Bridging Transitions

Bridging Transitions

This last week I became acutely aware of all the different transitions I’ve been experiencing since Jim’s passing a year and a half ago, especially as I am frequently and painfully correcting “we” to “I”.  I was well into jotting notes when brother John called and I inquired about his experience with mate-loss transitions. “Oh, there were several and continue after all these years. I label those transitions ‘going from two-ness to one-ness’”. I pounced on his descriptive phrase.

I continued to identify current transitions from 65 years, which in this case was not a choice but a huge surprise since Jim’s death occurred way before either of us had ever imagined, I listed transitioning from principal rider to principal driver and principal suggestion-contributor regarding management of home, yard, and vehicle-care to handling all the finances, becoming sole bread-winner and final decision maker. I’m gradually learning to accept and appreciate the transition-ropes.  No doubt I’ll encounter many more unsuspected but necessary transitions.

I didn’t post a blog last week because my daughter and I attended our—oops! --my granddaughter’s outdoor wedding.  Also attending was a mutual friend who I hadn’t seen for a couple years. When we discussed the subject of my next blog—transitions from twoness to oneness, her eyebrows lifted in agreement and interest. A lightbulb went on and I invited her to share her transition-thoughts for this blog. When I read her email this morning, I found that she wrote what I needed to read. So, I’m trusting that her story will bless you as well.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the idea of “being one again.” Just those words have a sense of peace about them, to me, and is an idea, a feeling, to aspire to.

Since Robert died 2 years ago, I have been wrestling with the reality of being “suddenly single” and all that brings with it.  I read something a few months ago that hit home with me in terms of what the loss of a spouse brings— loneliness; the loss of what my family once was and knowing it is forever changed; missing being held and touched; redefining who I am without him; the comfortable feeling of sitting quietly together without conversation being needed; dealing with transfer of names, titles, accounts, changing tax withholdings  (I never thought to change from married to single and boy, did I pay!): sleeping next to a quilt I had made of his polo shirts and t-shirts just to feel like he is near; having someone to go out to dinner with, a movie, or vacation trip; replaying the good memories and the last moments in my mind; and just simply wrestling with the knowledge that this is my story now. One day I was married, and the next day, suddenly, I was not. While I still feel married, those two realities don’t coexist for me all the time.

I do feel that over time, I am living easier with this transition and perhaps am headed towards the embodiment of “being one again.”  Maybe the phrase doesn’t bring the same feelings to others as it does to me, but after the jolt of a death, this latter mindset seems comforting, contented, confident, and peaceful.

This coming year, the beginning of the 3rd year of being alone, I have decided to try to embrace this reality — to go out to eat by myself, (not to a Cracker Barrel or fast-food place, but a nice, special occasion place), to go on a trip, to spend time with me. Thomas Jefferson said, “The earth is for the living.” I began to think about that when I was in the hospital with Robert, and I have shared it with my daughters many times. My life definitely took a very heartbreaking detour, but I have life to live and hopefully many years ahead of me. I have joys and celebrations coming with marriages of my daughters and hopefully some grandchildren. While Robert’s absence will be painfully palpable during those times, I want to be able to weave the grief and joy together, and to be fully present in the joys that lie ahead. In my mind, to do that well, I need to be comfortable with being one, while honoring and remembering Robert. Thank you for this opportunity to put my thoughts I have had for a long time into words. I appreciate you and pray for you!

Transitions, as common and necessary as bridges, define our lives from birth to death. We’ve all come through many, some we choose and others are foisted upon us. How many bridges have you crossed in your travels recently as you satisfy the need for transition of some kind?  Decisions spawning transitions are associated with age, travel, moves, schooling, recreation, marriage, parenting, medical, separation, employment, and death to name a few.

Perhaps, you have risked foot bridges that required balance or a variety built for autos that are old, creaky and shaky. Some bridges are covered, single lane as well as tunnel, over water, new, secure, safe, fast and smooth. Transitions fall into categories as well: change of direction, uprooting, resolution, shift, merge, start over, mature, reorganize. These two images are search lights to deeper understanding of behavior.  The transitions we choose are usually exciting and productive but many shifts in life are involuntary, surprising, difficult and rough, but fortunately, most often with beneficial end results.

Experiencing transitions begin with childhood, exchanging free-play for kindergarten, then elementary and high-school, perhaps to trade school, college, military or job hunting to pay for the lifestyle we choose. From moving to our first apartment to shouldering huge home-ownership responsibilities are generally classified as memorable transitions.  For many, electing to change routine by traveling, living and working abroad, perhaps as a single, present challenging transitions. Being obliged to accept our partner’s exciting promotions removing us from kith and kin is a common transition story.  We forget that the changes we anticipate often carry painful adjustments as we embrace and tolerate the transition until we finally settle into a new and exciting mode. And the big one--transitioning from one-ness to two-ness and back again to one-ness in some cases.  All the above are merely a drop in the bucket of possible bridges that deliver us into the swirl of transitions along with excitement as well as apprehension as they are first encountered and then negotiated.

Take a minute to re-wind and pinpoint some significant or memorable transitions that have brought you challenges, joy, interesting friends, purpose and confidence in your field or even heartache. Possibly you’re right in the middle of a current venture in which you anticipate a positive outcome.

Another type of transition occurs when we step aside from a position to allow a younger or ‘sharper’ person to take over.  Handing your car keys over falls into this category.  A wise and necessary transition but difficult at the same time.  Seniors have shared that stepping away from a club responsibility after many years is a painful transition indicating that your input will no longer be pertinent.

Early in life we select transitions that lead to chosen goals and/or passions and we tolerate temporary discomfort or sacrifice because of the tradeoff for improvement or achievement. Some medical needs, whether elective or unavoidable thrusts temporary transitions on us as well as on those who care for us.  Often, when obliged to adjust we discover that we are more innovative than we imagined and actually enjoy a new challenge we’d never been asked or expected to do. So, some of the things we attempt in a pinch have long-lasting benefits.

The takeaway is:  Identify chosen and unchosen transitions arriving through various bridges with a positive attitude and intentionally take note of all the hidden benefit, from learning new ways and adding to self-confidence the things you assumed you could not handle, fix or tolerate.

Father, help us to respect each transition in its infancy by committing new opportunities in prayer, so that we will realize what you have in store for the richness of our lives.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV) Phil. 4:6-7