Limbo Land: Second Transition Phase
Feeling as if you are in limbo? You’ll recognize it because the limbo–or In Between transition phase–kind of feels like down is up and up is down. Or, what used to work for you–how you coped, or managed–just isn’t working while you’re In Between the Letting Go and the Accepting the New Way phases.
Transition expert and guide Leia Francisco says this about being in the limbo, in-between space:
The actual change may already have taken place (e.g., the new job, the new baby, living in a new culture, the move to a new location, the divorce decree), but emotionally we are still wandering through a land without a map.
And it’s easy to get stuck here.
It’s easy to reach out for quick creature comforts during this phase, perhaps attaching ourselves to things that really aren’t healthy for us. Drinking and abusive substances to numb the pain. Shopping or traveling beyond our limits. Rebounding into unhealthy relationships. I think I’ve done all of these at one time or another.
It’s also, according to Leia, quite….
…normal to be forgetful, less focused, angry, sad, fearful, lonely, optimistic, and energized. It’s normal to feel ‘not normal.’
And yet transitions are the stuff of life.
If it’s difficult to imagine this in your life, consider the natural process of how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Yes, the metaphor is overused, but in this particular case it has surprising merit. So I invite you to stay with me for a moment.
Listen to how expert life coach Martha Beck describes what happens inside the cocoon. Martha writes:
I used to think I knew how some caterpillars become butterflies. I assumed they weave cocoons, then sit inside growing six long legs, four wings, and so on. I figured if I were to cut open a cocoon, I’d find a butterfly-ish caterpillar, or a caterpillar-ish butterfly, depending on how far things had progressed. I was wrong. In fact, the first thing caterpillars do in their cocoons is shed their skin, leaving a soft, rubbery chrysalis. If you were to look inside the cocoon early on, you’d find nothing but a puddle of glop. But in that glop are certain cells, called imago cells, that contain the DNA-coded instructions for turning bug soup into a delicate, winged creature—the angel of the dead caterpillar. [bold emphasis mine]
Bug soup. Shedding the old skin. A sense of disintegration. A puddle of glop. Yep. The In Between phase of a transition. Limbo Land.
But the good news is that writing helps us move through this “normal to feel not-normal” In Between phase of a change.
Writing helps us in two special ways: normalize our feelings and tap into our creative transformation. It’s the creative depth of the In Between phase that has been largely unexplored in writing. ~ Leia Francisco
So first, writing down our feelings, our thoughts, our anger, our fears helps us to realize first of all what is happening in our lives. It externalizes a lot of internal glop. Once out, we can begin to process it, to realize how “normal” it all is.
Second, the In Between phase can also be a time of what Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder refers to as “fertile confusion.”
Yes, we’re in limbo. But if we allow ourselves to acknowledge our crazy night dreams, or day time fantasies, or to collage and create images that speak to us on a whole different level than just words, things can change. Those imago cells-–those cells that make transformation happen—might just get activated.
Plus there’s more.
Learning a template for transitions which includes an understanding of the three phases–Letting Go of the Old Way, In Between, Accepting the New Way–will provide you a framework to not only work through just one transition, but any past or future transition.
Caterpillars only need to transition once into butterflies. But as women, we go through many transitions. Like, marriages, job losses, professional changes, caretakers of children and then adults, empty nesting, retirement, relationship ups and downs. And what about the changes our bodies go through: menarche, aging, pre-menopause, menopause, illness.
And yet, we can choose to creatively explore this In Between place, discovering strength, resiliency, dreaming crazy dreams. We can learn to manage our lives so that we do less during this time where our energies are drained perhaps by simply getting out of bed. We can collage, and draw, and write ourselves into imagining the a new beginning. A new beginning where we still have the DNA of the loss, but are beginning to feel the wings of Accepting the New Way emerge.
Ready to process a nagging transition in your life?
Join me and other women for Caterpillar to Butterfly: The Power of Writing Through Change. It’s a 4-week, virtual, self-paced course where you will explore the stages of one life transition through the power of journaling and creative experiences. We begin Monday, June 19th. I hope you’ll join us.