Flourishing Through Transitions

Written August 6th, 2009, shortly before my husband undertook a major job change, my daughter graduated from college, my first son from high school, and my youngest son from eighth grade. 

My household is in a grand state of transition. This wasn’t a surprise. I saw it coming months earlier when my youngest son observed that ‘isn’t it funny that all three of us kids will graduate the same week and move to something new?’ Funny indeed. And then when my husband chimed in that his job at work would be shifting quite dramatically at the exact same time…well, things moved from funny to hysterical. As a mother, you always kind of hope that when one child (or a husband) goes through a dramatic shift and needs your attention, the others will be status quo so you can focus all of your energies on the one in need.  This scenario definitely has its perks for all involved.

But when all present shift at once, there’s no status quo. There’s no hope of maintaining any of the typical patterns of dealing with change or of mothering in the same way.  And there’s certainly no denying that things will be radically different on the other side of the shift. I’ve found over the course of the last three months, that this scenario is OK too. While it’s nice to have some stable footing to hold on to during change, there are also advantages to being swept up in the immensity of transition. It’s kind of like when you’re deliberating about whether or not to do something new.  If everyone around you is trying it and encouraging you to try, well then, why not?  If even one other person around you says ‘no thanks’ to the change, you doubt and reconsider and possibly stay put rather than step out into the newness. When everyone is in a state of newness and change, it gives permission for you not only to do the same, but to do it with even more energy and intensity.  And so it is with the change in our household as grand dreams are formed and steps taken to achieve them.

And so it is with me.  I didn’t plan on transitioning through all of this.  I mean, I knew that with a daughter moving to New York City on her own, my first-born son leaving for college, and my ‘baby’ entering the challenging world of high school, I’d have some of that ‘empty nest’ stuff going on.  But overall, I was to be the captain of the ship…problem solving, listening, hugging, encouraging, helping each of them envision their bigger selves opening up to something larger, and so on. The same stuff I do every day, but on a grander scale. I didn’t count on the intense need to stay present each and every moment.  There have been times when I’ve wanted to hurry it along not only to move through the chaos more quickly, but also because I’m so eager to see what lies ahead for each of them and for me in that aforementioned ‘emptier nest’.  And there’s been a few times when every mother instinct in me has wanted to grip the past tightly and stop the growing up and moving out. (These last times were a result of some ill-timed viewing of old video tapes when those now career-bound kids were little cuties giggling and performing for the camera.)

I’ve already been in tune with flourishing when things are going well and life is stable, at least seemingly so.  But the heightened energy of transition these past months has immersed me in the beauty of flourishing in the midst of chaos and change.  There can be no resistance, only the energy of acceptance.  There can be no traditional mothering, only mentoring and guiding. There can be no looking back to what was or looking forward to what may be, only staying present in what is right now.

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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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