The youngest to the oldest contend with expected and unexpected positive and negative life changes—transitions—from creating chaos and disturbances, with tears/anger, to unexpected, exciting new opportunities. Our focus will be on transitions which plummet backwards to dependency, or forward to new undertakings in order to minimize anxiety when unexpected transitions are short-term or develop into complete life-changers.
Terrible twos are known by successful transitions to possessive ‘mine’ and absolute “no’s” or in learning how to get what they want without words. Preschoolers transition by playing with others, attempting to climb or run like older siblings and transitioning from one class to another.
Elementary students may transition between classrooms with several different teachers. Middle School students transition to having varied subjects on different floors or different buildings as well as study halls assigned. Highschoolers may associate transitions to writing and moving smoothly from one idea to another using words like furthermore, moreover, secondly, finally, likewise, consequently, etc. For others, transitions probably have to do with job changes, graduating from college, promotions, getting married, moving away from family, having children, adjusting to an empty nest, aging, retirement, illness or grieving the loss of a mate or as simple as a broken ankle.
After being widowed nearly three years ago facing and learning to manage a deluge of solo independence-transitions involving assuming Jim’s areas of expertise, when quick-as-a-wink a broken ankle sent me sailing back to physical dependency. I’ve written about the positives in having quality time with my adult children who took turns assisting me in wheelchair techniques and physical help that I had never before needed from them. I am deeply grateful for my children’s resourcefulness regarding meals, house, yard, car care, and building ramps. They never complained about my dependency.
I was eager to get back into my office chair with my desk computer so I could write. But my wheelchair would not fit. However, when I was permitted to make transfers from wheelchair to other chairs, I figured I could transfer just the same from table to desk. Still not permitted to walk, my feet never touched the floor. My PT wanted to watch how I did it and gave me a thumbs up. Like a two-year old, I yearned to go where I needed to go, get what I needed and do what needed to be done. Innovations helped me to envision how to achieve other things safely and humorously. Becoming newly aware of the underlying role that ingenuity and innovations has played has especially fascinated me in the wrapped-up fun encircling the awareness of my predominant gift of Innovation while confined to a wheelchair.
While David came for a second week, he talked about transitions pertaining to retirement, reminding me how Jim and I approached the transition of approaching retirement--the best time, the changes one will ensue, financial concerns along with all the planning that is absolutely necessary. We read Paul Tournier’s book Learn to Grow Old (Harper and Row) who recommended beginning ten years before the actual transition into retirement. We would never have known how wise it would be to begin that early in putting into practice doing a little bit of what we wanted to do more of in retirement.
Creative handling of transitions is easier when innovation (the birth of ideas) contributes ideas for solutions to physical possibilities. This comes more naturally for the minority Intuitive--‘head in the clouds’ possibility thinking--group than to the majority--‘feet on the ground’—closer to conscious world--practical Sensing crowd.
After appreciating the activation of my innovation preference, I was amused in watching my under two-year-old g-granddaughter rely on innate innovation in achieving what she wanted without outside help. She understood that she was not included in the 6-year-old and 4-year-old tower-building project using colorful magnets found in two baskets. I read her countenance as she embraced the idea of how she could manage playing with magnet blocks. She doesn’t talk much but she knew that she, too, wanted to build with those colorful magnet blocks. She quietly made her way around the concentrating builders, picking up one of their baskets and carrying it to another area where she set up shop. They never realized she had taken half their magnets. If I hadn’t been in a wheelchair, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. She listened to her possibility-innovation.
That’s the process we are all wise to activate when our status quo has taken on a radical change. Finding new ways of going and doing is a game we can all play, no matter our age. Change is inevitable and once in a while we can see it coming, but not always. Jim and I assumed we would help each other throughout our 90’s since we were both in excellent mental and physical health. In five weeks, fast growing glioblastoma cancerous brain tumors took Jim’s life. He was physically and mentally strong up to the last moment. What a shock! The furthest thing from our imagination. But the transitions have been possible with help from family and friends. I’ve done things that I never dreamed would be possible. And, I’ve been equally surprised that I like learning how to do finances, how to repair a bird feeder and take care of a car. I am not lonely, but I sorely miss Jim. The transition of grieving has been a big step with help from my siblings but writing and counseling about it has helped others.
Many transitions present decisions which we have never before had to make, so a couple of sessions with a counselor/therapist is a good investment. Recording the life transitions that are looming is one of the suggestions I make to clients. Reading the problem with possible solutions singly or if you have a partner doing it together is not as difficult as you might think. Also monitoring your physical, mental and slowing down of seeing, hearing and feeling senses is a good record to keep tabs on.
Transitions are as unpredictable as the weather, but we can have more control on how they affect our lives. We usually think of transitions being forward, but I’ve learned that just as many are return trips.
Trusted routines contribute to security, satisfaction, peace and joy. However, plowing new routine paths releases our innate innovations ‘to get where you want to go and reach what you want and need’, discovering invigorating new abilities and challenges resulting in healthy growth.
Regarding transitions as gifts to be unraveled, figured out, used and appreciated, remembering the old adage, ‘It’s not the situation you’re in, but the attitude you take’, keeps many from bailing.
Above all, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it…26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Prov. 4:23, 26 (NIV).
Embracing Jesus’ encouragement to his followers (and to us as well). These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John 16:3 (NKJV)
The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa. 40:8 (NIV)