Losing a Place You Love

(To listen to this post, see below.)

A Facebook post recently revealed a lovely new word that has remained with me: hiraeth. It’s a Welsh word, pronounced “here-eyeth” with a rolled “r.” It’s really untranslatable because there are no English words that fully encompass its meaning, but the definition in the post was “a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.” The definition immediately brought to mind my childhood home and its loss.

That was one of the major transitions of my life, which left me grieving and lost in the liminal zone—that difficult time in between the ending of the old way and the beginning of the new. The process began early one morning in July 2010, when Mom had a major stroke that meant she had to move to a nursing home. When the EMTs came, they whisked her away, and she never again saw the home her husband, my dad, had built in 1952. We five kids grew up there, and then scattered all over the map, as far away from Indiana as Arizona, Texas, and Alaska. But I always knew that no matter where I roamed, I could come back to that home, the geographic center of my life, and Mom would always be there, welcoming me with open arms.

Except that, of course, one day Mom was gone from that home, and soon after, the home itself was lost to us. Somehow, even with my grief for what had happened to Mom, the sale of our home came to represent the loss of all that-had-been. Just as Mom couldn’t return to her former self, I could never return to the warmth and shelter of the place I loved so much.

Just like the word “hiraeth,” my feelings about this loss feel untranslatable. They run deep, tugging at me still, all these years later. The loss has dulled with time, yet I struggle to find the exact words to describe them, even to myself.

As I have come through that particular liminal zone to my new way of life without Mom and our house, hiraeth remains. I have decided to let those feelings simply rest in my heart. I am content that my love for Mom, who died last January, and for the home so carefully built by my dad will never change. They are part of me and will always embrace me, no matter where I go.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL

When has hiraeth come to you? For what are you homesick, knowing you can never return to it? It could be an actual place, like a home, a city, a country. It could also be a time in your life or an experience that is somehow significant and which has passed, but for which you still feel nostalgia or even grief.

Write about your hiraeth in some way. Even if, like me, you can’t really describe it, write about where it comes from, what it represents or means to you. Open your heart and let your words flow to the page.

(Photo by Lea Böhm on Unsplash)

If you would like to listen to this post:

Be That Butterfly!

(Would you rather listen to this blog post than read it? Go to the end of the post.)

We all know the story of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. But do you know what actually happens to the caterpillar inside the chrysalis? According to an article in Scientific American, “First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.” Ick, right?

Maybe so, but housed within the body of the dissolving caterpillar are certain dormant cells called imaginal discs. They contain all the caterpillar’s potential for future growth, and they become active during this transition period, using the goop to fuel the process that creates the wings, antennae, and all other parts of the butterfly. Eventually, an entirely new, beautiful creature emerges. And this one can fly!

It’s no surprise that the metaphor of caterpillar-into-butterfly is so often used to represent transition, with its three stages of letting go of the Old Way, the In-Between, and the New Way. Look closely at any life transition you have successfully navigated, and you will see yourself in this metaphor, although, I hope, not so goopily.

When your Old Way ends, you have to go through the In-Between to truly and fully arrive at your New Way. While the In-Between is usually the most confusing, messy, or even painful, stage, it’s also the time that holds the most opportunity for creativity, imagination, and vision—if you allow it.

I love that those transformative cells in the caterpillar are called “imaginal.” The definition of that word is “of or relating to imagination, images, or imagery.” And what better time to use your imagination to create your New Way than when your Old Way is dissolving?

That’s the cool part of this process. While you’re navigating the In-Between, you can “try on” various ideas of what you want your New Way to be. If you’ll forgive a switch in metaphors, it’s like trying on a bunch of clothes in a dressing room, peering at yourself in the three-way mirrors, turning this way and that, and deciding which one fits and looks best. You don’t have to buy any you don’t like, and you can keep searching until you find the perfect one.

In a time of transition, your journal is that dressing room. It’s the private place, your chrysalis, where you use writing to envision various scenarios about potential New Ways. Try them on for fit, style, and comfort. Experiment with how they feel and how they might serve you. Keep going until the find the right one—and know that you can change that one, too, later on if need be.

