Professional Student of Life
Adventures in personal growth
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join in the dance. ~ Alan Watts
I was talking with a dear friend who lost her husband unexpectedly a few months ago. The waves of fear and sadness she described reminded me of the months after my unexpected and very difficult divorce – and even a bit of the way I’m feeling as I pack up my life in the US and prepare to travel indefinitely.
Wanted or not, positive or negative, major life transitions send our whole bodies into a kind of shock. It’s ironic and a bit disorienting to feel that way when you’re fulfilling a lifelong dream, as I am, but I’m really not surprised. Our bodies crave the familiar, just as our minds crave the known. Sadness at what we’re leaving behind, as well as trepidation about what we’re heading into, are the unavoidable byproducts of any major life transition.
It doesn’t help to try to “talk yourself out of it.” The only way to deal with these waves of emotion is to let them work their way through your body. When they hit, try to physically stop, if you can. Just acknowledge what you’re feeling, and allow it to be there, without judgment. Keep breathing. Let yourself be an empty container, not resisting, just holding. Within a few minutes, the sensations will lessen – for now.
Obviously, for my friend they will keep coming back for a long time, sometimes stronger, sometimes just a whisper. It’s not linear, and there’s no way to know when they’ll hit. There’s no ironclad timeline for grieving. It just is what it is, like everything else in life. Not resisting just means not adding any extra pain on top.
For me, it means allowing myself to be scared and sad, even if I don’t think the situation “warrants” it! It doesn’t mean I’m making a mistake, or being a drama queen, or anything other than that I’m human, and change (even wanted change) is hard. There are glimpses of joy and excitement there, just as my friend feels glimpses of peace, and even laughter, occasionally surfacing.
This practice spans all of life – it’s just much more noticeable during the big transitions. We have smaller mood swings during each day, with plenty of opportunity to notice what’s happening in our bodies and hold space for it without judgment or resistance.
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