Transitions

Have you ever been tempted to deck someone who responds to a struggle you were having by saying “every time God closes a door, he will open a window?” Arguments about the gender of God notwithstanding, you know how useless that advice is.

Say you just lost a job, or a relationship,or a place to live, and you find yourself in that hallway with a closed door behind you, and nowhere to go.  And nobody has opened a window yet.

The other day, a friend and I talked about transition, because that’s what you call the process of being in that hallway.We talked about how difficult that can be. He was looking for a job, and like so many others in the same boat, he was in a very uncomfortable place, having a very difficult time.  Transitions are guaranteed, only the degree of discomfort varies.

My reaction to his plight was not as uncaring as it first sounds. My suggestion being, when stranded in that doorway between what used to be and what comes next, one should pull up a chair and get comfortable. Find and nurture the growth part of the experience. The transition can be experienced positively or negatively. Look for the positive. Make friends with the change. Or at least stop actively fighting it. You cannot change the “what” of the transition, but you can change the “how.” Although in themselves, transitions are seldom “good,” it is up to you whether they are experienced positively or negatively. This is neither easy nor impossible.

I try to choose the positive while standing in the hallway, waiting for the window to open or for the opportunity to come.

The Buddhists have influenced my thinking on transitions. Change is ubiquitous; it is the only certainty in life. We have no control over the change itself. We can only manipulate how we react. Whether you are working furiously at a solution or just staring into space and waiting, you might as well make yourself at home.

Make the time interesting. Make it an opportunity to do something different. Meet your situation head on by developing the characteristics you will need to take care of business. Think about what you really need or want to get out of your situation: If you need patience, meditate; if you need help, ask a friend or professional; if you need a friend, make one.  No need to rush, make yourself comfortable. Take your time to do the right thing, one step at a time.

And you don’t need to wait until the alligators arrive. Getting comfortable with the hallway can be an ongoing process. Every day you can stretch your wings and grow a little.

Imagine an unwanted change that is going to hit you at some point on the road, one that will require a significant and brave response. Sometimes I imagine what life would be like without my significant other. That would make life pretty miserable. But as we both age, I try to prepare myself by making friends with myself and filling my life with other people and new meanings. I’m getting to know myself and to anticipate my needs while I am still comfortable with myself. I’m learning about the ways in which I am able to respond to the world on my own. I practice the skills I will need to deal with change to ensure my flexibility. I try to make friends, try new things. I pursue knowledge and interests, so I don’t get bored, and I try to plug myself into the outside world. It keeps me alive and provides me with an opportunity to give back for all the lessons I’ve learned as I go.

In the course of my life, I have spent a great deal of time in the doorway. Perhaps that is why being comfortable is so important to me. Twenty years ago I was in so much psychological pain that I didn’t want to move on living. Death seemed a viable option. I just wanted the pain to stop. I tried to deaden the pain with drugs and alcohol. I lived on the street. But I was lucky enough to get the help I needed, and willing to face my fear and see what I could really do. I didn’t say “no” to anything that might help me, no matter how scared I was. It was the biggest transition in my life, and I pulled up a chair and got to work. I now have more than I would have asked for. Go figure.

If you or someone close to you needs help, call the free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).  It is open 24/7.

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