With persistence, patience, and determination, you’ll find the one that will let you fly.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL
1. If you are in a life transition of some kind, give yourself the gift of 15 or 20 minutes to write about how your New Way might look. Do this several times, with various scenarios. What would your best possible life be in the New Way? Even if it doesn’t seem possible or feasible right now, give your imagination free rein. You don’t have to do anything you write about, but give yourself the opportunity to dream on paper. Even if the whole scenario doesn’t work, it’s possible some good ideas will surface. Be sure to write in present tense, as if you are already living it, so you can see how it really feels.

2. Recall past transitions you have successfully navigated. I’m sure there are many of them. What did you do during the In-Between to move closer to your New Way? What supports did you use? How did you take care of yourself during a tough In-Between? Writing about how you made it through tough transitions in the past will bolster your courage and determination to make it through your current one.

3. Make a list of 10 items you can use to support yourself during your In-Between. This can include inner supports (things you do for yourself, like journaling, meditation, going for walks) and outer supports (things other people can help you with, such as going out to lunch, brainstorming ideas, or simply listening as you talk). Then choose one to write about in more detail for 10-15 minutes. Over time, do this with your entire list. You can even add to the list as you discover more supports.
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Forgotten Memories Revived

Feeling nostalgic and curious a few weeks ago, I pulled out two bags of old letters and cards I’ve saved over the years. They’re from family and friends, with some even dating back to the late 1980s. What an amazing treasure trove!

Handwritten letters (remember when we actually sent those?) and cards with handwritten notes, they hold so many precious reminders of my past, much of which I’d forgotten. But that’s the magic of writing, whether letters or journal entries—it preserves our thoughts, feelings, observations, even mundane comments, so that we can remember them. Unlike ephemeral bits and bytes today, these bits of paper are tangible archives of the past.

Some of the most poignant letters in the two bags are from my mom. She died at age 89 in January, but long before that, in 2010, a stroke took away her ability to write, and even most of her speech, so I’d forgotten how much we used to communicate on paper after I moved away from home. The sight of her tiny, perfect handwriting struck my heart. Many of her letters were short, simple descriptions of what was going on in her life or with family members or friends. Some of them had me laughing with her sense of humor about everyday occurrences or the jokes we used to share. Sometimes, she wrote about how much she had enjoyed a visit from me and looked forward to the next one. They don’t contain anything that anyone else would consider profound, but for me, they are priceless remembrances of my “old” Mom as she was before her stroke. And now that she is gone, they mean more to me than ever.

Other letters and cards were from my sisters (my brother is not a letter writer). Those from one sister who has mostly removed herself from the family brought tears to my eyes with reminders of our past closeness. Others were from old girlfriends with whom I’ve lost touch, and even a few old boyfriends from my ancient, pre-Ken past. And yes (don’t worry, Honey!), I have saved most of the cards that Ken has given to me, too.

I have undergone so many changes and transitions since the days when these letters were sent. Reviewing them reminded me, sweetly and poignantly, of my history—where I’ve come from and what my life used to be, and people with whom I was close (and sometimes still am). I will continue to cherish them as I move forward into my future.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL      

Have you saved old letters? What do they mean to you?

If you have some old letters from family or friends, read several and then write about who you were back then, what your life was like, what the letter-writer meant to you.

If you are no longer in touch with the letter-writer, what would you write to them now?

You can also write about the changes and transitions you have made in your life since the time of the letter. Did the letter-writer play a role in them?

National Transitions and Painted Rocks

People aren’t the only ones who go through transitions. So do countries. Just as ours is doing right now. All the turmoil, anger, arguing, cruelty, incivility, and even some mass shootings are signs of it. The old way (or at least the illusion of it) is ending, and a new beginning lies ahead—so we are most definitely navigating the In-Between, unsure of our footing on the way to creating our nation’s future. The various factions each believe their way is the right way, and all fear to give an inch, lest they lose whatever advantage they believe they have. We seem to have lost the desire and ability to compromise and to listen with understanding and compassion to the other side (we did this once, right?). As a result, many people are suffering unnecessarily.

