When one looks closely, the process of transformation does not appear to be fun. How often do we wax poetic about transformation, using the caterpillar to butterfly metaphor and forget to mention that the caterpillar retreats into its cocoon to digest itself from the inside out (temporarily becoming a soupy mush and letting its body die) before it emerges a gorgeous winged creature? And what about those scenes from movies like The Incredible Hulk where we watch attractive leading men (most recently Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton) groan in agony as their bodies painfully mutate into giant, gruesome, green monsters?
My recent experience is another case in point. Rearranging my 20+-year relationship while dismantling a residence and establishing a new home, has caused my brain to be baffled by simple tasks, like finding where I put the scissors. All of my neural pathways seem to be challenged and working overtime to cope with the immediate and unfamiliar needs of my surroundings.
In short, while the outcome of transformation can be amazing, getting there is not without its difficulties. When we change, we leave behind familiar and comfortable habits that we have practiced and perfected for years! Even when those behaviors are dysfunctional paths to no place special, (e.g. smoking, co-dependency, workaholism etc.) on some level, they had helped us to define ourselves – and we feel a little lost without them.
When you experience a transformation that causes you to not only change your situation, (like moving), but also to question your self-definition (like retiring or becoming an empty nester) you’ve got a bit of a mountain to climb. It’s do-able, and you’ll probably love the view at the top, but let’s face it, it is going to take some work to get there. If possible, I suggest you prepare for the journey - with food and water for sustenance, maybe a companion, a compass or GPS and some emergency medical supplies.
Changing roles can push you into a chaotic chasm of redefinition. It may feel dark and difficult, but it won’t last forever. Some days, you may want to follow the wisdom of the caterpillar and crawl into your cocoon for a melt down in order to manage the experience. Or, you may just surrender to the process of becoming the Incredible Hulk and tackle your discomfort as flesh and bone break (metaphorically speaking) while you grow and stretch into the powerful being that it is your destiny to become.
Now the good news: the renewed self can provide exciting adventures as well as peace. Whether we follow the path of butterfly or beast, in time, we adjust to our revised reality and feel more comfortable in our new skin. With this, we gain perspective, possibility, and new ways to relate in the world.
Today, and always, I wish you transformation that brings joy, strength and meaning. It may not be an easy journey, but try to embrace it, and don’t forget to pack a lunch.