She was in her 50s, recently divorced, moved to a new town, and working at a new job wondering about the purpose of her life. She talked for a long time and then paused, looked at me and asked, “is it too late to try to figure out what I am supposed to be doing?” She was yet another person going through major life transition(s) and stuck in those lonely moments wondering what it is all about. I realized that people whose lives are not intersecting with those transitions, just keep on going mostly not driven or even curious about the “whys” of life. I don’t think that some of us are deeper or more serious, I just think that some of us hit the bumps real hard, fall, and then in our recuperation phase, we have the opportunity to ask those deeper questions. It is as if transitions provide the opportunity to be curious about life. When everything is going as planned, when nothing goes wrong, no one questions anything. We are too busy involved in our stories, enjoying the regular routines and non-events. Months turn into years and we may look back perhaps well into our later years and wonder where it all went. Then perhaps an illness, retirement, etc. will get us quiet enough to listen, but that too might quickly be disrupted with the loud noises of the lives of our younger loved ones and we quickly put aside our foolish sentimentality and rush to join them where they’re at, and so it goes, another life spent lost in the mundane stories that run into each other.
Most of us are enamored with the Hollywood type of happy endings. If our life is not predictable and does not fit into the patterns that are accepted by mass consciousness, we panic, we judge and we do all that we can to forcefully squeeze into a life that fits everyone else’s expectations. Then, when we are still not happy, we start blaming everyone else and the cycle continues until the next bump or transition. Transitions get a bad rap, because they are usually seen as something outside of our control. They are perceived as something that happened to us, and in our attempt to understand, we start labeling and judging and make the event the bad thing and us the victim of the bad thing. This is when we start to neurotically recreate a more predictable and acceptable life if we can. If the transition is extremely difficult (e.g., a divorce or death) then we seek outside help and support. Soon after the pain numbs down, we go about the re-building of a new house following old instructions for an old house, until this new/old house comes crumbling down with the next transition.
She was ending our conversation by admitting that she felt lonely at times and it would be nice if she had someone in her life. She was giving up on the whole life purpose thing and looking dreamily into the horizon imagining the new guy she’d build a new life with. Transitions are opportunities for real change, and even though, we claim we want change, our tendency is to re-create an old story. After all, old stories are familiar and we know how to play the same role even if the other characters are being played out by new actors. Since most people like to have a multi-step guide to whatever it is they are looking for, I have come up with my own guide that I hope you find useful. I’ll go into step one or tool one in this post.
The first tool that helps when making big changes is the ability and practice of seeing the big picture. In my sessions, I invite the client to join me on the outside of their story and take a peek in. It is so much easier and lighter to look at even the most difficult transitions from that perspective. It is also easier to make decisions. The key is to be able to masterfully zoom in and zoom out of your story. This also gives a better understanding and appreciation for what is going on. The tricky part however is that when we zoom in, we get stuck. So, I like to work with clients on how to get them unstuck when they dive in deep into their creations. Transitions are the pauses that we have created to provide us with the opportunity to go deeper, to understand ourselves, our choices, and then be able to consciously make changes that empower us towards living a more fulfilling and deliberate life. So the next time something supposedly goes terribly wrong, take a deep breath and zoom out so you are able to see the whole picture and then decide what if anything needs to be done. You will feel more empowered, liberated and purposeful.
Stay tuned in for the second tool for living masterfully through change in next week’s post.