It helps me, a little at least, to remember that this situation is Story on a grand scale. Remember, everything is story. We automatically invent narratives based on our experiences, and then we believe that those inventions are Truth. We don’t even realize this; it’s just the way our brains work. This is not necessarily a problem, unless we reach a point where we believe our truth is the absolute truth and persecute others who believe otherwise.

Here’s the thing, though: Because we made up this story of division and separation, we can make up a new one. One of caring and kindness, with a compassionate understanding of various viewpoints, so that we may all be buoyed by the spirit of cooperation, instead of drowned by the angry competition that favors only a privileged few.

Yes, I know this sounds impossible and naïve. Maybe it is. Hell, it probably is. But here is one tiny experience that sustains my hope.

Last week, I participated in a small Story Corps group, where perhaps a dozen people gathered together to write stories that can be read aloud in four minutes and will be broadcast soon on our local PBS station. Over three evenings (and at home in between), we crafted little but mighty stories that revealed some powerful experiences of our lives. We read them to one another on the last night. A few were hilarious; some were serious; others caused tears of sorrow.

I have no idea of the political affiliations of the people in the group. Around that table, it didn’t matter at all. What mattered was that we had come together to share some of the important truths of our lives. As we listened with respect, we were reminded how much we are alike. Not how different we are, but how much alike, with our joys and sorrows and a deep desire to be understood and accepted.

The rock in the photo at the top of this blog was brought to our group by a woman who fell into deep grief after her son died. She was lost until she found a group that gets together to paint rocks. Yes, to paint rocks, which they then distribute to others or leave around town to be happily discovered. This process and the support of that community has sustained her and helped her begin the healing process. In a sweet gesture, she brought rocks of various sizes and shapes, with many different images painted on them, for all of us. We happily accepted. This rock now sits on my desk where I see it many times a day. It brings me joy in these dark times.

In addition, even when I feel I can do nothing else, I am doing my best to be as kind as I can to others in my sphere of influence. I do my best to be of service, in my weekly volunteering with people undergoing chemo and monthly as I help to cook and serve dinner at a local homeless shelter. And I offer my journaling work, so that people can write to discover their own joy.

I remember a quotation from Wendell Berry: “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.” I can be joyful—there is still much for which to be joyful—even as I consider the troubling facts of our national transition. I am still struggling to discover my best responses while maintaining my integrity and advocating for what I believe is right. But I will continue to infuse my story with joy, with this new talisman to remind me.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL

Here are some prompts to help you explore our national transition, which of course is yours too.

What brings you joy in dark times?

What stories do you tell yourself about current events and the people involved? How do you feel after you tell them to yourself?

How might you offer joy to someone currently facing a painful time in their Story?

What is your vision of the best future for our country?

Transitions Can Surprise Us

In the last few months, people I love have been experiencing all kinds of transitions, and I can’t help but be affected. These transitions began around the time of Mom’s memorial service, which was held on May 26. She died on January 2 and was cremated. With her kids and grandkids living in Indiana, Michigan, Texas, New York, Alaska, and Tennessee, we figured it would be good to hold her memorial in late spring in the hope of better travel weather. We chose May 26, which was also significant because it marked 52 years since our dad’s death. Everyone was planning on coming. Having not been together in nearly ten years, we all looked forward to the reunion.

You’ve perhaps heard that saying that when we make plans, God laughs? Well, prepare yourself for some sharp and unexpected turns to those plans. Between January and May, job loss, a surprise job commitment, and a new baby prevented some family members from being able to come. One who did come had been recently diagnosed with a life-changing illness and went home to begin a long course of treatment we pray will work. Another who had mostly removed herself from the family over the last eight years came, and all seemed to be well once again. The one who had looked after Mom since her stroke in 2010 and had planned the service (doing a remarkable job with all of it) is now free and adjusting to that new reality.

And, of course, the big transition we have all been adjusting to over the last few months is the loss of our mom and grandma. The family dynamics have shifted, and we are all gently working to find our place again.

