conflict

The "Lost and Found" of Transitions

The end of something is often the beginning of a transition, the transition from what we know and is familiar to us, The Known, through to The New. Lost our job. Lost our relationship. Lost our health. Lost our home. Lost our community. Lost our way.

Feeling Lost and Feeling Loss-ed.

Feeling lost can be overwhelming, a mish-mash of feeling loss and what I call feeling “loss-ed”. Feeling the losses in our life, the losses of who we are, like a part of us is missing. Feeling confused, conflicted. Feeling empty. Feeling grief. Sometimes it can feel - unbearable.

Feeling lost in a foggy swirl of thick overwhelm filled with confusion, numbness, chaos. Wanting to protect ourselves, hiding under the covers with a cup of tea, or vodka, or a bag of chips, maybe a carton of ice cream. Wishing for a moment of clarity to nudge us, to awaken us from our comfortable or not so comfortable stupor.

Landing in the Unknown, in mid-space, unsure of “What’s next?” “Who am I now?” “Who am I without it / him / her?”

Some part of us that wants so badly, is working really hard for things to be normal again, to find the “next”: the next relationship, the next career, a new home, a new lifestyle. Sometimes we force ourselves ahead into the “new” or “next”. It takes Trust, the kind where we trust ourselves and our process.

And, the finding!

Swimming in the ocean, we can see the shoreline, suddenly a wave comes from nowhere, the undertow tugs us, pulls us underneath so that we feel as though we may never come back up, like we cannot find our breath. Until we feel something, something within pulling us up, and we see tiny glimpses of land coming into view.

manswimminginocean
manswimminginocean

Those tiny glimpses of clarity, those moments when they peak through, they are what we wait for, what we hope for, what we wish for — the excitement and relief of finding. When we feel even a little bit ready, there are many ways to starting finding “the next” or “the new”:

Read a book about it — biography, fiction or how-to. Read newspaper, magazine or blog articles about your "next". Watch a related film - documentary, biographical or fictionalized - or simply for joy. Move your body to move your thoughts — swim, walk, dance, whatever works for you. Commune with nature - spend time outdoors for relaxation, well-being and sparks of creative ideas. Create a fort or sandcastles with your kids or some kids. Take a workshop on something that fascinates you. Make art. Make music. Take an improv class. Brainstorm a list of what is important for you in your “next”. Declare your intention, be it tiny or large. Acknowledge what you are learning, your disappointments and wins. Connect with others who are experiencing it too. Discover new resources and share them.

No matter where you find yourself, in the place of lost, in the place of finding, or in the place of found, appreciate being wherever you are in your process. It is the building of your resilience muscle and the magic of being present to what is possible, that is transforming.

The Thing I Remember About Menopause

Painted Background 270My introduction to menopause happened when I was 14 years old and we had just moved to a new city. My mom was talking and walking around in our new living room slash dining room slash kitchen circling like a caged bird. She was wearing a pink silk blouse with a loose bow and one by one she completely unbuttoned it while I was sitting there, down to her bra. Thank gawd she left that on.

Flushed, flushing, clearly uncomfortable, and laughing! She was laughing.

I also remember that her migraines stopped when she reached menopause.

And that she said “Fuck You” to me for something I did not do like clean my room or make a phone call or, as she puts it now, "something important like that" (she had never sworn at me before, nor has she since).

Her menopause was also the beginning of our separation. I was separating from her, I was becoming a young woman, discovering my sexual self and sexuality. I was coming to terms with not being a child. For her, I too was no longer a child and yet would always be her child.

Moon pic Years later, she posed for a photo that my dad took when they were on a vacation in Mexico. She looked "hot", sensual, vibrant, and sexual. And this was years after menopause. She kept her 23-inch waist, decades past menopause. She did handstands against the wall, decades beyond menopause. She gave renewed energy and voice to her role as a social activist after menopause.

Now that I myself am entering the stage of peri-menopause, she is here with me, mentoring me on what to expect with menstrual stop-and-starts and its unpredictability. The end of menstruation seems like the start of it. I am grateful that she is here to gift me with her presence, humour, honesty and sage advice as I move through this hormonal and life stage transition.

We can learn about menopausal transitions from books, websites, blogs. We can learn about them from our family doctor and team of health professionals. We can learn from our family of relatives and friends. We can learn from each other.

We think we are alone when we go through transitions but that is usually untrue. Our transitions affect those around us, usually those we love the most. They impact our children, our families, our friendships. Talking about it with them can bring us closer at a time when we can feel quite disconnected.

What is the one thing you remember about menopause? What was your introduction to menopause?

Surprises: What are the surprises we have after we leave?

Read the previous posts on this journey: A Dream Is Born and Climbing New Mountains. I have had several surprises since leaving my adventure-filled vacation in Nepal. A few surprises happened immediately upon leaving, others took weeks and months.

Surprise 1. The sun knows best. I was surprised to find out how much I enjoy rising before the sun and setting not long after the sun. i sleep better and more soundly when I follow the sun’s lead (most days).

Surprise 2. How little I need. Shelter, food, water, clothing, heat and electricity — the basics. It makes me wonder about the messages trying to persuade me to buy or do something because I need it. Not really the truth though. Do I need more clothes? More accessories? More decorations, more tech, more pretty shiny things? Nope.

Surprise 3. I enjoy smelling natural and earthy. I liked trekking and not showering, not shaving, not washing my hair and not laundering my clothes. I felt powerful, primitive and rebellious. It was so contrary to the North American ideal of cleanliness using a gazillion hygiene products to not smell, to not smell each other. I like knowing how I actually smell.

