I’ve been struggling these last two weeks with change and how it sneaks up on us. Even if we are expecting and anticipating a new event or situation, when it occurs our equilibrium is knocked off kilter.
Over Labor Day weekend we moved Design Diva into her college dorm for the start of her freshman year. It was 105 degrees and she was on the third floor. Down the hallway there was a sauna in a tin can disguised as an elevator. We opted for the stairs. So did the other 2,000 wilting parents lugging mini-refrigerators, perfectly coordinate XL twin comforter sets, and the entire inventory of Bed, Bath and Beyond up said stairs. My gastrocnemius got a good work out.
A Boo-Hoo/Yahoo Thing
Moving out of the nest into the dorm is a huge Boo-Hoo/Yahoo thing. Boo-hoo for parents and yahoo for child. This is familiar territory for us. We moved Mad Scientist to the same college three years ago. Now the two little siblings can run amok on campus as a freshman and a senior, respectively, for the one year they will overlap. Dad, Half-pint, and I can stay at home and eat beans and rice for the one year the two tuitions will overlap. And you thought the boo-hoo part was over missing my child.
Since we’ve done this kid launching thing once before, I felt totally fine during the Family Orientation Weekend, accepting this new change in our home: two of our three kids were now living away from us. But I still had a difficult time returning home. I felt disoriented and unmoored. I walked through the house and it felt odd; even the air smelled weird to me.
I was baffled and befuddled. But I’ll live because if there is one thing in life that doesn’t change, it’s change. In a blink of an eye we can go from one reality to another. Change, even positive change, has gotten a bad rap: people say it’s hard, it’s difficult, it’s challenging. But I beg to differ. Or at least to differentiate.
Change can shake the stodginess out of us, and untether us from habits and routines that have cemented like anchors around our ankles. Change is necessary to keep life moving forward. Think about it: if your life never changed, how boring would that be? I know there are fans of “Groundhog Day,” out there, but I am not one.
The New Normal
Almost two weeks into the single child household, I am realizing it’s not so much the change itself that is difficult but the transition period from one reality to the next. Finding the new normal is what’s hard. I put two gallons of milk in the cart then am startled to realize we only need a half-gallon now. I’m thrown off-balance when I can get through the laundry in half an afternoon and not the whole weekend. In one set of circumstances we know how to act, what to expect. Then change happens and we have to learn anew what the rules and norms are for the new circumstance. It is disconcerting not knowing how to act or what is expected in situations that are new and unfamiliar.
You go from being single to married in a one hour ceremony, a positive change (one hopes)! You throw out the rice and garter and the old way of relating as two single people. You update your Facebook relation status and then transition to the new reality of married life. You need to figure out how your relationship looks and feels as a couple. It can be baffling and you don’t know the “rules” yet. Don’t all the experts say the first year of marriage is the hardest? Raise your cyber hand if they were right; text me your secrets of wedded harmony if they were wrong.
Same with a new job. It may be a great career change, but you still have a period of transition where you are figuring out the corporate culture, what your boss’ management style is, and why the kook down the hall keeps stealing your Coke Zero from the staff lounge fridge and denying it even though you found the empty can in his trash bin (this has never happened to me, by the way). The change is great, but the transition from old job to new can be stressful.
Leaning into Transition
The other day Tom Mendoza on Twitter quoted NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who earlier this year was traded from the Baltimore Ravens to the San Francisco 49ers, “Anytime you’re in a period where’s there’s transition, don’t fight it. Buy into the system.”
I love that! It recognizes the reality that our natural instinct is to struggle in the transition, but it also provides a solution for navigating it. Accept it, live in the moment of it, and let it happen. Transitions have a shelf-life. They are set periods of time in our lives that move us from one change to another. They don’t’ last forever, and the more we lean into them the easier it will be to arrive at the new normal.
So, now as we transition from a family of five to a family of three, we are finding our new normal: less Costco trips for my husband for 5 pound tubs of butter and 36 count pastry packs (this is killing him. Read why here); less laundry for mom, more one-one-one time with Half-pint. Hear her groaning in the background as she wonders when her sibs will come home to rescue her from being mother-smothered to death.
How have you handled transitions in your life and what did you learn from them?
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