It’s not that I had never experienced change and transition before studying them. But prior to that, they were just events and experiences that happened to people. Before, I didn’t realize there was a difference between change (the event itself) and transition (our emotional and psychological reaction to the event). I had no idea that all transitions in our lives follow the same three stages: something ends, which causes us to enter a time of feeling in-between, followed eventually by a new beginning. And I had no idea that a particular process of writing through transition could be so helpful.

I have been writing about these events and my feelings about them. Most of the transitions are not specifically mine, but they touch me as well because they involve people I love. I wish they would write too, but they’re not inclined to do so. Which is fine. They will deal with their transitions in their own ways—one way or another,we will all get to where we need to go. I’ll be here to support or cheer them on when they need it.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL
1. Think of an event or experience that changed your life, for better or worse. If you can give it a name, what would it be? Write a letter to it, expressing your feelings about it as honestly as you can.

2. Make a list of five new beginnings over the course of your life. Then for each one, briefly write about what had to end to open up space for the new beginning.

3. Recall a major change in your life, then write for at least 10 minutes on the emotional and psychological transition you had to navigate to finally accept it and enter your new beginning.

Active Waiting

Navigating through a life transition usually means a lot of waiting. Waiting for answers to questions or resolution of difficulties. Waiting for whatever it is that will help you discover your personal path through the thicket of transition. Waiting to shift from whatever has ended to the new beginning.

One way to wait: just sit tight and hope things will go back to the way they were. Won’t happen.

Or sit tight and hope a solution will fall into your lap. That’s a good way to wait — if you want to stay stuck or locked in the box of the old way. And then when you get impatient, you leap way too soon into a possible solution before you have given yourself, your heart, time to know if it’s really the right one. And then find it going wrong, sometimes horribly.

And then there is active waiting. When you actively wait, your main task is to simply pay attention. You don’t have to do anything else just then. Simply notice what is happening around you as well as inside you. Be alert to what appears, and to your responses, as you live your daily life. Be receptive to suddenly appearing synchronicities, nudges from your intuition, or new things or ideas that may startle you with their rightness. Because ideas, insights, and discoveries will show up, but if you are frantically scrambling and scrabbling around in your haste to just get through this time, you could easily miss them.

For a year or two in the late 1990s, I knew I needed a big change, but I had no idea what that change would or could be. It was just a quiet, intuitive feeling that sat gently in my the back of my awareness. My life at the time was good, yet something else was calling to me. I knew from painful past experience that forcing a change, especially one still unclear, could be disastrous. So, instead of leaping into anything, I simply waited for answers to appear. I did not know about “active waiting” at the time, but in retrospect, that’s exactly how it felt.

One summer afternoon, two girlfriends and I, freelancers all, got together for some wine and conversation. I don’t recall what we said, but we were all searching for something. After a while, we did something pretty goofy: We went out to the driveway, put one of each of our business cards on the concrete, created an elf-sized bonfire, and danced around it while invoking answers. Silly, right?

Maybe not, at least for me.

That night before sleep, I asked my intuition to reveal what it was trying to tell me. When I woke up, I had the answer. It was clear and firm, and I knew it was right. I knew it in my heart and in my bones, just as I had years ago when I understood I would be liberating myself from corporate life to become a freelance writer: I was moving from Evansville, Indiana, to Tucson, Arizona.

The Universe had my back. Everything fell miraculously into place. I was a renter, so no house to sell. No kids or partner to consider. As a freelance writer, I could work from anywhere. I had recently met some good people on a work trip to Tucson, so I had some friends. And the moving company, for which I had recently written a business profile, gave me a 50 percent discount on my moving expenses! By late October 1999, I was situated in a lovely apartment in the Mission Palms apartment complex in Tucson.

Of course, with a transition that momentous, there were a few bumps once I got there. But they eventually settled down, and that move changed my life in so many positive ways, it’s hard to list them. The best one was meeting and marrying Ken, of course, which in a very surprising way brought me to this journaling work I love so much.

It all came about because I paid attention, noticed, and stayed alert. I had already learned to trust my inner knowing to reveal the big answers, so I was able to accept this new message. I certainly don’t recommend that anyone else pull up stakes and move across the country on the spur of the moment. Yet I do recommend active waiting during times of transition in your life. Active waiting takes practice; it definitely requires patience. But it will be worth it.

