This week I have been feeling way off. Crying without knowing what the tears are about. Having waves of emotions that don’t stick, but I don’t know where they are coming from. Immediately I tell myself it’s because my son (my last) is leaving for college in a month. Oh, and then there’s the getting to this week’s business goals in the midst of this, as I sit here across from my business partner…I’m struggling, and I’m not quite sure what it is inside this whirlwind of emotions that has set off the ‘I’m just not alright’ alarm bell.
I know what I have to do. I can keep struggling in this particular wash cycle of emotions, or I can do what needs to be done.
Here we go again. Just when we think we are settled in to our life- into the forever marriage, the dream job, the perfect friendship, another rug gets pulled out from under us and we find ourselves in another TRANSITION.
Life is not at a certain somewhere place that we ‘finally get to’ when we take the right amount of steps, have the relationship we think we want, or get the kids to a particular stage in their lives— the reality is that life is a collection of starting overs. Not the fantasy we all beat ourselves up for when we don’t achieve ‘it.’
How we deal with transition and change? How do we navigate our feelings? Do we unconsciously fall into that same old pattern of dealing with things (how’s that been working out for us?), or do we consciously decide NOT to ‘go there.’ Do we isolate or ask for help? The answer to all of these questions determines the dynamics and the outcome of the transition.
How do you reliably give yourself a ‘reality’ check when you find yourself here…yet again? Do you even have a way? Here is what I do to navigate the dynamics and arrive safely on the other side of transition.
- I check in. (What’s wrong…exactly)
Checking in helps me deal with the I’m not where I should be’s, the ‘Everyone else has the answer's and the ‘Am I really worth it's.’ First things first, I have to get off my back, get out of my own way, and put these thoughts to the side so I can get to what I am really dealing with.
Checking in helps me to distinguish and deal with my feelings versus react to them. Trying to deal with everything that you are feeling–even thinking you can or should be able to– puts you into overwhelm and checks you out.
And finally, checking in helps me choose the right tool- like a surgeon in an operating room-to be able to laser focus on my pain point, or to know what I need to ask for help in dealing with- instead of being in the emotional whirlwind.
Checking in is something that takes some practice. We are not trained to be introspective, or more to the point: honoring time for inner work, and valuing self-reflection is not a part of our culture.
There is an element of practice- that can include meditation, or connecting to your intuition that vitalize our inner work. For me, I call in my ancestors and connect to my intuition. Initiating and developing a practice can eventually shorten and lessen some of the effects of transition. But you can also start with just taking a walk, singing a song out loud with the radio, or sitting quietly for a moment with your eyes closed ‘listening in.’ Anything that initiates the act of getting out of the head, or being able to distract it for the split second it takes for that piece of information or that insight to come through. Checking in is the act of activating our conscious mind from where we can act, not react.
When I checked in with myself, I asked, ‘What is triggering me? Yes my son is leaving, but if I think about it, I have been a damn good Mom and he is actually ready to go.’ And although I’m feeling the emotions of preparing to say goodbye, of what it will feel like living on my own again after being a single mom- for me, and for us this will be a healthy transition, I know it’s going to lay me a bit low, but it’s not going to take me down.
What I am feeling is something that doesn’t feel so healthy; it feels like something that could pull me under. When I go in and activate my intuition, it comes to the surface in a flash; this is the anniversary week of leaving my wasbund, the anniversary of one of the most painful transitions of my life. A transition that has taken nearly two years to complete. And that when I was in it, from where I never thought I would be able to enjoy life again.
So now that I know, how do I get out of the Yuk I’m sitting in?
2. I use my tools.
For me this involves ritual. For you, it might be finding a guided meditation, or taking an online course. In our work we define ritual very simply as acting with intention as a tool for healthy living.
The key of course is intention- actively intending to address your personal development, and to get to the other side.
