Transition: When You're Ready to Give Up
My self got scrubbed crystal clear by going through a big cycle of shit.
The last half a year was a tough one. A significant relationship cracked, and fell to pieces before I could get myself to stable ground. In the turmoil I grabbed onto a branch that appeared strong and supportive, but snapped as soon as I leaned my full weight on it.
You know those moments when time slows down, when everything goes slow-mo, and you watch a disaster unfold inch by excruciatingly detailed inch? I feel like this last month and a half was one of those. I think I packed a year of clarification, motivation, self-discovery, and risk-taking into one and a half months.
The other day a friend wondered how I conquered the trauma and fear. “You sure grew some awesome balls!” she said.
The truth is, I’m still occasionally paralyzed with fear. And the trauma still has its times when it wants to take all my attention. I have coped by clinging (at times desperately) to the deep belief that these feelings WILL shift. And I trust with gritted teeth that something is always at work beyond my sight that has a bearing on how things play out. It has been so terribly uncomfortable at times, I felt like I could pull my hair out. It was horrendous. I yelled. I cried. And kept repeating to myself that it was a lie that it was forever. I wanted so badly to know what is on the other side… I held on… I held on.
I held on.
While talking about this with my friend, who happens to be a doula and supported me through my first son’s birth, I realized: the description I had just given her mirrors the mental and physical response called “transition” during labour.
And holy frick, that’s exactly what I’ve been through. I’m sitting here in this beautiful new home, with a gorgeous new baby business in my lap. I’m pretty damned exhausted, and I’ve been told that I’m “glowing”.
We’ve got to unpack this a bit. Here’s a quick run-down on transition from mumsnet.com:
The final, hardest (but, thankfully, usually shortest) chunk of the first stage of labour, transition, is when you dilate from about 7cm to 10cm.
Contractions will be incredibly intense and you may have very little time to rest between each one. You may feel faint, sick, wobbly, hot and sweaty or cold and chilly.
Don’t be surprised if you completely zone out during this phase and become unaware of your surroundings. (It’s also traditionally the point where some mums lose the plot, decide they really can’t be bothered anymore and try to walk out.)
You may feel an intense urge to push during transition, but don’t. Pushing too early can cause complications. Puffing and blowing can help until you’re given the green light.
Transition usually lasts between 15 minutes to a few hours – so hold on.
With a bit of luck, once you’re fully dilated, your contractions may stop for a short while before you feel the need to push, giving you the chance to get your breath back.
Isn’t that perfect??!!! So much is in there, I just feel like walking away from the computer – my work is done.
But no, I’ll bring it home. Here’s where I see the overlaps between transition in birthing a baby and transition in birthing a dream:
At the edge of giving up, that’s when the dream is just about ready to pop through.
I know this. I KNOW THIS. I have been buoyed by words from The Alchemist at times like this in the past.
“What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’
Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
But dammit, it doesn’t ever seem to get any easier. It feels like I cry blood, like my very intestines are screaming “how on earth is this supposed to happen?!!” I simply cannot see the way. At my most uncomfortable moments I lay on my bed in despair with the sole thoughts rolling through my head, over and over, “I cannot see how this can come to be, I cannot continue like this, and I do not know what to DO next”
My offerings on getting through it:
Hold on to what you know is true. There may only be one, two, or three truths you know about life, the universe, and yourself at this point. Hold on to them with the tenacity of a bulldog. Refuse to take your eyes off them. Repeat them as a mantra, as an anchor, as a reminder of what is real.
Just be. You are allowed to feel absolutely uncomfortable. Shift around, wriggle, and ACCEPT THAT IT JUST SUCKS ROCKS right now and that it will NOT last forever. You’re allowed to feel angry about it, irritated at it, unhappy about it, all of it. Bring it. Move through the emotions by allowing them to speak.
Grab the small details that are within your control. For me – it was to rest, eat consciously, connect with people who loved me and would support me, and pack. I didn’t know where I was going to be moving to which caused me great distress – but I did at least know that I needed to PACK. So, I packed. With tears, with anger, with frustration, I packed.
It gets physical.
I got very ill, twice, and pulled my neck severely during this past “transitional” month. I lost my appetite, I woke up regularly at 5 am, and all the signs and cues that my body is stressed to the max showed up. Shit got real, folks. Most of this was originating on a mental level, but it showed up physically, and I had to deal with it. I had to slow down. I had to take super-attentive care of myself. I had to ask for help. And some things I just had to let go of. Life got stripped down to bare essentials.
Your brain, heart, and soul are doing some major work on another plane.
This manifesting stuff is intense. Finding this connection with labouring is huge for me: I remember hanging out with Jesus during the last part of labour for my second, completely out of touch with any one else in the room. I could hear my music playing, Jesus had my back and was alternating doing the pushes with me, and I was living in the blood and veins of my body, listening to the minutiae of the internal chemistry that was organizing the symphony of bringing of my son into the world, turning my body inside out. It was pretty freakin’ amazing.
And you know what, this past month had some similarities to that. I had meetings with my “midwife” (my business plan advisor) every few days to get direction and share what was developing, to ask and answer questions that would help me get more clear about what I was creating. I took long walks so my brain would have processing room for all it the connections and visions it was working through. I lay in my bed, a lot, not even sleeping, just drifting off to this other place where things were MADLY being woven together. I was in la-la-Rebecca-creation-land. I don’t even know that I knew it until it was time to come back to the real world. Now that I’m reconnected to this world, I look back and it feels like I was off doing negotiations with the big bosses in another room for most of the previous month. And the results of those negotiations are now physically present in my life today.
This was the hard, hard work I had to do. If I hadn’t done it, I would not have this new beginning now. I didn’t have much to show for it from the outside looking in while I was doing it, because it was all intangible. It was, however, the very stuff of creation. Honour it. Value it.
The desperate urge to MAKE IT HAPPEN NOW can fuck it all up.
Ohhhh god this is a hard one. When you’re SO CLEAR about what it is you want, when you know it is what needs to happen next, it is so damned difficult not to push and pull it through before it is ripe.
“Something happening” feels better than the waiting. However, it may just screw it all up. In our eagerness, our huge desire to see movement and make it happen, we may not give space for the synchronicity or ease that are the clues that the right pieces have arrived. I went looking for houses in which to live and craft my business/community dream, found one that really called to me and felt AMAZING, and pushed on it. It didn’t move. I pushed harder, and found resistance, but I was just so sure that this was THE PERFECT PLACE and I REALLY WANTED IT and I NEEDED IT NOW… ahhh!!! I was trying to make it fit! Thank God Christmas intervened and everyone took holidays, forcing me to back off and just “be”. And in the gap came a second house that was far, far, far better for me. The second one fell in place with a soft and easy “ka-chunk.”
If I had been able to keep pushing, I may have succeeded in landing myself a not-quite-right version of my dream. It would have been mostly good and partly a bad fit. Or it may have been an utter disaster. I may have chalked it up to a flawed idea, external problems – who knows what I would have pegged as the reason for why it wasn’t working out as I’d intended. With this perspective, though, I feel the real reason would have been the premature push. The grabbing of imperfect pieces and smooshing them together. The crushing need for wholeness superceding the reality of incompleteness that is present while the various pieces are making their way in.
I have to admit, this is a really hard one for me. I am quite sure I get it wrong more than I get it right. I’m going to highlight this and put it in a prominent place around my home to help support me in being ok with incompleteness while waiting for the right “ka-chunk” in the future.
This stage is finite. It has an end. There will be a beginning of a new stage.
This sounds self-evident. It seems so simple. But holy moly, do I ever need to remind myself of this over and over again when I am in “transition”. It’s such a wringer of a stage, it puts the screws to me so badly, that it is imperative to remember that it will NOT last forever, and in fact is likely to be QUITE SHORT.
The number of days when I felt absolutely, totally, mind-screamingly uncomfortable were quite few. Sure, they lasted about two years in slow-mo time, but really they only totalled a few days.
Hold on. This is really the best frickin advice for this one. HOLD THE FUCK ON. Grip tight, like you’re on a rollercoaster and you know your seatbelt is a little loose… hold ON! And you will emerge out the other side. The ride will end and then you can go and yell at the person in charge. But it will end. And you will survive. Just. Hold. On.
Grab the moments to breathe when they arrive.
When you’re in high-creation mode, and you’ve been working so intensely on this other plane, your body is creaking and cracking, life is moving in slow-mo and crazy intense all at the same time… and then you feel it REALLY slow down for a moment —
Let it down, let it go.
Look at it.
Cry a little. …Cry a lot.
Steep in gratitude and amazement at all that has happened, at how strong you’ve been, stronger than you knew you could be. Adore the support you’ve felt, the connections that have emerged, the encouragement you’ve received. Give thanks. Give praise.
Dance a little.
Cuddle the cats.
Eat good food and love on your body, because it has brought you through so far.
Write. Talk with a good friend. Process. Reflect.
Feel all your bits to know that they’re all still attached…. To remind yourself of all you are, all you have, all you’ve learned, all you know to be true.
…And enjoy that space for as long as it is given to you. Because now, you’ve got a newborn. It’s going to take a lot of your attention, and you’re pretty damned exhausted from all that strain it took to bring it through.
But god, it was worth it.