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FEATURE - June 2015 - Kansas City
Change Isn’t Part of Life, Change IS Life
By Christine Lamb
What do you do when there's a big change coming up in your life? Much depends on your initial reaction to the phrases “new direction,” and “life transitions.” Do you tense up with fear, anxiety and doubt? Or do you feel a quickening of excitement, curiosity and anticipation? Like most things in life, your attitude will determine the ease or difficulty of achieving your goals.
I recently went through several major life transitions simultaneously. My ex-husband moved out just as my career as a homeschooling mom was ending. I still had two kids to “launch,” too many possessions to go through and downsize, and an urgent need to find an immediate source of income. On top of that I wanted to blaze a new path for myself, figuring out what I needed to be happy and fulfilled.
I'll confess my first reactions were fear, anxiety and doubt. The economy was in the tank; I was in my 50s, and had been out of the workforce for more than 20 years. I worried about not only about the future and myself, but also about my kids and theirs. I woke up in the middle of the night doing math in my head.
I didn't just worry though; I took positive steps. I assessed what I was good at and what I actually liked to do, and through friends and word of mouth I started helping people downsize, purge and reorganize garages, attics, kitchens, offices, whatever. I liked the physical aspect, and the obvious before and after difference I made. I also enrolled at the local college for a paralegal certification. After a semester of that I decided it wasn't something I wanted to do for the long-term, and focused my energy on something else I loved: yoga; as I deepened my practice and pursued first my 200, and then 500-hour teaching certifications, I stopped worrying. I had read somewhere that our bodies don't know the difference between imagined worries and real situations; when you conjure anxiety in your mind your body produces the same stress reactions as it would in
an actual dangerous event. That convinced me to be kind to my body, to change my thoughts when they went “there,” and to begin to trust that everything would work out.
Life is just a series of changes. Our first transition happens during birth, as our mothers push us out into the air and we become autonomous, breathing human beings. So many developments occur when we are young, but you never see a baby resisting the next step, fearful or anxious. They reach and try with curiosity and eagerness. As we grow through childhood and adolescence most of us are enthusiastic for what's just around the corner. But as we age, sometimes we forget to be excited about what may happen. We're cynical disguised as “realistic,” and think we know that things won't work out; they'll be hard; we're already exhausted. We know all the statistics and failure rates and how everything is stacked against us. We think the upside of not changing—comfort and security—is greater than the downside: stagnation.
One doesn't have to be an Instagram thrill seeker to seize the day and go for the gusto. We all do it in our own way: Maybe you go for a graphic design degree in your 50s; maybe you ditch the suburban house for a city condo. We applaud young adults who take time to volunteer and travel the world, tour the states or start a business, but we temper that approval with, “That's the time to do it.” A simple shift in our thoughts and
we can realize that the time to do it is now, regardless of age. If you treat your turning point as part of your evolution, it becomes an adventure, full of possibility.
In my own journey I came across countless affirmations and quotes that helped me realize that I was not sinking or failing, I was growing. A favorite is from Cynthia Occelli: “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes.
To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
All manner of life transitions—empty nesting, downsizing, moving, marriage, divorce, a career change, going back to school—are forms of progress. We can ascribe a negative connotation to it, or hold it up as an example of our continued engagement, our very presence. We're trained to be cautious, as if conservatism implies maturity, but maybe it just promotes dullness. One can be responsible and still have some sense of adventure—that tickle of nerves—for life to remain thrilling.
It can help to seek out someone who has already been through a similar transition, or someone who is adept at maneuvering certain situations. I sought out other moms whose kids were growing, grown or gone, and talked with them about their next steps and visions for themselves. I started a blog to document the commonalities and support we shared. I journaled like a pro, and could see the recurring themes and issues as my priorities to address. I learned to trust the flow of the universe, recognized my part in it, and witnessed more instances of manifestation than I ever would have believed. Whatever it is you're confronting can and will be resolved in one way or another; nothing stays the same forever. You can be passive and take a break (I did that for weeks at a time, several times over the years), and see what arises. Something will.
You just have to be alert for it.
Another quote I go back to frequently, from Joseph Campbell, is a reminder: "If you can see your path laid out in front of you, step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path." I hope you are surprised and delighted at where you end up.
Christine Lamb is RYT-500, and a Certified Health Coach. She can be reached for yoga classes, privates, or holistic nutrition counseling at firstname.lastname@example.org