Transitions are Tough: A Whole New Understanding

Transitions can be tough – we hear it all the time. I have just gained a whole new understanding of what that means and it took me quite by surprise. Here is a little window into my experience and what I learned from it. I recently moved my home and while I knew the move was coming, I am now keenly aware of the impact not knowing what is next can have on everyday functioning. Familiarity and comfort are close friends. Suddenly even things I didn’t like about the old place -lousy plumbing and no insulation to speak of, just to name a few – were missed. I knew how to work around them and found comfort in my complaining!

Once I moved I was thrown into a constant barrage of unknowns – unknown landlord, unknown quirks about the place. When would a new one arise and how would I handle it? Yes, the plumbing works great (yay!), however the insulation is faulty in a whole different way. The solutions I had in the old place don’t work here. And there is the question of where to put things so I can keep my habits familiar. Everything looks different and feels different and my flow is disrupted. Nothing is “of course” anymore; I have to THINK about everything I am doing. Smells are different, sounds are different, the route to come home is different (I can’t tell you how many times I have gone on automatic and gotten off the wrong exit to return “home.”) Unpacking creates a mess and I am stepping over things, it is all so unsettled and unsettling!

So I spent my time unpacking and finding places for things, getting pictures hung, books in bookcases and decorative items in place. As each room gets put together it helps me feel “at home” in this unfamiliar place and comfort and safety is coming back.

Like the dust I discovered as I sorted through boxes discovering all the things I didn’t need regardless of how long I had kept them, I found my emotions were stirred. I felt vulnerable and questioned myself regularly. I was reactive. Sometimes I was lost and other times totally consumed with doing 1 thing fully to completion. It has been exhausting and totally unexpected.

I am so grateful to be acclimating and learning new patterns, routines and workarounds. Now that the intensity is subsiding, I am feeling the aches and pains of the tension in my body. I am beginning to feel safe again. It has taken far longer than I thought it might and I was way more off kilter than I could have predicted.

The whole experience has made me far more aware of the true power and intricacies of transition. Even for those of us with relatively strong coping mechanisms, transitions can throw us into an unexpected emotional and physical whirlwind. How much more disconcerting is it when life is full of unanticipated transitions to which a person doesn’t know how to adjust and that others think are “no big deal?”

Going from play yard to classroom, changing activities, going to bed/sleep, summer to school schedule to weekend schedule are all examples of transitions that for some, particularly individuals with learning, attention or functional challenges, can be intensely difficult. For some they never get integrated, the workarounds don’t get habitualized so each time they occur it is a new adjustment.

This experience has taught me a deeper level of compassion for the seemingly small changes that affect us. Each person is different and where the world gets turned upside down cannot always be predicted. The value of being understood, to have people nearby who will hold out a hand and offer alternatives, help prepare us, be a familiar voice/smell/energy, remind us of what worked before, be patient while we figure it out, and most of all accept us and love us just as we are, is tremendous. That in and of itself can be the anchor that holds us and helps us find our center so we can weather the transition and come out the other side – triumphant, to no small degree. I know it was for me.

Tell me about the transitions that are tough in your family and what works to ease the pain. Your experience can help us all.



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