Post-store ownership, spring 2015, I was outside at a local restaurant sipping tea, enjoying the warm breeze, blue skies and great conversation with a good friend. She was asking me how I was doing with all the transition in my life and I answered with…
“I’m in the space between what was and what will be.”
As I spoke those words, a white feather fell from the sky, gently dancing its way under the umbrella and landing directly in front of me. We both gasped, nodded and said “well, if that isn’t a sign you’re exactly where you need to be!”
William Bridges, author of the book ‘Transitions, Making Sense of Life Changes’, says “Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation or self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t take.
In the past I fought ‘the space between’. I re-arranged furniture (literally and figuratively) like a mad woman. I’d push my way through to the next ‘what will be’ with nary a pause to take inventory of my emotions or desires. Pausing didn’t feel comfortable and certainly didn’t feel ‘right’.
But, as my friend Barbara Huson (Stanny), who happened to be the one I was sipping tea with on that pivotal day says, “there is value in the void.”
It is a time of reflection, exploration and taking inventory of where you’ve been, what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a time of questions, with not many immediate answers. It’s a time for deep trust (which by the way is symbolically what a white feather represents), extraordinary self-kindness and consistently reminding yourself that ‘uncomfortableness’ takes courage!
I believe the transition into ‘the space between’ begins when you start questioning your life, your existence, your career. It begins when you hear yourself thinking “there must be more,” or “this no longer feels like ‘me’.”
My ‘in between’ took three years, approximately 48 months longer than I though it would! I can’t even count how many times I wondered if I’d ever get my motivation back, or if I’d ever feel like being sociable again. I withdrew from anything ‘business oriented’ and put firm boundaries in place, only spending time with those who supported and understood the importance of the space I was in.
As it turns out, those three years were not wasted at all (although there were days, weeks and even months that I felt like such a loser). But now I know why – our culture does not support “not knowing.” So be forewarned…well-meaning friends will want to help you figure out your next step. Very few will encourage you to pause, without a timeline.
I often encourage clients to adopt an explorer attitude – ask questions of yourself, be curious and follow the thread of your emotions, try out new things, attend conferences outside of what’s normal for you and most important – go slow, honor your own timeline and say “no” often.
And above all else, don’t get down on yourself for “not knowing.” Not only is this okay – pausing is powerful and as William Bridges said, it is the catalyst for ‘inner re-orientation and self re-definition.’
So the question is, are you going to move furniture around…again, or take a deep breath, put on your explorer hat and step into ‘the space between?’
PS. Here’s a blog that you may find helpful: 11 Unconventional Ideas for Taking the Next Step in Life. Click here to read!