I was fortunate enough to meet and eventually to be trained in the use of ritual in the healing space by Sobonfu Some’ an elder of the indigenous Dagara tribe of West Africa. I have learned and use specific Dagara rituals in my work with Living Your Gifts, and to guide my own inner work. Dagara rituals are designed to call in specific elemental energies- that are called Fire, Water, Earth, Mineral and Nature. The Water element for example works in the realm of feelings- and is called in to bring peace, balance and flow. So I took myself down to the ocean and did the Milk and Honey ritual, which involves calling in the presence of my ancestors to love, guide and support me through this transition.
This ritual includes pouring milk (representing nurturance) and honey (representing sweetness) into the ocean as an offering of gratitude for their support. For you, using ritual as a transformational tool might seem too far out there for you to practically connect with. The important take aways to connect to here are: it’s what works for me, 99.9% of the time (I mean I’m still only human), and it activates me on a conscious level through the act of act of giving gratitude that allows me the shift in perspective I need to be open for transformation and healing. Whatever tools you choose to try and keep in your healing arsenal- make sure they have both of these qualities.
3. I find my Community.
I don’t have all of the answers and the sooner into my transition I acknowledge this and ask for support, that easier I get through to the other side. Finding my community of support involves seeking out other people who have successfully navigated the road I am on. Why wander alone in the wilderness when someone I know is willing to lend me their map? It also might look like me stopping what my business partner and I are doing to say, ‘Hey I’m struggling right now, I’m not myself, I have to put this on the table, so we can move on and have a productive day.’
Sure, I might have to be vulnerable, and set aside my ego, because someone else might have a better solution for me. But there’s that calling for the open space for healing to come in again.
In the indigenous culture, a rites of passage was undertaken in a container of tried and true knowledge with a seasoned elder or guide who had the right info and map for the journey, and made sure to mentor you through to the other side. A rite of passage was usually defined with the final step as being welcomed back into your community as an adult who now understood the values of the community and its expectations for adult behavior and involvement in it.
Today we either create our own, or without guidance and healthy communities, we end up along and feeling F.I.N.E. – Ffff’d up, Insecure, Narcissistic, and Emotional.
For me, understanding this ancient context for personal development leads my to look for my communities and containers of support that have the healing information, and the “Oh honey I’ve been there, and here’s what life after divorce is going to look like” guidance I need. Being in this community adds the important ingredient of being witnessed as I enter into and emerge from my pain, hurt and disappointment. And it signals another crucial aspect of modern life that we try to live with- that is the ‘going it alone.’ We are simply not supposed to. How can we do any of the major stuff we do like giving birth, going to college, or getting married or divorced in the best way possible for us when we have never done it before?
And how do we navigate the tribulations and the trials alone- especially when we experience the trials that cause us to get into the ‘I’m not where I should be’s,’ the ‘Everyone else has the answers’ and the ‘Am I really worth its?’
When I think of my anniversary this week- not of the number of years I was married, but the anniversary of my being able to put me first and leave a situation where I was no longer able to be in alignment with my higher self; I wonder about how many other women are starting over and wondering if they will ever be able to trust their intuition again?
Anniversaries aren’t always about the good times but if you have gotten to the other side, they can be a chance to reflect on the lessons you learned and how far you have come. Today I realized I moved out of my home I shared with my wasbund 2 years ago. Rites of passages suck. This last one I went through though allows me to acknowledge that I found the courage to change my life when there was no other way to get back to myself and reclaim me again. I hadn't really understood how difficult it had been or how lost I had gotten, that I was withering and losing my sense of self in my marriage and knew if I stayed any longer that the rest of me would diminish and my light would shine less in the world. Now that I have gotten to the other side, I am grateful that I am able to enjoy and take life in again.
Susan Hough is Co-Founder and Intuitive Activist Life Coach at Living Your Gifts. She performs the Milk & Honey ritual most Fridays in Laguna Beach and can be reached for this and other rituals and personal life coaching at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn how Living Your Gifts incorporates indigenous wisdom into original coaching, groups and workshops visit: www.livingyourgifts.com © 2015 Living Your Gifts | All Rights Reserved.