I have been thinking about transitions lately. This month, time zones across the world change and many of us shift with them. Some of you, like me, tend to spend the early days of time zone changes scratching our heads as we try to schedule appointments with people in different parts of the world, and sometimes find ourselves an hour early or an hour late for said appointments.
Transitions can be challenging… and they actually do cause us to use more energy as we navigate through them.
This morning, before anyone other than myself and the cats were up – and before I had my second sip of tea – someone knocked at my door. It was a city construction worker who informed me that they would be digging up the end of our driveway in 20 minutes. It was okay to leave our cars in the driveway, but we wouldn’t be able to leave for several hours.
This was one of those unpleasant and unexpected transitions.
I threw my slippers on, grabbed the keys, and proceeded to move two cars from our driveway: my visiting friend’s – who will likely be shocked out of bed at the level of noise that will soon be happening outside her bedroom window – and mine. Moving the cars was easy. What became challenging was finding a place to park them because the city had blocked off several streets around us. Digging up sidewalks and parkways in several places was clearly on their minds.
And then the REAL work started.
A small but mighty machine with a huge, burrowing-like needle for its nose began digging up concrete (according to my Google search, this machine could be called a Rock Breaker) and generating a noise so loud that it is truly impossible for me to describe, except to say that it made the windows and floors of my house shake. Then a smaller vehicle showed up, and using its broad metal blade, s-c-r-a-p-e-d up all the concrete that had just been dug up. The sound was intense! Every time either vehicle backed up, they emitted a piercing and high pitched beep beep beep beep beep beep sound…
There are three phases of transition; the first one is The Ending.
In this case, The Ending was my idea of a peaceful morning sipping tea while reading one of my favorite books (Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer) for the second time. I am reading it again because I am wanting to be deeply nurtured right now, and this book is perfect for that. So I envision myself sipping my tea savoring every word with tears streaming down my face because that is what I have come to expect from this book…
Concrete scrapeage, bam bam bam, beep beep beep beep beep, walls shaking…The second and longest phase is The Neutral Zone, which many of my students have made clear is “anything but neutral!” The Neutral Zone is when you experience your ending (my dream of having quiet, alone time with Robin Wall Kimmerer) but you haven’t yet entered The New Beginning. Your inside self and your outside self are literally becoming ready to step into a new version of you: a new job, a new marital status, a different morning experience than expected.
Beep beep beep beep, Rock Breakers breaking concrete, and large scooping machines scraping it all up, walls shaking, my own innards shaking from the shock of it all…
Often times, The Neutral Zone is the most challenging of the three phases of transition.
The shock, sounds, and grating I experienced this morning is perfect symbolism for how painful and gut wrenching The Neutral Zone can be.
The third phase of transition is The New Beginning, which is where we embrace our new self.
It is not when the change happens. For instance, it is not when my street was being dug up. It is not when the divorce or marriage happens. Nor when a loved one dies. It is not when the new time zones kick in.
It is when we embrace the new aspect of our lives.
It is when we navigate the new, and we no longer feel devastated by divorce and begin to have moments of enjoying single life. It is when we don’t break into tears every single time we think of our loved one who has transitioned and even have moments of joy when we think about them. Or when we live easily in the new time zones, feel more rested, and show up on time for international meetings.
This morning, for me, it happened when I became intrigued by the machines and their sheer power, when I stood on my front porch with my tea watching every move of the destruction and rebuilding process because I was sincerely curious. When my loved ones finally got up to see what the commotion was (how could they sleep through this!!), I excitedly told them everything I knew, and announced the names of the machines as I understood them from Google. And it happened when I had a moment of gratitude for the city and for these very men for supporting my neighborhood. This is embracing The New Beginning.
So this month as many of us navigate changes in time zones, changes in COVID mandates, changes in world dynamics, and our own life transitions, may we remember that the three phases of all transitions begin with The Ending, move into The Neutral Zone, and end with The New Beginning. All of them progress in this way.
May we find comfort in knowing that this organic, though not linear process, always ends in The New Beginning. And may we relax into knowing that whatever phase we are in is exactly the right phase for now.