Surprise 4.How much stuff I have AND how hard it is for me to part with *my* stuff. The trek leaders offered us the opportunity to donate clothing at the end and it was a struggle for me. I rationalized that I would need the items when I travelled on or would continue to wear them when I returned home. Which I did and do. And I could have given stuff away and been fine. I had an opportunity to let go, to share and be generous. I realize it is not easy to detach from “It’s mine” and “I still need this”.

DSCN0986
DSCN0986

Surprise 5. The power of sticking to a daily plan. The trek leaders kept our group on a firm schedule which kept me focused, striving and challenged. Without it I probably would have stayed an extra day to rest my sick, puking stomach and then got caught in the snowy mess ahead preventing me from climbing higher and reaching base camp. Sticking to a plan made the difference between getting “there” and not.

Surprise 6. The intensity of North American consumerism and consumption. It was a shocking surprise to return to North American culture and values and be met with December holiday commercialism, the superficiality of celebrity culture, retail culture, and fitness culture. I felt bombarded by the amount that was promoted, marketed and sold to me, especially with the focus on “you you you” and “me, me, me” rather than “we we we” or “us us us”.

Surprise 7. Feeling spiritually full. I noticed how it felt to shift from feeling spiritually full to empty. I experienced having my spirit feel sumptuously full and fulfilled that my body needed little food to energize itself. I felt energized by what I was experiencing, seeing and doing. In contrast, I noticed the spiritual emptiness to urban life as the days and weeks passed and I settled back into a more sedentary life that was rich with resources and opportunities but lacking in nature, movement, community and connection.

Surprise 8. How the Nepalese listen and Canadians talk. When I arrived in Nepal, I immediately noticed how the Nepalese listen deeply and with full presence. They are able to be in silence, be with silence and allow silence to hang. In contrast, North American culture is all about the talking. Arriving back to Toronto I was surprised by the amount of constant, loud talking. We talk at each each and talk to make our opinions known.

There were surprises where my core personal values came alive in fulfillment and resonance, or when I experienced an inner chafing, a personal struggle of conflicting values.

There were surprising moments where a few of my core personal values declared themselves and wanted me to honour them more.

There were surprising places where I experienced a struggle between my values and those of my culture and society.

Surprising insights and realizations can happen when we leave anywhere or anything: Leaving a vacation place. Leaving a workplace, a job, a career. Leaving a relationship or friendship. Leaving home. Leaving an experience. Leaving a habit. Leaving a lifestyle.

Being aware of the surprises we have after leaving can not only give us important insights into ourselves. It can also help us understand and honour our true self.

What have you left?What things have surprised you since leaving?

The Smart Art of Friendship: 4 Tips To Help Your Friendship During Transitions

Co-written with Amy Greenleaf Brassert, Relationship Coach “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.” ~ Dinah Craik

Friendships are great for our health, if those friendships themselves are healthy and growing.  For this reason, being at choice and intentional about your friendships, especially during life’s transitions, is important.

We need friends as we go through transitions: for support, for relaxation, to listen, to encourage, to ground and center, and to feel loved. And there are times in our lives when our friendships are more vulnerable; when we experience challenges, stressors and events that impact our friendships.

This is different from the natural stages of transition in any friendship which will be addressed in an upcoming post.

You may have already noticed or experienced how transitions can be challenging to your friendship(s).  Here are different types of transitions that are often stressors on friendship:

  • Career transitions - career advancement, job loss, career change, retirement
  • Money transitions  - different attitudes towards money, sudden changes in financial status, differences in spending habits/choices
  • Health transitions - health diagnosis, health lifestyle choices, mental health, addictions
  • Relationship transitions - becoming coupled, single, widowed, re-coupling
  • Family transitions - becoming pregnant, becoming (step)parent, being child-free
  • Residential transitions - relocating or moving, downsizing, upsizing, moving to assisted living
  • Spiritual transitions - changes in core personal values, interests, or pursuits

When navigating any transition, be mindful and respectful of how each friend deals with change, transition and opportunities. Each of us approaches change differently and has different needs and ways of being during transitions. It’s helpful to notice what a friend is asking for, for example, listening, problem-solving, support, helping do research, distraction or play.

There are subtle differences in what different friends can offer us during transitions e.g. encouragement, a sounding board, relaxation, care and affection, honesty and straight-shooting, or space to be ourselves. This makes it critical to know what skills, strengths and abilities we have and are willing to offer during a transition. And what we can’t offer.

Making a request for help or support takes courage. Equally, it takes courage to consider the request and be honest with ourselves about whether we can fulfill the request or not.

Four Tips for the Care and Growth of Your Friendships During Transitions: 

  1. Prepare yourself for the impact of transitions. Become aware of how transitions can be stressful on friendship. This is deeply personal so we need to pay attention to how we go through transitions and share that with your friends.
  2. Face the “it” in your friendship. Make a decision about whether and/or how to have a conversation about “it”. Consider the impact on you and your friendship of having/not having that conversation.
  3. Be clear about your needs and your boundaries. Know your deal-breakers, your must-have’s and where you draw the line.
  4. Respect your differences. We all have different ways of approaching change, opportunities, growth and challenges.

Here are some thoughts to ponder:  What’s your finest quality as a friend? What qualities are you most grateful for in your friends?  What do your friends value about you?   What’s one friendship quality or skill you would like to explore, strengthen or develop in yourself?  

For more posts about friendship and transitions, come on over to The Smart Art of Friendship blog.