Change is saying goodbye to an old, familiar situation and facing a new unfamiliar situation. Sometimes it’s not the old or the new that unnerves us, it’s the time in between. Ronnie Kaye, author of Spinning Straw into Gold and two time breast cancer survivor says “ In life when one door closes another always opens, but the hallways are a bitch.” That is how change works, it usually begins with a door closing, an ending, a completion, a loss, a death. Then we enter an uncomfortable period, mourning this completion and living in uncertainty of what is next. This period of uncertainty is hard. But just when we feel we can’t take it anymore, something new emerges: a reintegration, a reinvestment, a new beginning. A door opens. If you fight change, you will be fighting your whole life. That’s why we need to find a way to embrace change, or at least to accept it.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross ~ Life Lessons
Permission to use this excerpt was granted by the EKR Foundation: www.ekrfoundation.org
Can you remember a time when you were in the hallway or perhaps you are currently there and wondering if you will ever find your way to the other end of the seemingly never-ending hallway? According to a 1967 do-it-yourself stress test (called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, developed by Dr. Thomas Holmes and Dr. Richard Rahe), the top 5 most stressful life changing situations are the death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, detention in jail or other institution, and the death of a close family member. Even though the birth of a child, moving from your home, personal illness or injury, an empty nest, job change or loss, or ______ (insert your stressor here) are not in the top 5 stressful life changes, these may be additional examples of life changes that create anxiety or worry in our lives. Clearly some changes are within our control and some are not – the hallway does not distinguish whether or not the stressful situation is a painful divorce or the death of a loved one. In order to embrace the change, we need to cultivate new habits to overcome the difficult time and create a new way of living our life.
Whether or not we initiate a change is not indicative as to whether or not it will be stressful. I know of two people who initiated a divorce and they are experiencing tremendous stress related to the change that is a result of their choice. I remind them that the hallway is impermanent and that by continuing to move forward and face the adversity, they will come through to the other side of the hallway and they will be stronger for it. Those are the words I say as my heart aches for the pain they are feeling. I know the feeling of being so distraught and wondering if that feeling will ever diminish. When I was grieving after my mom died, I was so sad. Her death was traumatic not only because she was no longer with us in physical form, but because our family had spent 10 days caring for her while facing the sudden, shocking news that she only had days or weeks to live. In addition to grieving, we were tired – emotionally exhausted. After my mom passed as I was driving back to NH, from Mass., I cried in the car, when I got home I cried in the shower, I cried and I cried – Oprah would call this ‘the ugly cry’. I thought to myself, crying has a healing component, but I really want to stop crying – it’s extremely draining and I needed to regain some strength to get through the wake and funeral.
Since I have a regular yoga practice, I practice being present – being in the moment. I made a conscious decision to do this with my sadness and experience my grieving in a way that was new to me because I thought it would be beneficial. So, I thought, OK, I will be in the moment and give this “going through the feelings” thing a try. I decided to get in touch with the sadness, to really feel it. The choice to do this with full body and mind awareness created an experience I have never felt before. I truly FELT sadness – felt it in my body, felt it in my soul. After some time (maybe 15-30 minutes, I don’t really know) I thought, ok that was interesting, now what? I found myself thinking ‘I do not have a mother – my mother is dead and I am scared because I do not know how this will change my life?’ Even though the death of a loved one is different than, say, divorce – all of the major life stressors are a death of something. A death of a marriage, a death of a person, a death of the way life was as we knew it.
Two meaningful components of Elisabeth’s wonderful excerpt that captured my attention, and I could relate to my personal experience, were just when we feel we can’t take it anymore, something new emerges and If you fight change, you will be fighting your whole life. Whether or not you created or were amenable to the change is irrelevant, the fact is that change happens. If we let go and do not fight it, we will open ourselves to the next phase of our life and will often discover the life lesson. It will become clear why we went through what we did or we may have a better understanding of the situation. With this understanding we will have the opportunity to help another person through their journey and share the knowingness that they, too, will emerge from the hallway.
Thanks to my cousin Meeghan for the photo from her trip to Japan!