Transitions are a big theme in my life right now. My son is going off to University, I finished a book a year ago and am pondering next steps in my life, and every client I am coaching seems to be going through some sort of significant life change. Transitions are comprised of endings, beginnings and the space in between. I was struck by something I read last week, “in order for something to begin, something else needs to end.” Seems pretty obvious and yet it caught me off guard. A beginning is also an ending, hmmm... and a change is an ending as well. I suppose, like many people, I am pretty good at thinking about what I want next in my life, what course, what challenge, what accomplishment to take on, but I don’t always think in terms of letting something else go. Logically, taking on a new challenge always means letting go of something else in my life. If I am going to swim three times a week, cycle and do yoga twice a week, I am not also going to lift weights and do Pilates like I did last year. This change is so insignificant; it doesn’t feel like a loss, although I very much miss the community feel of my Pilates class. Other endings have been more painful. In order to live with my new husband, five years ago I gave up the home I had lived in for 17 years. On the weekend before the move I opened the big front hallway closet with the marked up door frame I had measured my children’s heights from the time they could walk. Standing there, staring at that scratched up door frame, I started sobbing with an overwhelming feeling of loss. I was excited to move in with the love of my life, and thrilled with the new home we had purchased, but in that moment, I felt the full magnitude of the change I was making in my life. Six years later, I am grateful I made the move, but there were many difficult moments and feelings of loss along the way.
Many people get stuck in their lives not because of lack of ambition, but from a deep rooted fear of change. They fear the feelings of loss and uncertainty so much that they literally get stuck in their life. We all know somebody who is stuck in their life. It is so easy to recognize from the outside, someone who can’t leave a crappy relationship, someone who hates their job but will not take the risk of applying elsewhere, someone who is still having Christmas dinner with their ex’s family despite barely talking on every other occasion. They are stuck and we can recognize it a mile away.
It’s a lot harder to recognize where we are stuck, where we are clinging onto a routine, and a habit that has long since stopped serving us. We can’t let go because it would be uncomfortable or awkward, or inconvenient to make a change. WE don’t always make the link between what we have in our life that is no longer serving us, and the lack of forward progress we are making. Isn’t it better to have something filling our life, than a void.
I think there is genius in the void. I think that the space in between loss and new beginnings is a place of transformation and creativity. WE are literally building what is going to come next, even when we are not sure what we are doing. The thinking, the asking advice, the journaling, all of these are part of the creation of the next piece of our life. Sometimes we have to get so uncomfortable that we can’t stand it anymore. Desperation is a legitimate catalyst for some people’s biggest life changes. Before I ever wrote Unsinkable, I talked about, I journalled, I asked for friends' advice, I did this for so many months, I drove myself to distraction; all of this was integral to finding the motivation and the focus to write the book, I got the worst of my inner critic out of the way before I even put pen to paper. This “void” was not a void at all, but a bridge to where I was and where I am going.
To experience growth in our life, we have to accept loss and make friends with the void. The space in between an ending and beginning can be incredibly uncomfortable, it drives many people right back to where they were before, but if we persevere, that space is fodder for the creativity that will inspire our next large action.