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Transition

We recently moved. We had lived in our former location for 12 years. Our last two children were born there. Our four older children don’t have many clear memories of living elsewhere, and most of their school years were spent there. For us, it was the perfect place; a permanent place; Home. And yet, here we are – 457 miles away – forming a new home, forging new friendships, bridging gaps, and learning to adjust.

It has given me reason to consider the transitions in life and how we might handle those changes with aplomb and courage, and to ponder the idea that sometimes durability or immobility can make us complacent and even a little lazy.

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of that idea, either. It makes me a little uncomfortable. Complacent? Lazy? I always believed stability was a good thing. (I still do!) But this move has led me to examine where I’ve been and where I’m going in my life, and to realize that there are times when we need to get off our plateaus and “kick it up a notch.”

It is said that there is nothing in life more constant than change. We do not live in a vacuum. There are daily changes, some good and some bad. Transitions are an integral part of mortality. We grow from infancy to childhood to adulthood. Our circumstances shift. Health, age, emotional well-being, and relationships evolve over time. Our lives are not static.

I, for one, understand and accept this in theory. Yet in reality sometimes I still “kick against the pricks.” Like many people, if I were choosing without constraints or considerations, I would want my changes to be gentle and easy, flowing seamlessly throughout my life – much like a bubbly mountain stream rippling through a meadow of wildflowers. However, changes in life are more often like riding the rapids down in the canyon, with me clinging to the edge of the boat, praying for safety. I usually end up enjoying the ride, but in the middle of it I sometimes wonder what I was thinking when I donned the life jacket.

Over the past several years, I have begun to recognize the truth of this statement by Prince Philip: “Change is a challenge and an opportunity, not a threat.”

With the timing of our move coinciding with the departure of our oldest on his mission, I have spent this entire summer focused exclusively on mission prep, purging, packing, getting ready to move, unpacking, getting settled, and dealing with the emotional fallout (positive and negative) of all of these situations. Repeated endlessly.

I’ve spent too much time this summer feeling threatened that I’d be overwhelmed by the weight of the work to do in the time we had to do it. Yet I also recognize that this change is still an opportunity for our family.

Sometimes change is good. For example, I had not realized how myopic I had gotten in my thinking and activities until an afternoon in July when one of my kids went to the mailbox at the curb and came back inside saying it was raining. It was? I’d been so focused on packing that I hadn’t even looked out the window all day. That is when I admitted the balance was out of whack in our family, and some changes were necessary in order for us to maintain some semblance of sanity in the midst of so much flux. Adding more “down time” (outside the house) was essential to our ability to (somewhat successfully) continue to work on the task at hand.

Some changes are more difficult, like this move. It is a great blessing for our family, but it is also a hard transition. We left friends, a ward and stake, and an area that we love. We are making new friends and enjoying our new ward and area. But we still need to allow ourselves to go through the process of adjustment and grant that it will take time.

There are some changes in life over which we have no control. These are often traumatic and test us to our utmost. Yet we still have the ability to weigh our options and consider our attitudes. Despite the various situations we may face, we can still view the glass as half full – even if the contents are muddy water rather than the milk we desire.

Confucious said, “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”

Or, as Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Come what may, and love it.”

I am beginning to realize that as hard as it was to leave our Home, I needed to get pushed out of my comfort zone. I was getting a little too comfortable and settled and satisfied where I was. I was letting some things slide. Some of them are inconsequential, but some of it is too important for me to be happy for long remaining as casual as I was becoming. We need to improve constantly in order to find happiness and learn to enjoy the changes in our lives, regardless of what (or where) they may be.

Moving has become more than a physical relocation. I am using this opportunity to begin a comprehensive reconsideration of what I want and where I am headed. In many ways, it is also an emotional, mental, and spiritual relocation.

I have faced this and other transitions in my life by relying on some Constants – the love of Heavenly Father, the atonement of our Savior, the understanding of my husband, the support of family and friends, my ability to endure “well enough for now.” These are my foundation layers that keep me afloat when dealing with change.

As we each find the Constants upon which we can rely, we will be able to face life’s transitions with courage and grace. We will learn how to balance being both durable and flexible. And while it may be difficult, we can be secure in the knowledge that we will arise from the changes in life with confidence and deliberate faith.

“Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.” (Ashleigh Brilliant)

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Michelle D August 27, 2009, 4:18 pm

    Here are some related links that have helped me during our summer of transition, Elder Wirthlin’s talk plus an additional talk that I couldn’t easily fit into the flow of my writing:

    Come What May, and Love It (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin)

    Get On With Our Lives (Elder Steven E. Snow)

  • facethemusic August 27, 2009, 10:44 pm

    Great post Michelle!!
    I’ve always been one to easily adjust to changes– maybe that’s because with my father in military and moving every 3 years, I was sort of forced into accepting change and getting on with life.
    When and if we ever move– and we’re certainly trying– it will probably be the hardest one yet for me, even though I want it so badly. We’ve been here for 13 years. I’ve never lived ANYWHERE for that long! It’s the only house my kids have ever known– James was too young at the time to remember the apartment where we lived before. With my youngest being 10 now, this is certainly the house my kids grew up in. I’ve also never had a ward family for so long either.
    I actually look forward to change for the most part. Maybe because with my past of moving so frequently, I almost feel like change is a mark of progress and moving forward. Of course, not all change is good change. But even in those situations, our RESPONSE to “bad” change can create a change in US, because we’re motivated to either adjust to it, or even FIX it if necessary. Politics lately are a good example of this. People who were never interested in the political realm have become “awakened” and are finally taking part.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 16, 2009, 12:52 am

    Michelle, I just needed to pipe in and tell you how much I loved this post.