FOR YOUR JOURNAL:
Recall a time when you sensed a change was coming but weren’t sure what it might be. Write for at least 10 minutes about that time: How did you become aware of the impending change? How did it make you feel? When it occurred, what happened in your life?

Have you ever practiced active waiting? What did it feel like? What happened as you waited? How did it feel when the event finally happened?

What about when you jumped too soon into a change, or a suspected change? Any regrets? What might you do differently next time, if anything?

Transitioning Through Life

What are some of the transitions you have faced in your life?

The full list from my 66 years would fill many pages. Here is just a smattering:
➢ Entering kindergarten after nearly six years of being at home all day with Mom and my siblings.
➢ My father’s death when I was 14.
➢ Leaving the church in which I had been raised.
➢ Realizing that my degree would never help me get the jobs I thought I wanted (although it was helpful just to have a degree).
➢ Getting a divorce.
➢ Liberating myself from dispiriting corporate life to become a successful freelance writer.
➢ Over the years, moving across the country several times.
➢ Marrying Ken, my second husband.
➢ Caring for him after his serious brain injury.
➢ Readjusting after his recovery.
➢ Becoming a journal facilitator.
➢ Breast cancer.
➢ The death of my mother.

Each one of these changes represented an ending of some part of my life, and each required a transition—an emotional and psychological adjustment—to discover the next new beginning. Some transitions felt like embracing a dear, old friend after many years apart. Some felt like inching my way through a mine field while blindfolded. Some of them I welcomed with joyful heart; others blasted me wide open with pain. Rarely, if ever, did I move directly toward my original idea of what that new way would be. Rather than being straightforward, the path forward meandered and even circled on itself at times. Yet I learned from each transition, and that helped me weather those that came later.

All transitions follow this same pattern, as Nancy K. Schlossberg writes in Overwhelmed: Coping with Life’s Ups and Downs: “…each transition is like a journey, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. At the beginning you think constantly of the change. The middle period is one of disruption when you find yourself vulnerable: old norms and relationships are no longer relevant, and new ones are not yet in place. In the final period, you begin to fit the transition into the pattern of your life.”

Here is a graphic depicting the transition process, from my wise coach and mentor, Leia Francisco:

So far, I have survived all my transitions, and even thrived as the result of some. Undoubtedly, more await in my future. But understanding the process of transition and writing about it in certain ways has strengthened my resilience and boosted my confidence. In future posts, I will share more this process with you.
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If you would like to listen in to a chat between me and LouAnn Watkins Clark of A Decided Difference about writing through transition, and journaling in general, have a listen to this episode of her podcast. Thanks, LouAnn, for inviting me to be part of your podcast!

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FOR YOUR JOURNAL
What are some transitions you have been through in your life? Make a list of at least 10, large or small, that have changed something in your life. Then choose one to describe in more detail. For instance,
• What ended to cause the change?
• If you could name the transition, what would it be?
• What metaphors would you use to describe the transition?
• If you ever felt stuck in the midst of transition, how did you become unstuck?
• What did you do to take good care of yourself during the transition? (And if you didn’t, why not?)
• What were some of the tools you used to navigate the transition?
• What did you learn as a result of going through it?
• How can what you learned in the past help you navigate future transitions?

Then, after a while, choose another and write about it. Continue over time.

As True As Possible

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash.

When Ken and I take road trips, he loads his iPod with a variety of podcasts. The miles pass more quickly, and, more importantly, we have some wonderful, uninterrupted opportunities for learning. Occasionally, I hear a comment or statement that inspires or energizes me in some way. That happened this past weekend.

On the way back from visiting my sister in Northern Indiana, we listened to a wise and funny interview from On Being. Host Krista Tippett interviewed poet and memoirist Mary Karr. Mary answered a question about how she began to write memoir by saying, “I think I just got the idea to say something small and simple and as true as possible.” I scrambled to find a pen and scrap of paper to write this down. Her words rang true to me, not only for writing but for my life.

