It’s March today! Flowers are blooming, buds erupting on the trees, and blossoms appearing everywhere.
I didn’t see it coming, in this new environment of mine. The huge magnolia tree that’s heralded the start of Spring for me these past 24 years is 100 miles away, and I live in a city now, with fewer clues. I’ve had my head down in an intense work project that’s kept me in winter consciousness until, a couple of days ago, I had a hair appointment on the other side of town. I got a cab there, and walked back, two miles through parks with purple crocuses and pink and white blossom, heart-shaped baby leaves and the first celandines; radiant yellow stars scattered in the hedgerows as if lighting up a sky of emerald green.
Winter is almost over. It’s loosening its hold. Not quite ready to bow out, it has mustered some impressive storms this past week, howling winds to blow away the cobwebs of hibernation-time. It’s been too warm for a coat and then so cold I’ve lit a fire. It’s a period of transition, and it matches the transition in my psyche.
Recently moved to a new city, starting a new business, youngest child soon to leave university and no longer regularly travel the long distance home, I am straddling two realities, holding the tension of past and future. Of letting go and moving forward.
Transition. I have mixed feelings about the word, and I think that is appropriate. Transition is an in-between stage. Neither one thing nor another, a time of loss, potential and uncertainty. It is a period that often comes after a prolonged struggle, at a point where exhaustion has set in.
The Oxford English dictionary defines transition thus: The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
Throughout a life there are likely to be many periods of change. Of loss, transition, new beginnings. Transition is a bridge from one reality to the next, but it can seem more like a long, dark tunnel. When we learn to recognise it and appreciate its profound properties of rest and renewal, we can welcome it, albeit with a sense of trepadation. If we resist, we will not benefit from the multitude of gifts it hides beneath its cloak of darkness, almost ready to be born.
When giving birth, transition is the point between laboring and pushing, when painful contractions have rendered the expectant mother spent and fearful, just wanting it to end, and feeling, even though she knows she’s nearly there, as though it never will. I remember that feeling with great clarity, although it’s nearly a quarter of a century since I last experienced it. The sense of why I was going through this, the reality of the promised outcome, became foggy, upstaged by frustration and futility; “I don’t want this bloody baby anyway. Just make it STOP!” Transition is the bit between the darkest darkness, and the light setting in.
My two daughters were born in February and January respectively, bridging the transition between Christmas and Springtime. My son came in early April, when the daffodils were in full bloom, seasonal transformation underway, though still not quite complete. All their births, and the subsequent celebrations of their births, reframed this period for me. But I remember, before my firstborn’s transformative arrival, the sense of cold, dark eternity packed into those relentless winter months of enforced hibernation, a little like the movie Groundhog Day. Just as in that movie, transition is a time for reflection and re-evaluation.
Noticing the Spring Buds and Remembering the Stars
In my previous town, in wintertime, I learned to look, beyond the bleakness, the dark nights, the unrelenting cold, for the signs of Spring that are so visible as February progresses. In this new city I am not yet familiar with the terrain, and I’ve forgotten this year to look properly. The realization today that March is here – month of my birth, and the dawn of Spring – fills me with joy and bright anticipation.
Whatever the transition we are going through, there are always clues that light and warmth will come again. Keeping a gratitude journal, writing down five things for which we’re grateful at the end of each day, can be a powerful reminder of the latent stars that litter the night sky. Sometimes it we may only manage I have enough to eat. I have all my limbs. Someone smiled at me today. I smiled back. I am still breathing. No matter how far from OK we feel, there are always five things to be grateful for. Often, once we’ve written five, we’ll keep on writing, and the recognition of these sparks of light in the dark tunnel of transition will begin to guide us to its end.
I always encourage my clients and workshops participants to keep a gratitude journal, and I delight in watching their brief journey from searching for five things to endlessly noticing the gifts in their lives. One woman told me, smiling broadly, “I wrote forty-four things I’m grateful for last night and then I had to stop because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, but I wrote more when I woke up this morning. I find I’m kind of looking out for things all day – and I just keep finding them!” So it can be when we turn our attention to the positive. I don’t know my bible well, but I remember Seek and ye shall find, and I believe it to be true. If we look out for the clues to transformation – be they Spring buds or new opportunities or compassionate souls seeking to connect or things to be grateful for – we will find our way beyond transition and into the next invigorating phase.
The light always follows the darkness. A glib cliché, but undeniable. If we hang in there, if we seek, hope, trust and keep on doing the Next Right Thing, the change will come to us, eventually. Nothing stays the same. Transition is a time and place to rest, to take stock, to go within and be with what is. Transition teaches us to trust that, while we can’t control the seasons, the seasons always come around in their own time. Transition may not be comfortable, but it has great value if we surrender and allow ourselves to stay awhile, to just be still, live our best truth and know that the this will pass. Our souls will be replenished, our internal compasses reset, and when the time is right we will move forth revitalized and ready to embrace the joys of Spring, in all its glory.