ONWARD WITH FAITH
Transitions come in many forms…
Change happens in all aspects of our lives. We get that, but often struggle in managing these changes. They take an emotional and often a physical toll. However, the resilience we develop in responding to change in one transition may help us in another.
Since its beginning in December 2012, TranSpirations has focused on work and career-related transitions. That’s the core of the Center for Life Transitions mission. Hopefully, the ideas have usefulness in all transitions.
The guru of transition theory and practice, William Bridges, tells us that “change” is situational and external to us. Transition is our internal self adapting to that change. This process is outlined by his three stages simply named “endings”, “middles” and “beginnings” each with different emotions and tasks that when addressed, help us move forward.
I’ve been through some health-related transitions in the past year and today’s writing is the start of a new direction for TranSpirations. i.e. Finding some lessons in what I’ve been experiencing during this time which can be applied to the transition you may be facing, whatever it may be.
Below is the first journal entry I made after first receiving the diagnosis of my new disease. I’ve journaled for “self-therapy” for many years but with the diagnosis, it took on new importance. I’ve never shied away from my mortality but now it’s more real, closer. Writing helps.
August 12, 2012
It’s finally clear. After getting my surgeon’s report on my heart’s ‘greatness’ four years after open heart surgery, the radiologist calls and says I have a couple of lymph nodes larger than he likes and I should see my doc—this is the first week in May. Great. Three months later and having gone about my business of living and working under the cloud of uncertainty, we now know its grade 1, slow growing, non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma—stage 3 as in 3 places. That’s cancer for the uninitiated. Not in the bone marrow. Good. No real symptoms. Good. Dr. F. says it’s the kind of cancer you usually die with…not from. Has kind of an optimistic tone to it. Time to go to work and get it into remission and continue to “remiss it” so I can add 15-20 or more years to my life. I’m already 64 — so 80 plus or so feels pretty good.
Bridges tells us we must grieve loss in the first stage of transition, “endings.” I still felt healthy with this diagnosis so there was no loss for me there. Nothing to grieve. But perhaps my loss was the confidence I had throughout my life that my pace toward death was comfortably slow. After the diagnosis, not so much. The uncertainty of my health and the knowledge that there were new challenges ahead in a seemingly shortened life unfolded together. My wife Leslie put it well– I lost the comfort of vagueness which allows most of us to keep the disquieting knowledge of our own mortality at bay. For me, talking to loved ones and writing about my feelings in this situation is part of that grieving process.
I believe this is true for job changes as well. We need to acknowledge both our grief and our anger in job loss. Even a voluntary job change involves loss. It can be helpful to write and talk about the qualities of the work and workplace which we will miss. Maybe, we also need to come to grips with myths we believed about that job e.g. “this job will always be satisfying” or “my job is too important for them to let me go.” Finding language for our sadness, confusion or anger allows us to discover the energy we need for “the work” ahead. Getting that next job—a good one which has meaning and promise.
Reflect on the external changes which are causing your internal transition. What do you need to do to grieve what you miss and move forward toward new, meaningful work?