Small and simple and as true as possible: In a world that appears to value only bigness and complexity and, more and more, falsehoods masquerading as truth, her formula cheers my heart. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with bigness and complexity in the appropriate places (although a lot is wrong with those falsehoods). But it’s so easy to get caught up in “shiny object syndrome,” which leaves us constantly grasping for more and more. And more. We not supposed to ever be satisfied with what we already have or to be grateful for it—that makes us somehow lazy or unworthy of respect.

I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t strive to improve our lives or become better people. First, though, we need to be sure we truly want what we think we desire. And then to consider what obtaining it will require of us. Will having it impoverish us in spirit or self-respect, rather than enhance them? Will it allow us to live more purposefully, or distract us from that?

In other words, are we being as true as possible with ourselves when we go after it?

Recently I committed to put together an online journaling program I thought would be easy to create and which would bring in some extra funds. It was to be an “evergreen” kind of program that people could purchase any time and complete at their own pace. No involvement necessary from me. I’ll confess (gulp) I wanted to do this program mostly for some “passive income.” Easy peasey, right?

I wrote most of the first draft but wasn’t satisfied. Then I rewrote large chunks of it, thinking that would help. As my deadline approached, I grew more and more unsettled and unhappy, which cast a shadow over other parts of my life.

Then the light broke through: Even though the topic was one I used to love and was deeply involved with, now my heart was not in it. I had moved on. I wasn’t being true to myself with this program. Or to the people who might have taken it. Furthermore, this program was nudging me away from my new work in writing through transitions. (See more here about this.)

So I emailed the person for whose website I was creating the class and explained why I would not be submitting it. With that, my spirits lifted. And they rose even more when she was kind and gracious about my decision, as I suspected she would be.

Being true to myself once again left me feeling restored and happy to have what I already have.

For Your Journal:

  • Think of something you once wanted so strongly that you could hardly think of anything else—and then you got it. Did having it feel as good as you thought it would? If not, why not? If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, would you still want it?
  • Recall a time when you realized you were acting in a way that was not true to yourself. Did you continue or did you change directions? (No judgment here; simply explain.) In either case, how did you feel? What happened in your life as a result?
  • “Small and simple and as true as possible.” What does this mean to you in your life right now?

Trust

A few posts ago, I wrote about a hawk that sat on the wires outside my window and let me admire its powerful, gorgeous self. I’m writing about another (or perhaps the same) bird today, but from a different perspective.

My computer sits in front of a large window, and across the street is a small woods, where, in late February, the bare skeletons of trees await the springtime greening. As I sat here wondering what to write about, motion caught my attention: beyond the empty branches a large bird gliding, swirling up and up on the thermals. A hawk, perhaps, or maybe a raven or even a turkey buzzard. It’s impossible, for me at least, to identify it at this distance. I watched it continue upward, never flapping its wings, until it flew beyond my range of vision.

When Ken and I lived in Arizona we often watched a dozen or more large birds at a time lazily spiraling upward this way. We had a view from our back yard of almost 180 degrees, so no matter how wide their circling, we could often watch them until they flew high enough to turn into tiny dots against the blue, and then disappear.

Sometimes one or two appear when we’re on long drives. When Ken is at the wheel, I crane my neck to watch them through the windshield as long as possible. I can’t get enough of watching them.

Regardless of location, the sight of these birds sailing so easily through the air, unknowingly trusting the laws of nature to hold them aloft, gives me pleasant pause, even shivers of joy. While my body remains rooted to the ground, my spirit lifts up and up, soaring with them.

These birds sliding so magnificently across the sky have become a powerful metaphor for me. Have trust, they remind me. You are supported in so many, many ways. Your body cannot defy gravity, but your imagination, creativity, and spirit have no bounds. Let yourself lift off without fear. Trust, dear one. Trust.

I needed that reminder today. So my thanks go out to the Universe for sending that lovely bird soaring through my vision at the perfect moment.

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This short, lovely video will give you a virtual experience of flying with flocks of geese. Not quite the same as soaring with hawks, but magnificent just the same:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSxvF6UM25c

The Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughan Williams—music that that will let you feel as if you, too, are gently soaring:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ATFC1OAZT4

For your journal:

Some questions to consider: Whom or what do you trust? And whom or what do you no longer trust? Make a list for each one of these questions if you like.  Choose one item from each list to write about in more detail.

