Mind Matters — Transitions

The Fiddler on the Roof story sings about “Traditions, Traditions.” Perhaps the song could have carried the refrain “Transitions, Transitions!”

Transitions. Transitions carry us from one place in space and time to another. They may feel un-grounding and de-stabilizing because they are a sort of leap before a landing. Perhaps this is why some people fear bridges or flying. A bridge is a transitional connector from one land to another. Flying, too, is a transition—a literal taking off into the air, leaving ground, then landing, sometimes thousands of miles away.

Transitions take energy and trust—trust that it’s okay to jump off the diving board and hurtle oneself into the air to plunge into the deep water. Ironically, deep water is what you need here to make a safe “landing.” Yet, even when you know the terrain and the water, making the transition requires pushing past resistance. My daughter, for many years a competitive swimmer, says that the first jump into the pool is always hard. My own personal experience attests to this. Yes, I’ve got my swimsuit on and goggles affixed, and yet the transition from solid surface to that “liquid solution” always catches me.

When my kids were little, I would talk about “transitions,” and how hard it could be to change gears and go from one activity to another or get organized to leave the house to go somewhere. I remember over thirty years ago when my son was barely out of toddlerhood that for seven hours he insisted he wanted to stay home and didn’t want to go to wherever it was we were going for vacation. A week later, he didn’t want to leave the little cottage in Rhode Island and so for seven hours on the ride to home he considered that wanted to stay where he had been. Transitions can be difficult because change is usually not easy. Some of us are more adaptable, but all of us are affected by transition and change whether we acknowledge it or not. It helps, actually, to face our fears and anxiety about transitions and change. Naming our experience is the first step in coping with it.

Admittedly, transitions have been thematic in my life lately. For one, I have just returned from a pilgrimage to Crete. I wonder if the return from a journey that was vastly different from a person’s daily routine is more jarring than the entry into a new place. For me, when I go to a country I’ve never been, I expect my senses to be “assaulted” and I welcome the novelty. On the other hand, re-entry home is both comforting and unsettling. Being with family is a joy, yet the bigness of life here is, at first, overwhelming—big box stores, big roads, big cars. America on steroids?

However, the more personal context of transitions for me is not about going from the rugged rocky mountains of Crete with nary a McDonald’s or Walmart in sight back to the mammoth malls and shopping sprawls here.

On the heels of my return home, we hosted a gathering of family and friends in honor of my daughter and spouse’s baby, scheduled to be born in December. What a marker for major change this is! Moving into parenthood and grandparent-hood is formidable—wondrous, yes—but life changing indeed!

For me, it is the carrying of hope—and love—from the past into the future. Lately, I feel peculiarly connected to my mother, who died almost twenty years ago, remembering her in her grammy-hood and wishing to carry her love and care forward. Quite a transition: bridging the love of generations!