I had never met her before.
Her son came into our consignment shop to talk to me about downsizing her estate so she could move into a 900 square foot assisted living apartment from her 3,000 square foot home of 42 years. He was a little impatient and bothered by the process, but he was so thankful to find help with the massive undertaking.
As I walked through her front door two days later, she reached out and pulled me into a huge bear hug as tears gently formed along her bottom eyelids. I hugged her back. Not with an emotional attachment, she was a complete stranger to me. But as one who understood the tearing apart of a person and the things that represented the sum of her life. Her attachment was not to the things themselves , but to the memories those things carried.
We live with furniture and clothes and books and collections that represent more than they are. Like the shotguns and rifles and pistols hanging all over her living room wall, those guns carried for her memories of her late husband. They represented good times and bad times. Heartbreak and victory. They spoke to her the story of her life.
And that was what she was tearing away from. If they were just guns, she would have dropped them at the local pawn shop a day after her husband died. I mean, after all, she always hated them hanging in her living room before he died. Oh, but they were so much more now. And now she had to let go. She had to close her eyes and open them to a new day, in a new bed, with new stuff. How would she choose to spend the next chapter?
Every transition of life can be scary!
Transitions don’t have to be that scary if we view them as adventure and make decisions to navigate them well.
That doesn’t necessarily make them easy, but the path could be lighter and more exciting than you think.
Five Keys to Navigating Transitions of Life
Key #1: Honor and Memorialize the Past.
Look back and be full of gratitude!
Below is a quote from one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Rich Mullins:
“When I wrote Doubly Good to You, we were getting married, and I had written that for our wedding. A friend of mine said, ‘Boy, that is a really cruel song.’ And I said, ‘Well, why?’ and she said, ‘Because you are inferring that if God doesn’t give you a love that is centered around someone that is true that he hasn’t been doubly good to you.’ I’m like, ‘Well, exactly.’ But God doesn’t have to be singly good to anybody. We all have got it better than we deserve so we should be thankful for what we have.”
Remembering the goodness of the previous chapter(s) of life can be healing as we realize that somewhere in all of life, there is beauty.
And when we reflect on the beauty of the past we somehow experience a hope for the future.
What if the last chapter was hell on Earth for you. Maybe it would be helpful to read the article linked below and consider how you can relate it to your situation.
Key #2: Never lose hope that the next chapter can be better than the last.
One definition of hope is ”a feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” When we lose that confidence, we struggle with getting out of bed every day!
What if I lose hope? Well, sometimes I do. One tool that has helped me regain hope when things look grim is a product called the “5 Minute Journal.” This simple series of morning and evening reflections on gratitude always seem to remind me that life is better than it seems and that the future looks bright if I choose to make wise decisions. Read more about how I use that tool at the link below.
Key #3: Embrace a vision for the future.
“I dream of my painting and then I paint my dream” – Vincent Van Gogh
There is a subliminal motivation at work with us when we simply envision a greater future. There are times when I wake up to realize that even though I had not known the steps to get from where I was to where I dreamt, I ended up there. I think when we dream about a preferred future, our internal decision filter handles information relative to our hopes and dreams and takes the turns it needs to get us there. Maybe it works like an internal GPS where we’ve dialed in our destination by visualizing and it tells our will what turn to take and when.
I personally believe that we also must inform our hope of the plans that our Creator has for us. As we draw near to God and ask Him for these visions of the future, nothing can stand against our march toward our destiny.
Key #4: Find a guide to help!
I’ve done some backcountry camping and hiking in the bush of Alaska in my time and that has served to help me see the power of a trusted guide. There are turns we take in life that lead us into situations we are not equipped to trek on our own.
A trusted guide gives a person perpective that his lack of experience and emotional state inhibits when transition is inevitable.
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” – Yoko Ono
There is strength when we allow our thoughts, plans and emotions to be filtered by a trusted guide and then we allow them to ask us hard questions that will help us make wise decisions as we journey toward our preferred future.
Using a guide can dramatically shorten a learning curve, help you avoid emotional decisions that can lead to chaos or just simply give you some new perspective that you haven’t seen before.
You can find guides in several places. You may find a friend in your friend group who can listen to you and ask good questions. You may choose to utilize your church for guidance. I also recommend professional coaches and the investment you make in them often reap a multitude of rewards in the future. Contact me if you need help finding a guide. Maybe I can point you in a direction.
Key #5: Do something small every single day.
Choosing to take one baby step every single day can often be more beneficial than a months worth of giant steps!
You remember the story of the turtle and the hare. There is wisdom in pacing yourself and choosing to be perpetually persistent in marching toward your destiny.
We see folks like the lady mentioned in the beginning of this post almost every single day! We watch them closely as they navigate through recent divorces, loss of loved ones and many other transitions of life. It seems that the ones who come out best on the other side are those with a proper perspective. They celebrate the past, they hope for the future, they visualize where they are going, and they lean on guides. Even through the toughest times of those transitions, they wake up, put one foot on the floor, then the other, and they start with gratitude. Then they ponder what today’s baby steps will look like and they get up and live!
I pray for all of you who are facing an obstacle! Keep your chin up and stand firm…
Comment below with your transition story.