The Perils and the Power of Transitions
I have been struggling as to how to actually start this blog. What can I share that is authentic, relevant, and most importantly, helpful, for any of you out there? What hasn’t already been shared? What isn’t a mere google search away? But today I decided to put my heart out for all of you - to share my experiences, my perspective, my struggles, and my realizations. Most importantly, I decided to just begin.
I wanted to talk a bit about transitions (and especially in light of the spectacular Super Blue Blood Moon this morning!) 2017 was a year full of transitions for me. In May, my grandfather passed away after a full life and a long descent into dementia. I was sad, but at peace, as he transitioned to the other side. In July, I married my best friend and transitioned to the role of “wife.” We had been together and living together for years, so this transition didn’t seem so big and scary, but definitely presented a shift, nonetheless.
Sadly, in August, I got news that my college roommate took his own life. I was shaken. He was witty, loving, handsome, and incredibly intelligent, but had long struggled with depression. While I was mourning the loss of this beautiful soul, my sister lost her battle with breast cancer. I had been watching my sister’s physical form change and wither over the last year and a half. I had been there when she struggled through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery after surgery. I watched her grimace in pain as her bones were eaten away by metastases. I cried with her, I laughed with her, and I held her hand when she slept. I watched as her wife lovingly and tenderly assisted her in out of bed. I held back my tears as I watched her 2 ½ year old twins run to her room and gently kiss her goodnight when she was too weak to put them to bed. And I knew how much she was suffering, but I also knew that she was not ready to leave this world behind. And I wasn’t ready to let her go.
In the midst of my mourning, we were moving. I robotically packed our townhouse in Long Beach (which was less than 2 miles from my sister’s home) to head to our new home in San Clemente. No sooner had we picked up the keys to our new home did we get news that we would soon become guardians to my 17 year-old niece. We moved her into our new home and welcomed her with open arms, but parenting a teenager is an adjustment all of its own.
Once the figurative dust of our move had settled, I began to feel uprooted and detached from the community I had built in Long Beach. And while logically I knew that the 40 miles between us was not insurmountable, the thought of being so far away from my sister-in-law and my sister’s two young children, felt like rubbing salt in my wounds.
All of this left me with no time to process and no grounding. I slept more, I cried (a lot). Each day felt like a haze, and left me feeling like if I stopped moving, I might not start again. Full auto-pilot. I all but stopped taking care of myself. Getting out of bed became a struggle. My hair was in a permanent bun, and would go weeks without brushing or washing. (I wound up with a few small dreadlocks). I would make it to my appointments, but felt detached and vacant. I consoled myself nightly with several glasses of wine. My self-esteem started to suffer, and I started telling myself stories (“You aren’t strong enough to do this,” “You are too lazy to get this done,” “You are never going to get back in shape.”)
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when attending the BirthFit Coaches Seminar, that I had the realization that everything that happened in 2017 was all transition. I’m not sure what about that word stuck in my heart, but that changed my perspective. Maybe it was the image of “transition” in labor, when surges are the most intense and women tend to doubt their own strength and bodies, but knowing that this stage is an indicator that the beauty of new life is just around the corner. Or perhaps it was the idea of transition as being a transformation into a new, more enlightened state of being.
And I realized that I had transitioned into the role of a kind of mother, rather than just roommate/host. (Granted, I am not comparing caring for a largely self-sufficient, 17 year-old with her own car and driver’s license to having a newborn, but it is a type of motherhood nonetheless, with the stresses, love, and responsibility that come along with it). For the first time, I felt a surge of compassion and forgiveness towards myself that I had not experienced in the last year.
So far all of you out there that are facing a life, I offer you this:
Transitions are rarely easy - they take time to process, to integrate, to assimilate. It is important to give ourselves time to mourn what was, and to embrace what is. It is essential to reach out for help, to set up our teams that will get us to the top of the mountain AND back down again.
This becomes especially important as you transition to motherhood. We transition to this role in our bodies, our minds, and our hearts... AND IT IS HUGE! On top of that, we have been sold a book of lies, that we need to “bounce back” to our pre-baby body, to our pre-baby life. Have compassion for yourself. Take your time. Reach out - find your tribe. You weren’t meant to do this alone, healing isn’t linear, and it isn’t meant to happen overnight.
Giving myself permission to experience all of this as a transition (rather than life just piling on) has been so helpful - I know I am far from healed, but I am softer with myself. I have been able to mourn what was: my former community, the lives that were cut too short on this earth, and the life of a single, “non-mom” (not sure what else to call that, ha ha.) And all of that has created space to embrace what is: a new community where we are putting down strong roots, the memories and love of those that I lost that will last forever, a loving and supportive husband, and a beautiful, non-traditional family.
Embrace the transition, mamas. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it. <3