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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.

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.