Accepting the New Way: The Third Transition Phase

Or, what happens after navigating Letting Go of the Old Way

and the In-Between phases of a life transition

Suppose you’ve lost a beloved mother, a job, or a pet. There is the date the event happened. There may have been a funeral, a good-bye party, a backyard burial. In other words, something marked the significance of this event.

And then it seemed like the rest of the world moved onward, returning to whatever the world does. Your phone stopped ringing with well-meaning condolences. The casseroles stopped arriving on your doorstep. And yet, for you, everything has changed. You walk around like a zombie, if you get out of bed at all. You forget things. You lose things–like your keys, important papers, your glasses. You have no energy. The old answers and ways no longer seem to work.

This In-Between phase–what I call Limbo Land, or being in the cocoon–lasts indefinitely.

And then one day the fog begins to lift.

A new path begins to emerge. You know that you’re going to be OK.  You’ve begun Accepting the New Way of being.

This is the process of a transition. Moving through a life-changing event–a transition that affects your well-being and how you perceive yourself–towards accepting the new way of living. And for many, reflective writing is a tool that helps people Let Go of the Old Way, move through the In-Between times, and towards Accepting a New Way of being in the world.

Here’s an example.

Recently, I held a transition workshop for women who have experienced domestic violence. Oh, the transitions for one special woman. Her transition story includes life changes no human should ever have to bear. Like, abandonment as a child, growing up in an orphanage, being sold into human trafficking in a foreign country, eventually relocating to a new country, an abusive relationship begun and ended, a women’s shelter, a finally new home.

As we talked about transitions, and all that she had been through, she told us this. “When I was in the orphanage, the women there worried about me because I wasn’t talking. They gave me paper and crayons, and so I began drawing.” Later, still drawing but in a new country without the language skills, she began writing. First she wrote in her native language, eventually moving to English. “Now I write in my journal nearly every day. I always have it with me. It helps me.”

The benefit this young woman described about creating and writing is the same benefit Alice Walker discovered:

Writing is a sturdy ladder out of a deep pit.

And writing through transitions that always involve an emotional, if not physical loss, can be your way out of the deep pit, and onto the third phase of a transition, Accepting the New Way.

Transition expert Leia Francisco describes this third transition phase as not a totally “new normal,” but instead…

…a crossing of the threshold in that direction. The acceptance can come in small steps, like buds on a tree. It is the ideal time to write down small goals and action steps. It is time to celebrate getting through the transition. Even the small things are worth celebrating: the first walk around the block after a major illness, taking an art class after a divorce, making a new friend in the new neighborhood.

Think back to a time of transition for you.

Perhaps back as far as when you were hit puberty, college, or marriage. Or back to the arrival of your first child, the first job, the first job loss, or a promotion. (Remember, transitions can arise out of any experience that affects your well being, whether it’s perceived as good or bad.) How did the “new normal” feel to you then? What were small celebrations as you adjusted to this new life? What small or large steps did you take as you crossed the threshold into a new way of being?

To make this more apparent to yourself, write your transition out.

When you have some time write this all down, describing this past transition. Reflect on the pages of your journal what was ending, what did you need to let go of, how did the In-Between time feel, what got you through, what were the earliest buds of accepting a new way? Who supported you? What skills did you develop? What values did you rely on? Even if the transition did not end “well” for you, or you feel you made mistakes, what new strengths, skills, vision can you draw from this transition for today?

If nothing else, writing this else gives you a record of a transition, one you have successfully navigated. Successfully, I say, because you’re still here! What wisdom you’ve gained since then!

When we write things down, we make what is an abstract cloud-like thought floating around our brains become real, even more real than if we speak them.

There is empowerment in writing through a change or life transition.

And if you’re ready to begin writing through a life transition, I hope you’ll join me for Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Power of Writing Through Change. This is a 4-week, self-paced, online course created to help you:

  • learn the normal parts of a transition
  • learn writing strategies to help you grow from your transition
  • find creative elements within the transition
  • begin processing one life transition in a community of like-minded women

But don’t delay. Registration closes this Saturday since we begin on Monday, June 19th. I’d love you to be a part of what promises to be an enlightening, transformative workshop! More information here.

What transition are you in the midst of that could use some writing power?

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