When I think of the word transition, I desperately want to imagine myself finding a secret passage way and walking through the wardrobe into the magical world of Narnia. Voila, just stepping from one world and into another!
The childhood wonder of that picture simultaneously creates a whirl of excitement and terror for me. It’s magical, mystical and filled with monsters of epic proportion that share the common goal and pleasure of my destruction (Dang, there goes the childhood wonder!).
The other picture I have in my more adult head about transition is the period of time when 5cm stretches to 10cm and what feels like a cannon ball is being shot out of the female body (I guess you could say, “Here COMES the childhood wonder!”). