As we move from Summer into Autumn, I feel outer rhythms shifting as the weather cools and the days shorten. I’m also aware of the outside world reflecting in my own deep inner shifts. As my oldest child is off to college, I feel a grand re-arrangement of both family and inner dynamics and I sense the big question sitting within me… “Who Am I Now?”
I’ve grown accustomed to this uncomfortable question presenting itself at each major life transition, challenge or loss. Common reactions I’ve seen in both myself and others, is to avoid the discomfort by busying ourselves with activity that soon feels empty or aimless and to stress ourselves with the need to know right away or “figure out” what’s next.
After many exhausting and frustrating rounds of this, I’ve come to understand that the anxiety that feeds this reaction is usually a protective cover for deep grief for what has ended, vulnerability around loss of identity and fear and uncertainty about the unknown territory ahead. With the seasoning of my own life experience and the sacred witnessing of so many others’ journeys, I’ve nevertheless grown more accepting of and open to these transitions and to the deep discomforts they bring.
I’ve come to learn that they hold great power as gateways into new discoveries and new potentials within us. This power activates, when we are willing to navigate through them, not with avoidance, but with self-acceptance and self-compassion and not as victims, but as great heroes and heroines on a journey of discovery and growing.
For me right now, this looks like acknowledging that a major stage in my family life and in my mothering is reaching a completion as my three children move through their teenage years into more independence. I’m holding the knowing that this is the natural way of things and I feel satisfaction in seeing my children grow into independent and amazing people.
However, I’m also making space for the grief I feel of not being needed in the same ways anymore. I’m acknowledging the sadness that arises when my youngest no longer asks for stories and cuddles before bed, or when my middle child closes off to me but pours her heart out to her friends. I unconsciously slip into old patterns of reminding my oldest to make time for his homework when he is home visiting from college. I feel pain when he gently reminds me, “Mom-I’ve got this. It’ s not your job to remind me anymore.” I apologize and acknowledge that he is absolutely right. Internally I course correct and reluctantly release another thread of my well trodden ways of relating and connecting with him-and with each of them.
In the willingness to both grieve and release that which is outgrown- we both honor the preciousness of what has been and make space for new potentials. So I tentatively move toward trusting that there will be new ways of connecting with my children that will unfold over time; that my role as their mother will take some new form. I ground myself in the knowing that there is much more to me than my role as a mother and I sense a certain excitement as the intensity of this role diminishes and other parts of me call for the space to be discovered and expressed. I hold myself gently in the moment-to-moment practice of slowing myself down, tending my heart, setting aside the need to figure it all out- allowing the answers to my “big question” to gestate and unfold
- Where do you found yourself in the midst of a life transition? Where is your identity shifting? Are your own children growing up? Has there been a death? A divorce? A betrayal or loss of relationship? A change in your health or in that of a loved one? A change in your work or perhaps new work wanting to begin? Transitions take many forms.
- What losses need to be grieved an what gifts need to be honored?
- What roles and ways of being have you perhaps outgrown?
- What hidden potentials and parts of you are calling to be discovered and expressed?