Life Transitions Can Really Suck (or not)

Tree of Change - Krysta Bernhardt

Life is full of transitions. 

Sometimes they're so gradual you don't even know they're happening. One day you wake up and suddenly you realize everything is different. You can't remember the last time you did this or that. You've moved to a new phase and you don't know when it happened. Other transitions are so abrupt they take your breath away. Things turn on a dime and there you are - struggling to define your new normal. 

At their best, transitions are positive and transformative in the most amazing ways. You've accomplished something you've worked for. You've had a life-changing moment that the world applauds. At their worst, transitions are full of confusion and loss. 

Talking about transitions has always been a touchy subject for me. When going through any big transitions, I have an almost immediate urge to share... to reach out... knowing deep down that the experiences I'm having are universal. I also am aware that not everyone wants to dwell on big life moments. Sometimes people just don't want to talk about all the murky stuff, or they don't REALLY want to hear about how great things are going for you because their own experiences maybe don't measure up in their minds. Frankly, most people are so busy dealing with their own place on the timeline that they don't always want or need to hear about where things are with you. Sometimes it feels like part of being a "real" grownup is to gracefully get through everything in a way that doesn't REALLY bother anyone else too much. 

I grew up with the mindset that you don't talk about much. Ever. You don't talk about money, or politics, or medical issues, or big life moments... especially with the kids. You don't share the positive stuff because that would be bragging (as I once wrote about here), and you don't share the negative stuff because it's no-one else's business. So in my experience, many things in my own life have come as a complete shock because no-one bothered to share their experiences along the way.

One of the biggest life transitions for anyone is having kids. My experience with that was NOT pleasant. I had serious illness, C-section, premature babies, birth trauma... and at the time(s) I had no other women to talk to about my particular experiences with. All my friends had "normal" births. My mom had kids with no major problems to speak of (or that she mentioned). There was no-one to reach out to that understood the joy/grief/thankful-to-be-alive/thankful-to have-healthy-kids-but-broken-on-the-inside-in-so-many-ways experience of what I went through. I wanted to reach out, but there was no-one to reach out to. So I withdrew. I got that no-one was really interested in hearing about the broken parts of that journey, so I tucked them away and I journaled and I processed on my own. I made peace with the broken bits for the most part. But the under-sharing, while it made me stronger, also really, REALLY sucked. 

I'm currently working with my family to help elderly parents transition to a new phase of their lives. I'm grappling with that flip flop where the kids get to parent their parents. It's weird. I'm not always sure what to do with it. My parents are older than most in my age group, so once again it feels lonely. My instinct is to withdraw again, because that's what I know, but I also know there are so many people who this is a universal issue for that withdrawing to process almost seems a little selfish. Maybe my own experiences could help someone else. I know the ache of how really, really lonely that withdrawn cocoon can feel and it makes me want to share to help others know that they are not the only ones going through difficult stuff. 

There are also the sudden transitions that life throws out there that knock you off course for a while. My family recently lost a friend very suddenly who was far, far too young. We hadn't seen him in a while, but the shock of knowing he is gone forever is one of those turn on a dime moments that leaves you reeling and unsure about so many things. Generally I find that people are interested in talking about those moments for about a week. Then they want to move on to more pleasant things. Unfortunately those "turn on a dime" moments tend to last a heck of a lot longer than a week for most people.

So I guess what I'm getting at is that even though I am a fully entrenched adult, I obviously still don't know what to do with big transitions. I'm never really sure how to process them. There isn't a guide book that you're handed in life on how these things will go, or what you are supposed to do/be/say/feel about any of it. The difficult nature of challenging transitions is also compounded if you're from a stock of fiercely independent people who have instilled in you that sharing at all is at best bragging and at worst a burden to the people around you.

While life transitions are universal, the individual human experience is new to each of us each and every time. It's so hard to remember that! I'm almost continuously surprised at how unprepared I am to be a human. In some ways that can be amazing as I encounter the exciting, positive chapters of my life, but in other ways it really is difficult - especially when dealing with the hard stuff. You know things are coming (or sometimes not) but you never know how they will REALLY feel until you get there or how you're going to respond until you're in the thick of it.

So what to do? Share? Not share? Talk? Hide? Dance? Draw? Scream? Laugh? Eat too much ice cream? Stay under the blankets until things get better? 

In my tiny corner, I just keep talking, writing, creating and sharing. As I make my way through this crazy life, I put pen to paper as much as I possibly can and I see what comes out. I put it out in the world in the hopes that someone sees it, connects and knows that there are people who get it. Connection... REAL connection is so sorely needed these days. 

So transitions can be amazing and beautiful things can come from them. Transitions can also be some of the worst times you go through. But difficult times and big life moments can also produce amazing things. They can bring people together. I plan to hold on to that thought and I'll keep sharing in my own tiny way.

Something good will come of it. 


© 2018 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.