Man Adrift.

Keep On Keeping On

In William Bridges first stage of transition, “endings” the anxiety and anger can be significant. It can stop us in our tracks—paralyze us. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen teaches that we need to take active steps and receive love in these trials.

“When we feel stuck or dis-empowered, we may need permission to get something out of our system by taking action or speaking-sometimes quickly or with energy. More times, however, we need to take something in that deepens and strengthens our sense of goodness and allows our inaction, blockage or pain to be embraced by love.

We will find that the more love we can take in and hold on to, the less fearful we will become.”

The time of disempowerment for me was after I was told by the radiologist to see an oncologist about the scan results. This was an area of medicine I knew little about and like most, hoped that would continue. I went through the paces of further testing and discussions over a two month period, waking up each morning with the pain of uncertainty in my gut.
I kept everything pretty much inside, sharing only minimally with my wife until I knew the cancer was real. I tried to live each day fully. Life was still good. But certainly different as I waited for news. My writing reflected this tension between hope and despair.

“Before the diagnosis, the thing I felt best about during the early time of uncertainty in cancer testing was my willingness to “keep living.” This may sound trite as what else can you do? But for me, it was meaningful as I continued to engage people in work and play–little activities and big ones too like the wedding of my daughter, in ways which were authentic. At least they seemed that way for me. I laughed, listened, cared and spoke with enthusiasm. Spirit. Sometimes it wasn’t easy.”

As I reflect back, it was this daily living that nourished me with the love I needed to be less fearful and embrace each day. Additional journaling reflects on giving and receiving love in my spiritual life too.

“And I believe I was able to do this because of the work I’ve done over time on my faith. And I’m not talking about believing in some glorious Disneyland afterlife. It’s about the deeper understanding gained about life ups and downs, trials and travails; the “larger wisdom” which fosters hope and provides a connection to something bigger–a God who is real; certainly mysterious, often perplexing and confounding, complex; but who is personal, able to receive and give love.”

In the muck of a work transition before a clear career direction is gained, there is a tendency to close down. Get selfish. Feel sorry for ourselves. Eckhart Tolle teaches about the danger of self-defeating messages like “Nobody really understands what I’m going through”, “I’ll never find a good job” and “I need to remain disengaged from my loved ones as I work this out.” He calls these messages “phantoms.” We must fight these phantoms by denying their existence. Daily living can nurture us. Important energy can be found in the people around us. Hope resides there and it’s hope we need the most during these times.


Reflect on the people and aspects of your daily life which you have been missing because you’re disengaged; focused too much on your own worries. What self-defeating statements have you been making to yourself? What can you do about it and how might this help you find hope?

*Tom was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in summer of 2012. Following 6 months of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission and continues so as of this date. These writings are intended to draw connections between Tom’s experiences with this disease and challenges related to work/career transitions.

Thomas Bachhuber, Ed.D., President of the Board and Executive DirectorThomas Bachhuber, Ed.D.
President of the Board and Executive Director for The Center for Life Transitions. Tom is responsible for overall Center leadership and strategy. His individual coaching/counseling as well as workshops and retreats focus on integrating leading career development ideas with spiritual exploration. Read more.