Change is constant. And every so often, Life throws a curve ball in the form of a cataclysmic change. An event that takes us so far off course, our heads are spinning. Or our hearts are breaking.
These occurrences tear at the fabric of everyday life and land us back at Square 1.
I experienced one of these shifts when I got a one-two punch that involved my health, coupled with the loss of two loved ones. As I struggled to catch my breath, I was reminded of a few things I’d learned years ago.
We’re resilient at this stage of life. Consequently, we can put ourselves under some pressure to buck up and get over whatever it is that’s knocked us for a loop.
Our culture has conditioned us to dust ourselves off and start all over again. We may be allowed a period of grieving; we may be granted “space” for a while. But then we’re expected to “get on with it.”
It’s better if you don’t.
You wouldn’t tear apart a chrysalis to see if the caterpillar is ready to emerge. Don’t further rip your world apart in your effort to move forward.
Put yourself in the caterpillar’s Square 1 shoes (tiny as they might be). When she creates that cocoon, she has no clue about what’s going to happen. Then she literally dissolves into an unrecognizable blob of goo. Nothing feels familiar. Nothing is the same.
So, she waits. Despite her confusion, even her despair, she allows time to pass.
Amidst external messages or the encouragement of well-meaning loved ones (Are you journaling? Are you painting? How about taking a class?), in times of sudden or life-altering change, we might prefer a warm blanket and a hot beverage. We might need to hunker down in the quiet.
We definitely need to allow all of our emotions to run their course.
What we don’t need is to make plans, create a spreadsheet, and set goals. Because we’re as frightened and bewildered as that used-to-be caterpillar. And we’ll be that way for as long as it takes.
She’s still safely tucked away, but she starts to feel a change. Maybe she’s energized.
She begins to imagine what things will be like once she leaves her safe space. She wonders about what’s next.
Maybe she has caterpillar dreams about her new life.
Like her, despite what we’ve been through or what we’re still dealing with, eventually we’ll start getting curious, too. We’ll consider our possibilities, play around with a few ideas. We’ll begin to embrace joy and feel more positive.
This lighter, brighter stage of the change cycle will come. The important thing to remember is that we can’t hurry to get to it no matter how gooey our mess is or how eager we are to start over.
It’s hard to be comfortable with not knowing. But we must allow what’s happening to unfold and experience the murky uncertainty of our chrysalis. In the meantime, we need to take care of ourselves in every way. Surround ourselves with people we love. Seek outside help if that feels right.
Eventually, our lessons will become clear. The ways we’re growing and evolving will become apparent. We’ll take a few small steps forward.
Then we’ll fly.
Have you recently experienced a major life change? How did you handle it? What did you do to take care of yourself?