This week I found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom. This was unexpected given that I’m not at all a crybaby. (Friends have told me I’d feel better if I cried more, but isn’t stoicism so much more productive?)
It seems, however, the transition from renting urbanite to suburban home owner—and all that entailed mentally and physically—had taken me down the road toward a pity party of one.
What I’ve learned about transitions in the past decade is that they are essential to our growth, but they are also akin to forging through Dante’s nine circles of Hell. Heaven may be waiting on the other side, but the journey is painful and sucky.
To an outsider, it may be clear why I had a mini-breakdown yesterday. I, on the other hand, was completely blindsided.
Sure, things were physically and logistically chaotic. In our first two weeks of home ownership, my husband partially gutted our basement and learned how to install a garbage disposal and new kitchen sink pipes. I learned how to skim coat 90-year-old walls and paint ceilings. We tag teamed on lining up an asbestos removal crew, an electrician and an HVAC company, and we spent endless, awful hours in loud home improvement stores.
In the midst of all this, we packed all of our worldly possessions, drove our daughter to and from school and racked up a shitload of debt.
These things weren’t what made the move tough, however. My mistake was in not recognizing the huge emotional transition of this four-mile move north. Our move from Denver to Milwaukee last year was an obvious transition in every way. This one is more subtle, yet with a few hours of reflection I realized it is a huge emotional transition. It is a change in lifestyle and mindset and the way we view ourselves. Those changes are far more taxing than mere location.
In addition, I felt like I’d already made this transition. In fact, this September felt like an exact replica of last year’s September—enrolling my daughter in a new school, endless small talk with new people in the community, my business in nearly the same stagnant position. Even though we were physically moving, my life seemed to be going nowhere.
Adding to my funk was that my 41st birthday loomed just days away, and as much as I loved the extra time spent with my daughter over the past year, I also felt a bit like I’d wasted my 40th year.
Oh woe is me and my first world problems!
After allowing myself some time to wallow, I figuratively slapped myself and said, “let’s get on with things.” The second important thing that I’ve learned about times of transition is that you have to pull in your life lines.
Instead of burrowing into myself and my melancholy as I used to, I reached out—sent emails to friends, near and far. I called on my support network, and as always, they were there. I instant-messaged with a friend in Colorado, Skyped with another in Switzerland, initiated phone calls and coffee dates with others.
That night, I went to bed with a clear head, a calm heart and a bit of an epiphany about where I want to head this next year.
Yep, transitions are hell, but as we get older, we learn how to temper them a bit better, rather than letting their flames consume us. I think I’m nearing about the eighth ring of this transitional hell, and because I allowed myself to lean on dear friends and a supportive husband, the heat is dying down and I can see the soft glow on the other side.