When all the dark clouds roll away
And the sun begins to shine
I see my freedom from across the way
And it comes right in on time
Well it shines so bright and it gives so much light
And it comes from the sky above
Makes me feel so free makes me feel like me
And lights my life with love*
Where to begin? Starting something new can be so hard. It doesn’t really matter if it is the blank page of a blog post, the white canvas before even a layer of gesso has gone down — or something truly destabilizing like ending a relationship, leaving a job, or graduation. Change rocks us to the core — if it is true change — for the very reason that it is new, unknown– scary.
Last week I was in Paris which was fabulous in so many ways— not the least of which it gave me time and space to reflect on the challenges of new paths that are stretching out before me. Yes, it’s great. Yes, once again I have taken steps to get myself here, but that doesn’t mean it feels good.
Let’s be clear: it sucks ass.
In fact, if there’s one thing that annoys me to no end about myself is I can never just get complacent. It’s that damn soul growth thing that keeps landing me on the edge of the cliff going, “what?!! I am here again? the hell?”
But as a result, I have gotten familiar with that point in the lifecycle where things feel raw and exposed. And by familiar, I do not mean to suggest it is any less piercing for me, it’s just that I have learned some ways to navigate the rocks. Sort of.
The truth is, it can be overwhelming and I honestly don’t know anyone who has gone through big life changes without experiencing the pure fear that comes with moving forward into uncharted waters. It’s just part of it and what keeps us, sometimes, from stepping out of old patterns, habits, relationships no matter how much we know it is time— just too frightening, better to stay put.
Yesterday, I was talking with my niece who graduates from Cornell with an MBA this month– yes, am proud auntie for sure– and quelle surprise— she is feeling those waves of panic. A job she had been promised fell through and now she doesn’t know what the future holds and it is overwhelming.
She asked me some questions (below) that I think could apply to anyone going through big life transition. I don’t know that my answers were any good– but I am sharing them here in case you have better responses for her.
** if you DO have some suggestions to share– or better answers–
please share in the comments as she will be reading this. Thank you!! **
HOW DO YOU KEEP FAITH WHEN YOU’RE GOING THROUGH IT?
For me it is a balance between keeping the vision of what I am opening myself up to — the specifics of what it is I am calling in a job, a relationship, a home, a dog, etc– and trusting the the universe will deliver that or something better if I stay out of the way.
It’s so tempting to try and control everything (note, I am talking to my niece here who shares my DNA descended from some legendary control freaks), but ultimately, you have to let go. Truly let go. And that is the act of faith.
One of my favorite examples is to think of how you order food in a restaurant. You walk in, sit down, waiter comes over– asks what you want— you say veggie burger with sweet potato fries and the waiter walks off. At that point, you turn to your friend and continue your conversation. You don’t worry for a blue minute that you won’t get what you just ordered. You don’t follow the waiter into the kitchen, breathe heavily over the shoulder of the cook— you sit back in your booth, sip from your iced tea and talk about the colors in a Chagall painting.
And then? Just as you are both waxing rhapsodic over the Chagall mermaid who floats above the world offering her bouquet of roses– bing, the waiter sets down your lunch. You had totally forgotten about it. But there it is. Just what you wanted.
So, for me, I get really clear about what I want. Write it out. Tell a friend (or more) so that they hold the vision for me, too — then I let it go. I release. And if my little worried mind scurries in and tries to get me to wind up with fear– I go for a walk, listen to music, or break out the paint. Anything to change the energy and keep the vibration high and the movement forward.
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE GONNA MAKE IT TO THE OTHER SIDE?
This is actually another variation on the question above. We want proof. We want to be told everything’s gonna be okay. We want to KNOW we are okay when faced with the unknown.
Think about it. That’s crazypants.
If you are walking into the unknown — embrace it. When people ask you, “what are gonna do?” Be grounded when you reply, “I have no flipping idea.” Let THEM be triggered by fear — Let THEM freak out. Stand in your faith that something good awaits because you believe it does.
Because in the end— what we think is what we get. Or, as Henry Ford put it so well, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t — you’re right.”
See yourself on the other side. Act as if you are already there.
HOW DO YOU SPEED IT UP SO THAT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HERE, IN THIS CONTRACTION OF PAIN?
Okay, this one will sound weird, but stay with me for a minute — you gotta do the opposite.
I know, right? But it’s true. This is my time-tested Rear-View Mirror theory.
Just like everything is opposite when you are backing up the car and looking in the rear-view mirror— that’s how you move forward into the unknown. Do the opposite. You want to speed up because you are in pain and you want to be OUT of pain already, dammit! I know, I know— but the more you push against it, the worse, the more real it is. So what has worked for me is to go more slowly, to let go — to sit back. To do nothing (which is SOoooo challenging!! I know, I know)
But it works. Let go. Breathe. Do anything that will get you out of your mind, that makes you feel good. Again– this is where writing, painting, walking my dogs, cooking with great music on comes in for me. Creativity has been my life saver— sitting and stewing in fear will get you nowhere.
So acknowledge it. “I’m feeling fear.” And then go do something that makes you feel good. Don’t give your power to the fear. Feed the faith– even if it is drop by drop — even if it is in the face of a “reality” that looks opposite of what you want.
Use your imagination. It’s your greatest gift.
Other things that help me when I am standing on the cliff, alone, being battered about by hard winds and feeling like all I want to do is jump off and die.
I don’t wallow or waver beyond a few moments of self-pity, anger, remorse– whatever is holding me backwards– I let all that come up and then I take a big breath and leap.
We’re all gonna die. This I know. And all I ask of myself is that I don’t die having spent a life avoiding failure. Failure is what defines me as a hero to myself. It means I tried. It means I got in the game– and ultimately, the more I try and fail, the more failure loses its power over me.
So I failed? What did I learn? What did I gain? How can I do better in the future? These are all gifts from failure — plus? There’s nothing like the friendship developed in the trenches. Some of my most enduring, nurturing friendships come from having gone through hell together.
So there’s that, too.
*many of you know this song as “Brand New Day” by Van Morrison and it absolutely is his voice singing it in my head, but did you know the lyrics were written by Annie Lennox & David Allan Stewart? Yeah, me neither.