Ending in order to begin
|Mar 24, 2019|
Change never ceases to surprise me. Or rather, my reaction to change. Particularly, happy change.
This newsletter is a little later than I planned because of a happy change: I moved in with my incredible person, G. This loving relationship is going to a next chapter. And yet, this decision, one we’ve been weighing for months, once made, was met with doubt, fear, and grief. Which for me turned to guilt. Why wasn’t I blissed out or floating on air?
I don’t hear people talking enough about change being incredibly difficult. Especially the kind of change someone has been chasing for months or years. That the chase or striving changes — even stops for a while, to just be. That shifting of pace, for me, is unsettling.
And in this striving towards the happy change, I had forgotten about the ending of the old. For me, saying goodbye to my 150 square foot studio apartment by the Pacific Ocean. This little home had been the blank canvas for me to figure out who I was on my own. It was my first time living completely alone. Previously, I always had roommates who decorated. My therapist said, “Your homework in this season is figuring out who you are and having that reflected in some way in your space.” It also was the space I struggled with my loneliness and sense of self beyond any relationship. It held me on the days I felt so heavy I couldn’t get out of bed. It hosted small parties of three around my table. It was affordable enough that, on a nonprofit salary, I could live on my own in San Francisco. I was pretty proud of that space and chapter. And I wanted to honor it, before moving into a spacious flat with G.
So I said goodbye on my last night there, alone. I had a grand vision of holding a ceremonial time of appreciation, complete with writing a well-crafted letter to the studio. But when the evening came, I was overcome with grief. I didn’t realize how much this change meant until I was binging on nachos and vampire tv. So I did what the space taught me — I held myself in the heavy and was gentle with my reaction. I did take a meditative look around the room one last time before removing the art from the walls, and wrote a poorly-constructed thank you note. The next morning, I woke up lighter. Happy for the next chapter. And really happy that I said goodbye, as best I could.
Is there a change happening or coming in the future for you? I invite you to take this time to reflect on what that change is (or could be), and also what will be ending in order for this beginning. How would you like to honor (and grieve) this ending?
Enneagram Suggested Practices for Change
Don’t know your Enneagram type? Then head over to the Enneagram Institute and read through the 9 type descriptions to see which resonates for you (for some, that may be the one that makes you flinch).
1: If this change is in line with your mission or vision, you’re likely VERY excited to take action. If the change is derailing you from that vision, there’s going to be a lot of grief. Either situation, there are very real feelings that you are ignoring or putting off while you are preparing for or healing from the change. Feelings are messy and complicated, there is no right or perfect way to move through them. Which is so annoying, I know :/ What if you felt into the messy by getting messy yourself? Pull out the finger paints or get into the garden, and see what surfaces. As much as you are able, release self-assessment or judgement, and feel the dirt or paint between your fingers.
2: Looking on the sunny side of change is a gift of your personality but also a defense. Grief or negative feelings do not make you selfish or needy, they make you human. Having those negative feelings in the face of something happy does not make you ungrateful. If the change is sad, all the more reason to not diminish it by only talking about the silver lining. Take some time to journal alone on the grief of change (whether happy or sad) that is lying beneath the surface. Share what you discover with your closest confidant. I promise you, they will still love you as you are working through your complex feelings.
3: Depending on what the change is you are trying to view it through an either or lens: is this change a success or failure? How will others view it? No matter what the change is, your invitation this season is to see a little bit of success AND failure in each. Maybe this failed relationship or job has valuable lessons to be learned. Or this promotion or next step has grief or shortcomings to it. Rarely is life either or. Feel into the grey during your contemplative practice (ex: meditation/prayer, yoga, walk, etc). Think about what is the truest expression of this change to you, not what is most palatable for others.
