If you are feeling like your life is in a state of turmoil: pause. Take a moment to step back, to shift from mouse-view to eagle-view. Is it really just a big life transition you are going through? A “life in turmoil” feels chaotic, out of control, scary, like you have no agency in the matter, like you’re stuck in a pot of boiling water. But going through a “big life transition,” doesn’t that feel a little more neutral? Everyone goes through them. That’s part of the human experience. Nothing in life stays the same, but maybe this change is something you can navigate. Maybe you do have some agency here. Instead of a pot of boiling water, maybe you are on a raft going down a river. Sure, there could be rapids, but if you pay attention, you may have more resources available to you than you’d realized. Are there oars and a life jacket, maybe even some friends and a guide on the raft with you? Take a breath. Check out the scenery.
The thing about big life transitions is that change is scary. Even if the transition is perfectly normal, maybe even anticipated, it can still throw us off course. We get used to adopting certain roles and playing by a certain set of rules. We invest a lot of our sense of identity into these roles and feel safe knowing what is expected of us.
When roles change, we suddenly find the old rules no longer apply (such a painful lesson). We feel lost, disoriented, vulnerable. How do we keep ourselves safe in this new uncharted territory? Where is the map? And when we are scared and unsure, that’s when our old demons show up. As we live our lives, we get hurt, and if that hurt is not tended to with gentle compassion, we carry the message of the wound with us. We internalize core beliefs about ourselves and others and the world. We secretly store core fears.
So of course transitions bring up those old messages and fears. I don’t like to use the word “triggered,” but let’s just say maybe some old wounds get poked and old patterns get activated. Maybe you notice you are living in fight-or-flight or even shut down more and more of the time (learn more about your nervous system here), and maybe that’s not going so well for you.
And so I can see how this particular rafting trip is not feeling like such a good time, but herein lies the opportunity hidden in the crisis: this is where you get to steer yourself toward the path of transformation. This is where you get to choose your own adventure. This is where you start to realize you can chart your own course.
When I talk about transformation, I do not mean striving to become something you are not. I actually mean allowing yourself to become more of who you really are–who you set out to be before those fears and messages dimmed your light. It’s a path of remembering yourself, coming back to yourself. All those demons coming up? Welcome them! They are just adaptations that made sense at the time. They are here to show you what you are carrying with you so that you can see if it truly belongs to you and make a choice about whether it’s worth hanging on to. This is where you get to toss things off the raft that no longer serve you, lighten your load. Those old fears are actually your portals to healing.
Not to overextend a metaphor, but this time you are spending on the raft in the river? There is SO much possibility here. Possibility of healing, of discovery, truly of transformation. You can stay stuck in your turmoil, or you can recognize the big life transition going on and use it to remember who you are so you can start playing by your own rules. Please don’t bypass the opportunity for transformation in your urgency to feel your feet back on dry land.
April 5, 2023