I went to a friend’s retirement celebration this past weekend. It was a wonderful experience of care and appreciation of one who served 39 years in one agency. That’s a long time any more! This is a huge transition into being his own boss and managing his own time for himself and his family now! What a great time of celebration! On the other hand, one who has spent a long time in one place, especially for this amount of time, may say "what now"?
Transitions can be chosen and exciting experiences, and they can be unexpected and disappointing, at best. Either way, they often draw us into a time of saying “what now?”, or at least place us in a position that we are unfamiliar with in our lives. When life is status quo, we can get up in the morning and have some idea of what to expect in the day and what is expected of us in our purpose and list of things to do. Transitions are often the times when we are moved to explore and grow, whether we want to or not.
In the case of my friend, it was a chosen and anticipated time to get up and start his day without getting into morning traffic and go his own pace into the day. For others, this is far from true. There are many types of transitions. One of my friends experienced the loss of his father, and another just heard of the unexpected death of her mother. Some of my clients are dealing with pain and/or violence from their partners in marriage. On the positive side, I know couples beginning their life with a newborn, and others preparing to graduate. Transitions can be painful, are usually uncomfortable, and are the times where most of our creativity and growth occur.
Carl Jung, a psychologist of the early 20th century, focused most of his work on the midlife of our lives. He saw this as a time when most of us go through a spiritual crisis. That is how he viewed what many call a “midlife crisis”. He saw this as a time when we recognize that much of what we thought we wanted and assumed we needed in life didn’t make sense anymore, and we become “lost” in what we really want out of life. We transition into asking “what now?”
James Fowler, who focused on the psychology of religion and wrote about the six developmental stages of faith, tells us that it is not in the “stages” that we grow in our faith. It is when we are taken out of our comfort zones and are forced to transition from our “old understanding” of God and our connection with that which is greater than ourselves that we are moved to grow in our faith. Our growth is in the discomfort and the searching, not the status quo.
I have heard it oft stated that “birth, death, taxes and change” are the only constants in life. Especially with our fast paced lifestyle in our society, this is so true. We can make a decision about how we want to face our transitions whenever they come. Knowing our resources and how to utilize them is usually important in this process.
Family, friends and my faith community are among resources that I have found to be significant in my own transitions. In this past year, personal life coaching has also been very important in helping me be more intentional about my own growth. I believe resources and attitude make the difference in how we pull these transitions off. This has been one of my greatest lessons in my journey through my transition of the past year. How do you help yourself in your times of transition? What are your resources?