It seems like a lot of people, myself included, are in the midst of a transition. It’s been on my mind, and has come up in conversation with many people recently. Whether it’s a big shift and change in their lives, or just the change from summer to a new school year, “Transition is a bitch.”
It just is.
This is the mantra that plays in my head as chaos and newness swirl around me, or when other people name that they are in a season of transition. It feels helpful to just call ‘em like I see ‘em… and the honesty helps me make some sort of peace with the tension, confusion, anxiety that I can feel in the changes happening around me. As seasons change, the foundation seems to falter momentarily. My reality changes from a familiar environment and a routine in which I knew how to be and where to be. In retrospect, I am aware of how confident I felt. Certain. But in the starkness of the new, I feel like an exposed impostor.
There was a while when I had a long string of transitions. I became familiar with the rawness of it, became accustomed to the levels of sustained courage it required, the disorienting loneliness that resided in it. I also tasted the sweetness of transition as well. The moments of beauty and bravery. Truth felt more tangible. Grace became more than a trite thing I sing about. When I stepped into moments of vulnerability, I felt alive.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Transitions are exhausting.
That season of transitions had faded into the background a bit- unknowingly it had become romanticized in my imagination, as I slid into a time of steadiness. For the past two years, life has been pretty consistent. Predictable.
Recently, I had started to see the outlines of a Mountain of Transition looming in the horizon. I knew it was probably coming, and wasn’t afraid. I knew it would all be alright. I recalled the other times that transitions had been sweet times of drawing near to deepening trust.
But now I’m in the thick of it. And the way is rugged and steep. The trailhead markers, those little colored tabs nailed to the tree with the reassuring exclamation of “you are headed in the right direction! Keep going this way!” are coming less and less frequently and I feel alone, confused, and exhausted.
Sometimes, we find ourselves travelers in this unfamiliar terrain, in the Land of Transition. And we are stripped bare, unprepared for the unkind elements of the unfamiliar and new, our only protection offered is the Cloak of Vulnerability. It feels like a cruel joke- how am I supposed to survive without my armor of self protection? No withdrawing? No blaming, or grasping at perfectionism? You’re asking me to leave that behind too? And when we try to quench the thirst of our questions, we are only offered the bitter drink of Uncertainty. We wretch at its effect on our bodies, the doubt and confusion that want to creep in as it settles into our bones.
But vulnerability isn’t weakness.
And uncertainty isn’t the enemy.
We see with stark clarity in the treacherous heights we come to in the path of transition. The things we were “certain” about were never guaranteed in the first place. In transitions, we are invited to be open handed. (Maybe that’s too polite of a way to put it— would it be more accurate to say that our hands are wrenched open, and we find that they were empty the whole time?) We thought we were experts, having things pretty well figured out, and it becomes abundantly clear that we are still very much amateurs. Still learning the basics. At first, we are dismayed at this lack of control. This seeming lack of “progress.” Our impulse is to remedy this conundrum as quickly as possible.
But what if we didn’t? What if we submitted to the slow, non-linear process of change, leaning into the uncertainty and vulnerability, rather than seeing them as enemies to be avoided? What if we desired actual Reality over our versions of what we wish were the case, even if that isn’t what we’d prefer or it’s uncomfortable? Admitted that we were wrong more quickly, and learned what it actually means to trustSomeone who has the whole story in mind?
In times of steadiness, or in my idealistic outlooks on life, I am drawn to the metaphor of life as a Grand Adventure. But let us be honest about what adventures actually require of us. It means that we have to abandon the familiar, the safe, the comfortable. “One does not discover to new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” (Andre Gide) There is no guarantee that the venture will end favorably. There is a lot of risk involved, and probably pain, mundane plodding ahead and time. It can be dangerous and involve heartbreak and disappointment, times of disillusionment and confusion.
Adventure comes at a cost, yes. Yet, it seems we were hardwired for it. Our hearts yearn for it. We keep telling each other stories of it. And in small ways and big, we choose it again and again.
Which sometimes means that our scenes shift. Our rhythms change. And we find ourselves, again, in transition.
Messy, thrilling, heart wrenching transition.
It’s a part of being human.