A little more close to the bone perhaps: Do you trust yourself? Why or why not? In anything, everything, or just in some ways? Be kind to yourself here and also allow plenty of time.

The soaring birds have become my metaphor for trust. Are there metaphors that represent trust for you? How would you describe them? How did they come to your attention? How does it make you feel when you contemplate them? How can they help you navigate difficult times? Write about them with as much detail as possible. And I would love to know about your metaphors, if you’re willing to share.

Change and Transition

Back in 1999, I joked with friends that I was living in a rut so deep, it might be time to hang pictures on the walls. At the same time, I could sense that a big shake-up was on the horizon. Fortunately, past experience had taught me to not force change in my life, so I patiently waited for the answer to appear. Eventually, it did: a move from Southern Indiana to Tucson, Arizona. I had met some good people there on a work visit earlier in the year, so I knew I would have some company as I adjusted. Amazingly, all the details fell smoothly into place. As a renter, I had no house to sell. As a freelance writer, I didn’t have to worry about finding a new job. Even the moving company gave me a huge discount on hauling my stuff across the country because I recently had written an article about them. I got to Tucson, found a lovely apartment in a beautiful complex where some of my new friends lived, and settled in.

Despite all that, the transition was not so smooth.

Change and transition: Back then I did not know they are different. If I had—and if I had known how to better prepare for transition—my early months in Tucson might have been easier.

“Change is the event, the outer reality facing you: job loss or job promotion, change in a career, move to a new town or country, major change in the family, or the loss of a loved one,” writes career and life transitions coach Leia Francisco in Writing Through Transitions: A Guide for Transforming Life Changes. Transition, though, is “a reaction to a change in role, relationship, situation, or life view significant enough to affect your life and functioning,” according to Leia. It’s the psychological and emotional process you undergo while moving through the event.

My transition resulting from the cross-country change in location required a lot of emotional adjustment. My new friends were not as available as I had hoped, and I sorely missed my large circle of friends in Indiana. Tucson is a huge city, compared to Evansville, and required a lot of driving and often being unsure of my way. Even some small things, like no longer needing my favorite cuddly sweaters in the desert “winter,” made me sad and homesick. I remember standing on my balcony one day and crying as I talked on the phone with Lynda, my best friend back in Indiana, wondering if I had made a huge mistake. She assured me that I had not and that eventually all would be fine.

And it was. The move proved to be one of the best things I have ever done. The best of that best thing: I met Ken, now my husband, who later became the inspiration for finding my calling as a journal facilitator. I slowly gathered a circle of wonderful friends, including a wonderful writers group, and happily adjusted to having only two seasons: “really hot” and “not so hot.” And I discovered Trader Joe’s and shopped there weekly. (If you are a TJ fan, you know what I mean!)

Change is happening everywhere, all the time. Just when we think our lives are settled, wham! Change. Just when we think we have it made, look out! Change. When a cherished dream falls apart, more change. Even when the change is a positive, desired one that makes us happy, we still have to make the internal shift. All these changes require a transition process.

These days, I’m coming to the end of yet another cycle of change and transition. As I wrote about in my last post, Wandering, Meandering, and Yet…, I had to grieve and let go of a journaling program I created and loved, but which didn’t work out as I had hoped. (This was a “non-event transition,” which requires adjusting to the reality that a goal or dream will not come true.) Fortunately, I have found a new path, thanks to wise and compassionate coaching from Leia Francisco, who now also offers a class to train journal facilitators in her Writing Through Transitions program. This past summer, I became certified as a Transition Writing Specialist and will soon begin offering proven journaling programs in navigating through life’s transitions. Some will be local, here in Indiana, and I also hope to eventually offer them online. I will also continue to offer some of my other journaling programs too.

I’m excited about this transition—and about knowing how to better navigate the many more that are sure to come. I’m even more excited about sharing this valuable information with you. Stay tuned for future posts about writing techniques and exercises that can carry you through any transition life can throw at you.