    On the other hand, I really didn’t. I really understand what you are going through and, like you, I really resist the changes. So much that it’s hard to even write about it.

    But thank you. I have a feeling this is one of those posts that will touch people’s hearts for years to come. Thanks for sharing all those tender thoughts.

  • Michelle D October 16, 2009, 2:01 pm

    Thanks, Tracy and Alison. Not all change is easy, even good change. Adjusting to new circumstances is not an overnight occurrence; it is a long-term process. I am finding that some of the challenge in dealing with change is in connecting the dots between the theoretical understanding and the realistic realities… Change causes one to stretch and grow – and sometimes that is painful, no matter how desired or good the change is.

    Alison, I appreciate your final sentences. Thank you.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 17, 2009, 1:03 am

    Posted By: Michelle DI am finding that some of the challenge in dealing with change is in connecting the dots between the theoretical understanding and the realistic realities…

    Could you elaborate on that more?

  • Michelle D October 17, 2009, 4:39 pm

    Alison, I might explain more as my post for this month. I’ve been hit with writer’s block and have been at a loss as to what to write since I wrote this one on transition.

    But basically what I meant by connecting the dots is something like this: Moving is hard stuff. I understand there will be changes, new routines to figure out, etc. I accept all of this theoretically. But reality is somewhat different. Ray has work. He loves his job, and that is a huge blessing. Ryan’s on his mission; Jeff has college; the girls have school. I fluctuate with feeling that I have “nothing” and with being fine and enjoying the “down time” I have right now, after working F/T for nearly 2 years. I have so far been unsuccessful in finding a part time job here. I am struggling to find the motivation to volunteer at the school or something else. Basically, I am trying to connect the dots in my life right now. In theory, I understand that all of this is part of the adjustment. In reality, sometimes it just simply bites!

  • Alison Moore Smith October 18, 2009, 2:40 pm

    Oooo, I see. I am so sorry for your state of flux.

    Have you read any of Randall Wright’s stuff? He speaks at Education Week each year about “finding your mission” kinds of stuff. Very interesting, kind of “what am I supposed to be doing with my life” stuff.

  • Michelle D October 18, 2009, 5:40 pm

    Thanks, Alison. Most of my problem is not having a concrete way (work, school) to help me fully adjust and become integrated in our new locale. I’m working on it and have some ideas. But it takes time. I will look for some Randall Wright stuff to read.

  • nanacarol October 19, 2009, 8:50 am

    Maybe Michelle, the Lord is telling you it is time to take life easy!! He is giving you a little break before the big “stuff” comes again!!!! We Mormon women hate to just take life easy!! For almost a year now I have had the complusion to just push myself and go, go, go, because “I” think that is what is required of me. But sometimes it does feel good to slow down and smell the roses. Sometimes when we slow down, then we hear those things that need to come to us quietly when our minds are at ease. Just maybe, there is a reward in your quietness. Find the reward!!! It is there!!

  • Michelle D October 19, 2009, 11:47 am

    Thanks, Nanacarol! I am trying to “be still, and know that [He] is God.”

  • partone October 21, 2009, 10:46 am

    Michelle, what do you do if your whole life is a transition? :cry:

  • Michelle D October 22, 2009, 12:42 pm

    Oh, partone, I wish I knew!! The only thing I do know is that there are no easy answers in life and that some changes seem to take a long time to work through – and often, one thinks one has dealt with them and then the residual stuff comes back to bite one again and again.

    I have discovered over the past few years that I am a fighter. I refuse to give up my faith and hope, no matter how hard my challenges are. Some days that is enough to keep me going. Other days the only thing that works is my mantra: Endure well enough for now. Sometimes “now” for me is surviving one day or one hour or one minute at a time. And for me, there are still other days when all I can do is what you mentioned – :cry:

    Hopefully, somehow this quote from my post helps, rather than minimizes the pain we all go through at some level:

    Despite the various situations we may face, we can still view the glass as half full – even if the contents are muddy water rather than the milk we desire.

  • Michelle D October 22, 2009, 12:47 pm

    One more thing that helps me during times of transition:

    No matter how hard or how bad things are, I try to find something every week (hopefully every day, but that doesn’t always happen) for which I can be grateful. It is amazing how many wonderful things there still are in my life, even when it seems that almost everything is completely horrible and unendurable.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 22, 2009, 6:59 pm

    Posted By: Michelle DDespite the various situations we may face, we can still view the glass as half full – even if the contents are muddy water rather than the milk we desire.

    :confused::cry::bigsmile:

  • Michelle D October 22, 2009, 7:51 pm

    Exactly, Alison!

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