4: In a season of change, you can rest your laurels on being a feels expert. You can roll up your sleeves and go deep. The danger zone for you though is slipping into shame and getting stuck there. Boxes won’t get packed, job applications sit in your drafts folder, or some other distracting project suddenly becomes crucial (when you know it isn’t). But here’s the thing, that’s ok. <3 Despite being a feels expert, feelings can still overwhelm you. They overwhelm every single Enneagram type. Practice self-compassion during this time by creating art from these feels, but also plan some structured time to get outside as a way to ward off soaking in it to a point that hurts you. Then get back to your space and start taking the next steps the change requires.
5: Whether the change is good or bad, it will be new. That is a thrilling and terrifying prospect for you. On the one hand, it is a new problem to solve, a new landscape for careful observation and your endless supply of curiosity. On the other hand, though it is a moment where your competency can be tested. Fear of failure or of being vulnerable is a normal reaction. And while you are not one to shy away from introspection on your feelings about this change, you may not be cluing others into the intense season you are going through. This is a great time to ask a friend to listen to your processing. We all need people at times of change, including you. It doesn’t mean you are less competent or equipped for life, just that you are human.
6: Oof, change. You are incredibly loyal, so either the change was a decision that took A LOT of strategic thinking (and likely outside support from your people), or the rug has been pulled out from under you and you are feeling vulnerable. If it’s the latter, take time to grieve. I’m so sorry your dedication was revoked. Perhaps now is a good time to process through creative expression (writing, music, photography, etc.) If you made this decision, you are pumped to strategize going through this change: packing the boxes just right, proving yourself at the new job. Enjoy it. Pat yourself on the back. You don’t make change lightly.
7: When change is on the horizon, you tend to look forward towards the exciting possibility of what is to come, rather than what you are leaving behind. Looking back can be painful, of course. But also, you cannot fast forward this transitional space to the next sparkly thing. You can try, but it means you aren’t fully integrating what this previous chapter is offering, or making those you may be leaving not feel valued. What if you host a celebration for the transition? You are the best at organizing special experiences. Push through the resistance to offer up a few words of gratitude and sadness to the chapter or people you’re leaving behind. I promise it will help you even more savor what’s next.
8: You bring your leadership everywhere you go, and change is no exception. You face this new chapter like the challenge and opportunity it is: something you will win. And you probably will win. But feeling like the superhero, even if only just to yourself, is a lonely place. You can go through this change on your own, but do you really want to? You can still be strong and want people’s help and support. Ask a trusted friend to come over and put their arm around you (or whatever supportive gesture you want), while you process through this change. It’s not weak to need community, it’s human.
9: Your way of moving through life is to keep things stable and peaceful. Change — whether happy or sad, your call or not your call — is going to feel overwhelming because it is a disruption of the current state. Your tendency may be to minimize its impact on you, or to ignore it entirely. But avoiding it isn’t going to stop it, nor your underlying reaction to it. Your reaction may feel delayed: you may cry long after you’ve moved and unpacked, feel the excitement of the new job a few weeks after starting. That’s ok! Make space for the eventual surfacing of the feels: a gift of your personality is being able to create a comfortable environment. Bring out your favorite candle, favorite lap blanket, and your journal/sketchpad, and welcome whatever arrives.
Recommended Reading & Listening
A friend recently introduced me to Still Processing, a weekly podcast put on by two culture writers from the New York Times. And it truly is about culture, but also so much more. Through the lens of culture: popular culture, history, news, and their own experiences, these hosts tap into what it is to be human. I am at a loss for proper words about their episode on Apology, but trust me, just listen. Through to the end, where they model how to actually do a proper apology (vs. what we’ve seen in the media).
If you’re into self-help books, By the Book is a podcast hosted by two women who live through a different book for two weeks each episode. It is equal parts earnest and hilarious (one of the hosts is a stand-up comedian), and unafraid to rip apart ridiculous self-help books (cough Four Hour Work Week).
Shameless self-promotion: I wrote a short story for this memoir zine and it’s officially out! You can buy it online or, if you live in San Francisco or New York, you can get it at one of these local retailers.
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