Tuesday, August 28, 2012 | By: Lynn

Welcome to the New World

I relate to the predicament of Doug Heffernan in one of the scenes from an episode of The King of Queens sitcom. Doug is lost in the woods, but he comes across a bridge that will take him to civilization. Problem is it's a flimsy, swinging bridge over a deep gorge, and as he crosses he feels insecure. At one point when it seems like the bridge may break, he hollers to his wife standing on the other side something like, "Helicopter now!" The bridge feels unsafe, insecure, not good for him and he wants immediate rescue back to solid ground. He even contemplates retreating back the way he came from, back into the woods.

I relate because I feel like I'm in transition in my life, have been for a while, and I want security. I want the helicopter to rescue me from uncertainty and having to try new paths. I want solid stuff to stand on. I want to be able to count on getting what I need when I need it. And I want important people in my life to stay, not disappear for various reasons.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
I think it might be human nature to long for stability and constancy, but it doesn't seem like we get it much, at least not right now. The whole world is in gigantic transition, and we can't get back to the Disneyland we thought we lived in. There is no president or king or queen or CEO who takes care of us all and makes sure the world is safe and secure, a place where we can live our lives in peace and harmony and prosperity. There are no sure things. There is no template for success because things are changing so quickly. There is no longer the promise of a job for life with a pension at retirement. There is no longer the promise of owning a home that grows in value. Change has always been the way of things but the speed of change has accelerated to a rate that it feels like I'm living one long transition.

Transition is apparent in my work as a writer, too. It's harder for a freelance writer to find work that pays well. In the great recession, freelance budgets were cut and in many cases eliminated. And for romance novel writers, the world of publishing has been in flux for a while. Whether we survive and prosper or not might depend on how we manage transition.

Getting from Here to There
It amazes me that creating the life I want, my new world, can plunge me into discomfort. Surprise! Change prompts transition. Personally I don't find it very comfortable to try to navigate transitions. It sounds exciting, "I'm in a process of transitioning from the old to the new. I welcome the new." However, change doesn't necessarily happen the way I expect and it doesn't necessarily occur rapidly and effortlessly. It doesn't feel good to be in the in-between. It can feel like nowhere with nothing to stand on. The confusion can engender different survival tactics. Nancy K. Schlossberg, Ed.D writes in Psychology Today about the ability for transitions to move us to take action, any kind of action, to relieve the anxiety.

"Transitions waiting to happen include uncertainty, ambiguity, and loss of control. The future is always uncertain and ambiguous and according to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, we are poor predictors of the future. In addition, we imagine different scenarios but cannot control all the variables."

In the midst of a changing landscape, we can see various survival tactics employed among authors. Some are venturing out with gusto to try new things and trusting the ground will be there when they need it. They may be brave and confident as well as in denial of their true feelings of fear and loss—but as long as they don't look down "Everything is fine." Others may batten down the hatches and try to insist that the best way to weather change is to follow familiar paths and hope for the best. This is a terribly simplified description of ways to deal with transition, but I relate to both. I don’t want to look down—feel the fear of the unknown and contemplate failure—when I'm trying new things and I want to follow the same path, because typically familiar, though maybe ineffective, is comfortable.

Getting Real
In her article Schlossberg writes that transitions can feel like life is on hold, and she lists typical ways people cope during transitions, like during illness and when losing old friends. Her list of coping strategies includes rehearsing for the future, going to Plan-B and acknowledging the transition.

"Living a life on hold is not easy. There are no end points in sight, yet it is a transition that many men and women face."

I think being aware of what I'm feeling is one way to weather transition, but it's not easy. In our culture we've been taught if you're not happy it's time to get out of Dodge or go to Disneyland (whatever that may mean in the moment—eat a cookie, change jobs, leave old friends). I'm not picking on Disneyland. It's a metaphor for avoiding what's real and maybe scary and painful, escaping the crappy present moment we're going through. But sometimes we need to consider waiting, pausing, sitting with what is and not judging. Letting other writers do what they need to do to weather their changes and be there for them in the way we can. Take care of our health, get out in nature, sit with the dog or cat and chill. Transition is going to happen, so being aware of its nature and what we're going through can relieve the pressure of trying to control things we can't. Then we might be better able to make transition.

OK, now I sound like Obi-Wan Kenobi. But it's what I believe I've learned as I've been in transition in many ways. Transitions offer possibilities and at the same time can feel like crap for a while. Acknowledge them and be open.

Or as Obi-Wan would say, and did in Star Wars: Rest easy, son. You've had a busy day. You're fortunate to be all in one piece.

Image Bridge into the Mountains from Dreamstime