Endings, Neutral Zones, & New Beginnings
Life transitions are the passages we make when our lives change: something ends, there’s an “in between” time and then a new beginning.
Endings can be triggered by external events such as retirement, illness, death, job loss, or divorce. They can also be initiated by internal events, something inside us shifting, changing, falling away, or coming apart.
After the ending there’s a neutral zone, a space between what was and what will be.
Eventually we find our way to a new beginning in whatever form it may take: new relationships, projects, places, work, goals, passions, feelings, or self-identity.
In our culture, the process of transition — ending, in between, new beginning — is seldom recognized or valued. We are not taught how to do transitions which makes it harder to navigate our way through what is a natural, normal process. We think that we (and others) should just “get on with it!”
Transitions can be painful. Your thoughts may run wild. Your feelings (anger, grief, confusion, emptiness, fear) may be intense and feel out of control. It may seem the transition is never going to end. You struggle, fight, and resist it, which makes it more painful.
I’m not going to say transitions are easy, fun, happy times. But in making my way through my own transitions and helping others through theirs, I’ve seen that on the other side of the transition is a new (and sometimes even better!) chapter of our lives. And I’ve learned ways to more easily navigate life transitions.
5 Tips for Transitions
Here are some tips for making your way through life transitions with more ease.
1) Recognize you’re in transition and identify where you are in the process.
Recently a friend of mine was struggling. As we talked it became clear she was smack in the midst of the neutral zone of a life transition. Just recognizing this created more ease in her. Then we were able to identify some actions she could take to make her neutral zone time less painful and more fruitful.
2) Take your time.
Don’t try to hurry the inner process of transition. Transitions seem to have a life of their own so there’s no point in trying to put them on your mind’s timetable.
In the fall, our Japanese maple sheds its lacy leaves. Nothing will make new leaves appear before their time in the spring.
So it is with our life transitions. They have their seasons and their phases. We can’t force ourselves to be done grieving. We can’t will ourselves to know what we want next. We can’t make ourselves stop feeling empty or confused. What we can do is allow ourselves the time we need.
3) Step up your self-care.
Transitions can take their toll on your body, mind, and spirit so pamper yourself. Make plenty of time to do what is most nourishing and nurturing for you.
The standard “prescriptions” of sleep, healthy food, and exercise will help. As will the special things that work best for you (massage, beach walks, playing with grandchildren, time alone, dinner with friends, journaling, etc.).
4) Be with and deal with the stage you’re in.
If you’re in the ending phase, that may mean allowing your reactions, your grieving, your anger.
In the emptiness and seeming aimlessness of the neutral zone it might mean surrendering and taking reflective time for yourself.
As you move into new beginnings, cultivating your curiosity about what lies ahead and staying open to external and internal clues about what’s next for you can be helpful. You may also need to face your fears, anxieties, and doubts about the new beginnings that arise.
5) Follow your lights.
Whether you’re in the ending, neutral zone, or new beginning phase of transitions, notice what lights you up. Although they may glimmer only faintly, some choices, some paths, some steps will have more energy than others. Following these glimmers will ease and may even accelerate your transition.
Like them or not, transitions are an unavoidable part of life. May you navigate your transitions with more ease and find your way to joyous new beginnings!
Are you in a life transition? What is it and how are you doing with it? Tell us in Comments below.
If you’re in the midst of a transition? You don’t have to do it on your own. I can help you to make your way more easily and quickly through the transition and to discover & create a great new beginning for yourself. For more information, visit http://www.savoringyoursixties.com/loving-your-sixties-coaching/