Tuesday, August 25, 2020



According to my mom's nursing textbooks, a stage of labor. The worst part, I gathered from her friends. Tugging and stretching from the inside. "If she seems angry, or starts shaking, or says she can't do this--that's normal." Hallmarks of transition.

I was living in the Philippines while preparing for my wedding when a seasoned expatriate instructed me to attend a "transitions" workshop. I scoffed (I was young! I was resilient! I was leaving in a matter of months!) but that was decades ago and I'm still grateful. 

Having been exposed to very little research-based psychology at that point, the tools the instructors offered blew me away. I believe this was my first introduction to the concept of psychological trauma. They explained how our brains process change as loss, how we grieve even through happy transitions, and how to prepare a RAFT to ride out the rapids of inevitable change.

When they explained the importance of goodbyes, I cried. And there, under the palm trees, I began to heal from years of heart bruises sustained while working for the IBLP cult, which excelled at both facilitating deep human attachments and ripping them away.

Transitions, it turns out, are both cause for celebration and the most intense stage of creating something new. 

The following year, despite obsessively reading birth stories to prepare myself, my daughter was weeks old before I recognized the transition stage of my labor. At the time, the outside world fell away as I went deep inside myself, summoning the strength to start a brand-new life.

This summer has been one long series of transitions. I find myself obeying the same instinct, withdrawing and digging deep. It's been...intense.

Daughter to woman. Student to graduate. Child to adult. 

Shopping to pick-up. Friends to family. Travel to staycation.

Middle school to high school. School to home. Home to university. 

Quiet to loud. Inside to outside. Live to remote. Anxious to angry to hopeful and back again. 

Provider to mentor. Part-time mom to full-time to long-distance.

We moved our firstborn to campus last week, with protective masks and mixed feelings of pride, anxiety, envy. 

For us, it was the culmination of 18 years of choices in support of both our daughter and our values (albeit under circumstances we never envisioned). I confess, as the first to leave home myself, I had not fully empathized with the plight of a younger sibling losing a best friend. But parenting is ever an  emotional expansion--experiencing life through multiple proxies at once, each child needing different support.

Considering how many times I have used paint or a new hairstyle to assert autonomy when I felt otherwise helpless or out of control, I wasn't surprised when my youngest chose a radical new cut for her birthday this month. Or that she wanted to update her room. What did surprise me is that she recognized when the pace of change was too much. She knew to slow down what she could and climb aboard her own "raft", comforting herself with the familiar, digging deep, enjoying change by degrees. 

My girls give me courage to keep embracing change and as always, my partner provides steadying emotional support when I get wobbly and think "I can't do this".

We will all be adjusting to this latest transition for a few weeks, then remote high school will upend the routines we've slid into over the last 5 months of "summer" and we'll calibrate yet again, thankful for the technology that connects us to the things we need and the people we love. 

Transition: the process of changing from one state to another. 

Transitions are stages of movement and growth, and they can be intense! But to live well is to change, so I wouldn't want a life without transitions. Here's to making it through the rapids and floating out on the wide calmer waters beyond.