Sometimes life ‘throws you a curly one’, sometimes you just get really tired of the same old routine or outgrow your circumstances and sometimes you just move into a new stage of life.
Whether the change is chosen or forced upon you, the pathway through a life transition can be arduous. The process of letting go of what you once were and finding your way into what you will become is unsettling. If you think about it, this happens to us constantly throughout our lives. We are evolutionary creatures, always changing. Constantly moving through the cycles of birth, growth, stability, deterioration and dissolution. Every aspect of life goes through these cycles – there’s really no stopping it.
The pointy end is that stage in the life cycle, the time of dissolution when there is so much loss, so much falling away before the new shoots start to emerge. We experience these little deaths in our lives all the time, from simple little things like ending a favourite book, through to more significant change that effects our identity, such as divorce or death of a loved one, retirement – the impact can be crippling. But the natural cycle is there and we can learn to trust it. To borrow an analogy from Chip Conley (New York best-selling author). In his writing about midlife and becoming a modern elder he uses the metaphor of a chrysalis. He tells us ‘if you were to open the cocoon mid-morphosis it would be a gooey mess’. This is the liminal stage, an in-between stage. Not quite one thing and no longer the other. So, it is completely natural to feel disoriented in this stage. But he reminds us ‘don’t fret the goo, there’s a coming emergence that will help you to fly’.
Life transitions ARE hard, they knock us for six, we might no longer feel certain about anything. When I’ve had these experiences I find it hard to understand why I can no longer do things that came easily and automatically once, why I want to hide in my cocoon, why I just don’t really feel like I’m in the flow of life. There’s a lot going on at these times! Like that natural process that’s going on inside the cocoon, the caterpillar digesting itself, dissolving its own tissues. But, for good reason.
I’m a firm believer that life gives us exactly what we need, we have the perfect experiences to support our natural unfoldment. However, many of us spend our time wishing our life circumstances were other than they are. Trusting the process of life means we need to embrace the whole cycle including the times of dissolution or death, the times of significant change. This is life at work, the natural cycle that we can see all around us. The demands of our lives may not always be supportive of these stages so it is on us to recognise when we need to honour this stage. We need to heed the inner yearnings, perhaps for some quiet, some time out, to take things slowly and allow the process to do its work. To acknowledge that we are no longer who we were and that we don’t quite know who we are becoming. It’s in the honouring of this natural cycle that we will find our way – not by struggling or resisting. Well-meaning friends and family might encourage us to ‘get up and get going’, ‘get out there and enjoy life’, but that might not be what we need during this stage.
It’s hard to trust the process of death, but it is integral to life, and if we are to return to wholeness, it needs to be embraced and honoured. When I look back on these times of transition in my life, and there’s been a few – death of loved ones, divorce or the ending of a long term relationship, betrayal, loss of a role that I believed defined me – these are the times of the greatest growth, the times when I take a massive leap forward towards a more fuller expression of my Self. There is a natural cycle if we trust it. This is transformation at work.