One of the biggest and most influential of all the life transitions is upon me. I have recently become a parent. My son was born earlier this month and being a new mother has filled my days and my nights. I am being radically transformed and learning first hand about the way transitions play out in our lives.
I'd like to break down the process of life transitions in to three parts. I call them parts for the purpose of clarity, but it might be more appropriate to describe them as waves. That is how they feel. They wash over the circumstances of day to day life and move out the old while moving in the essential. We transform slowly as each subtle change shapes our life. Let me use my own experience as a way of explaining what I mean.
The first part; Preparation.
This is the wave of pregnancy in my case. For those getting married this first wave is the engagement and wedding planning. For those moving homes it is the search for a new place or the packing up. For those making a career change it is the daydream of something new. No matter what we might be going through, this first wave is the part of the life transition where we prepare.
During this time (be it short or long) our focus is on the future, on what will or might be. For me it was filled with personal reflection about what it means to "be a mom", buying baby supplies, and nesting. It reached it's peak in the last few weeks of pregnancy where it felt like my body and mind were about to burst with all the "what ifs" and excited energy.
In this initial planning phase our lives start to subtly shift towards the new role we are about to play. The main words this wave fills us with are "be ready, it is coming" and of course..."wait". This is the perfect part of the life transition in which to seek guidance or coaching. The more conscious preparation we do now the better and easier our transition will be.
The second part; Culminating Event
This is the moment we have been waiting for. It is the wedding day, the moving day, the resignation letter, the labor. It is the part of the transition where there is some sort of public or personal acknowledgment of the transition. We mark this moment as the moment things changed (when of course they have been changing all along). This is the time for ritual and ceremony.
In this second part, time might seem funny. It may slow way down or speed up, but that is because our bodies and minds are working very hard to remember the events of the culminating event. Our focus is on the present moment. It is the point at which this whole thing feels like a "really big deal". As this culminating event washes rapidly through our lives it sweeps up all our energy. We are allowed to say "wow, this is really happening" and ..."here it is, my life is changing".
The Third Part; Acclimation
In this final phase of life transition things begin to settle. I am currently in this, as a postpartum mom and I wonder if it will take a full nine months on the other side of labor for my life to once again make sense. It really feels as though I am living a completely new life. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and here I am on the other side trying to acclimate to my new role as a mother. My focus is on the past and the integration of my expectations with the current reality. I am telling myself "you are doing this" and "this is what you wanted".
Our emotions and thoughts may vary in these three waves of transition, but each of them has lessons to teach and gifts to offer. As we move through the passgeways of life, from one stage to another, gratitude is always waiting to be found on the other side. I could write so much more about each of these three parts and the way they play out in our various life transitions. But for now, I have a baby to feed and a new world to learn.