I’ve gone through a lot of transitions in my life, and most of them hit me like a brick.
Moving to college, my first break-up (and second, and third…), studying abroad, my first full-time job, losing my home. And then there’s moving, moving, and moving.
Perhaps many of us experience emotional resistance to change, even though we want the change badly. We never really know what the grass on the other side will look like before we take the step, so apprehension is understandable. But I think sometimes the issue lies in not wanting to release a sweetness that we’ve nurtured, or not wanting to release the hopes and expectations for our previous state that will never come to life because we’re cutting the cord, we’re moving on.
Personally, in the face of transition, I’d often try to create a new, desirable environment while holding onto my old one. Doubting that I was moving in the best direction for myself would make the effort half-hearted, and I would float in a disorganized haze of highs and lows during the weeks following a transition.
So, before my most recent change—leaving my home in Chile to move back to my childhood home in the states—I was determined to avoid the self-sabotaging chaos of transition. Returning home was something I wanted and had planned for, but leaving Chile was not. Hence the root of all my issues with change.
However, change can be a great opening…like a side stretch. It’s intense, but as we widen the cracks, the light shines through and has a lot to teach us.
So, despite feeling relatively calm leading up to the departure date, I chose to add a little activity to my daily routine starting the final month before the big move. My focus was on feelings of regret that might arise, but this trick managed to address both my fears around leaving and returning.
Each evening, I would write a small note about something I was grateful for in Chile. Each day, no matter how mundane, naturally sparked a new reason to feel grateful, but sometimes I’d write about the larger picture.
For me, a small rectangle of space (a quarter of a blank page) was enough to go deeply into the aspects of the one thing I was grateful for.
I didn’t only write what I was grateful for, but also why:
How did it make me feel?
How many different ways had I been able to enjoy it?
What are the specific details that I appreciate?
I noticed the gratitude notes sparked feelings of love, compassion, awe, admiration, and plain old happiness. They were written meditations on appreciation. They helped me see how much I had been fortunate to experience in this place and period of my life, which was much more than I had realized initially. The small details of my time showed to be what I was most often grateful for—time spent alone, daily exploration, the land, and the sea.
Upon leaving, I let the tears fall. Yet they weren’t desperate tears, but tears of love and gratitude. And since my return, I’ve felt peaceful and grateful for this place and its people. I’m being kind to myself and appreciating these moments of being in a between place.
What many of us know from our own experiences is that the mind and body adjust—eventually. But it’s not about pacifying our regrets (in an attempt to avoid transition trauma), but rather embracing our choice and recognizing that some loss is necessary to gain what we’re reaching for. And what helps us to accept loss is knowing we have appreciated and loved the experience fully.
Gratitude is a companion, a ray of light that reminds us of the flow of things. Trying to escape the state of unease in change is a helpless cause (like holding our breath in a tense situation), but by recognizing that emotions flow in and out, we can buoy ourselves in a restless sea. It’s not a mistake to experience change—it’s the essence of life.
I invite you to jump into this daily gratitude exercise in the face of your next transition, and see how it softens the experience. The beauty lies in recognizing the unique details within the vastness of our days, and being grateful that they have once come and then may go.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie
Author: Sarah Crosky
Image: Ben White/Unsplash, Courtesy of Author
Editor: Catherine Monkman