the time of year that I most look forward to for a host of reasons that do not include an affinity for the warmer weather, we discovered that the path my husband’s career was headed down was a dead end and we were in desperate need for some re-routing. Within less than a week’s time, the re-routing we were searching for came clearly into view, but like most experiences in life, it possessed a duffel bag’s worth of pros and cons. Greater financial freedom and advancement in Brian’s career meant another relocation for our gang of six and an ending of sorts for my five year old private therapy practice.
Our summer consisted of selling our house, purging through and packing up our belongings, finding a new place to live and trying to wrap all of our minds around this sudden and unexpected disruption and uprooting of our lives. I knew that the real process of grief likely wouldn’t occur until we had moved through all of the steps involved with the relocation.
By the end of August, the initial relocation process was complete: I finished unpacking and getting everyone situated in their new space, completed and submitted a gazillion forms to process new school enrollment for each of the big girls and registered them for a year’s worth of classes, did all the back-to-school shopping madness, and took care of haircuts all while distributing a multitude of hugs and wiping away many tears as they each continue to grieve and accept this new reality. So there I was, standing at the front door of our temporary home (we’re renting to buy ourselves sometime to figure out where we want to plant our roots) watching each of my terrified yet courageous daughters walk TOWARD their next chapters. And I just knew it was time for me to find enough courage to face mine as well.
For the last five years, my schedule has been anything except consistent. Graduate school class times changed every semester, internship hours varied and licensure and supervision was accomplished at everyone else’s convenience. I don’t remember a single week where I did the same thing everyday. I never went to sleep at the same time, or woke up at the same time; never brushed my teeth at the same time or took a shower at the same time; never worked the same hours. And we, as a family, never ate dinner together at the same time each day. Now that I have reached the primary goals I was working so hard to achieve, I am, among other things, master of my own schedule and have decided to get back into the rhythms and routines of daily life that I have been missing for far too long.
One of the rhythms I have always longed for is to have a morning routine. I used to pray that I might be a morning person. “God, I promise if you make me a morning person, someone who greets the sunrise with a smile of anticipation, I think I could rule the world…on your behalf, of course.” I thought that getting up in the morning and doing all the many things I needed to do before everyone else awoke would set me up for success. Once, I even bet on myself and asked my mom to pay me if I managed to get up at 6:00 AM every morning for a month. She took the bet, knowing I have never been that someone who greeted the day with a smile, and won. I did it for three days and then realized my nice warm down comforter and soft cotton sheets were worth more than whatever trinkets I could buy with my prize money. I was even so convinced that not slumbering my life away was the key to happiness that one time, I took a large blue stick of chalk from my children’s sidewalk art kit and wrote in gigantic letters across the top of my bedroom, “Wake up, O sleeper! Arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14). Alas, the mantras, the bribes, the gimmicks and goals never brought about a change in my behavior. Something else, entirely, did.
For the duration of my time in school, Karl was the one who did all the morning duties. He got the kids up, dressed, fed and packed their lunches for school. I would either be out of the house before everyone else’s alarm went off, battling rush-hour traffic to get to school on time, or sleeping-in from having stayed up far too late writing a paper. Day in and day out he kept the house in order while I was off pursuing my ambitions. I honestly took for granted all that was being accomplished while I was either asleep or away. But this year, I was home on a few mornings and recognized the toll it was taking on Karl. He had been doing it faithfully for five years and it was wearing on him. It’s not that the tasks themselves were difficult; it was that being “on duty” from early morning through the day until evening is physically and emotionally exhausting. At the end of the evening, when I got home from doing all that I had taken responsibility for and wanted to verbally process the day, he had very little left to give to me, emotionally. Who could blame him? He’d been keeping all the plates of life (kids, budget, cooking, planning, scheduling) spinning as well as working a full-time job.
I’d like to say that it was only compassion, or altruism, or a servant’s heart that led me to change my behavior. But I would be amiss to not include self-interest as well. I saw that if I could take over everything that needed to be accomplished in the morning, that would mean spinning a few plates so Karl wouldn’t have to. He could take time for himself first thing in the day and be set off on the right foot, and then, likely have something left to offer me in the evening. So, I asked him to train me. Teach me everything he did in the morning and the order by which he did them. We wrote things down on a white board and made checklists and I shadowed him for the first few days. Then, with every ounce of courage and determination I could muster, I set my alarm(s) to get up early and get all things accomplished.
I’m happy to say that I have been doing this for a month now, and while I cannot conclude that I am a morning person, this very simple change has effected my entire days. The rhythm of getting up at the same time sets my day in order. Getting up early makes me tired and ready for sleep at an appropriate evening hour. I feel like I get more accomplished because I start of feeling accomplished by 8:00 AM. And in the evening, Karl has mental, physical and emotional room to spare. But what I’ve also found is that I don’t need him to have that much room. My personal agency in changing our daily routine has filled me with a sense of value, worth, contribution and ability that has allowed me to believe that there are many things I can already do for myself.
Who knew that a simple change could bring about such wide dividends? Well, I did. But I had no idea how to make those changes. Turns out, it happened rather organically. When the need became great enough, change became necessary and only then, possible.
So, in summary, I guess if you want to change…find out what it is you really need.
I am in the midst of trying to make some real changes in my life – relationally, physically and practically. I love the information provided in this video and am actually working on writing out a plan that incorporates these 5 strategies. Do you struggle with following through on the changes you desire to make in your own life? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this video as well!