Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Transition time: hello from nowhere land!

My husband and I are in the process of moving from southern California to central Washington. We are trading the suburbs of Los Angeles County (total county population: 10 million) for a small town in Kittitas County (total county population: 42k). At some point, I will be ready to write about this decision- the pieces that slid into place and the moments of magic grace that helped us form our way forward. For now, it's all a little bit overwhelming.

My husband has a new job opportunity and begins work right away. My focus is on the move and settling us in on the other side.

My current state is smack in the middle of nowhere land: I have left my workplace, which, after 17 years, broke my heart. I knew it would be hard but did not realize just how hard. My SoCal home is pulled apart and partially packed up but I am not yet in the new place. I described for a friend that it feels like I lit my life on fire- burned up all the knowns.

There are moments when this is exciting- like the first 20 minutes of a story that is setting up the obstacles and adventures our hero needs to meet. In that film, what would come next is a great new hairstyle/makeover but I am now old enough to know that, in real life, a haircut does not accomplish as much as it does in movies. (Back when we all used to carry photos in our wallets, I kept tucked in mine a picture from when I thought a drastic haircut would turn me into Demi Moore from Ghost and, predictably, the end outcome fell far short. The picture helped to keep me on the haircut straight and narrow path of incremental change.)

More frequently, I sit overwhelmed. I am returning to books that have previously helped me navigate. One of my go-to's is the William Bridges book, "Transitions". The author writes:
"...the transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old one you have now. Even though it sounds backwards, endings always come first. The first task is to let go. After that you encounter the neutral zone- that apparently in-between time when...invisibly inside you, the transformation is going on... And unless you disrupt it by trying to rush through the neutral zone quickly, you are slowly being transformed into the person you need to be to move forward in your life."
At this point you may be wondering why I am moving if I am displaying such a lack of excitement? Here's the thing: I genuinely am excited. However, I often observe major change in others in a glossed over way and think "Hey, look how easy they do it! They seem so sure of themselves!" But I am more convinced that few of us really have that kind of confidence about our change experiences. So, I thought it might be helpful to let you in a little on the reality of change. If I had to sum it up so far, the stages look a little like this:
  • Decision made: I am so excited about this move, while I know it's going to be hard, this is definitely the right thing. 
  • Start purging household goods: wow, huh, this is a lot to go through. I own like 300 more DVDs than a person should. 
  • Saying goodbye to friends and colleagues: this is the worst, ever. I can't stop crying. Also, I have "Leaving on a Jet Plane" stuck in my head and when I get to the lines "...I don't know when I'll be back again. Oh babe, I hate to go", I cry even harder. 
  • Currently: This is still totally the right thing to do, but can I just be transported to 3 months from now when I am all moved and settled? 
I really want to be out of this nowhere land. I want security and answers and a regular routine. I want to live in my new town and walk to the Saturday morning farmers market and see the wide open starry night sky as a familiar friend. Some people thrive on change but I am not one of those folks. I know that this discomfort is just part of the process: there is an ending and a beginning and in-between there is this undefined place. I am practicing mindfulness and being present, even though it is so hard. I am being gracious with myself and having a good cry when I need to. 

Here is what I do know: This time presents opportunity for me too: for the short-term, for the first time in my adult life, I am not working. I am, as someone put it, a lady of leisure. (Well sort-of, there is also the whole moving our life element. I am not looking to start Desperate Housewives of Washington State. I think y'all would be disappointed when each episode is just me walking the dogs and wearing the same Patagonia fleece).

But, I am trying to live it up: starting my day with novels instead of conference calls, scheduling long lunches with friends instead of wolfing down a vending machine cup of noodle at my desk, running errands in the middle of the day instead of the post-work 5-7pm crunch, and taking a nap in the afternoon instead of pounding a Diet Coke. It's really weird. 

I also know I'll be writing in this space more often. I have missed it and you, friends. 

So, here's to transitions: new things, hard endings and the grace to hold it all.
(I would love to hear any book recommendations you may have: are there books that you find yourself returning to or were helpful during change/transition?)