Until just a few years ago, I rushed madly into each new season, hastily replacing the summer wreaths with their fall counterparts, cutting back the garden long before it had time to send out its final September blooms, and transforming my closet as dramatically as a high-end Madison Avenue window.
With a mere snap of the fingers, I’d turn the page so that I could get to the next place. Why the urgency? Was it boredom or impatience with nature’s pace? A misplaced sense of urgency?
No. It was bigger than that.
On the surface, “the in-betweens” are unsettling, stalling our “To Do” lists and messing with our desire to have things, well, “settled.” I am noticing that my ability to enjoy the in-between times applies not only to the seasons, but to my complex relationship with change.
For many of us, transitions are troubling because they are inherently ambiguous and imperfect. Zero in on a personal crisis (you decide what qualifies) and you’ll know exactly what I mean. What’s next? Who am I now? Where am I going? Can I do this, whatever this is? When is this going to be over, settled, done, clear, resolved? Living in the ambiguity between where we are on the one hand, and whatever is ahead on the other, engages our fear and may nag at the question of our “enough-ness.”
Transitions also wreck havoc with our notions of perfection. How many of us have a story line about how “perfect” our life, our partner, our child, our job is? Why do we adopt this lens in the first place when there is not a single thing that is static or permanent? Everything is always in flux and subject to influence. Transitions mess with our sense of perfection and permanence.
And yet we do not change, survive, or thrive without experiencing transitions. Summer doesn’t become winter and winter doesn’t become summer without the predictably unpredictable, tumultuous and miraculous transitions of fall and spring. The same is true of us. A transition is a bridge for us to walk with curiosity, wonder, and courage.
Many years ago, when I was experiencing a major life crisis, I came upon this poem by one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke. Note: If “God” isn’t your word, choose another: “Goddess, Universe, The I Am.” Whatever works for you.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
Then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Let everything happen to you, my friend. Just keep going. It is merely a transition.
Original artwork, “Bromelia,” at: deanrolandjohnson.com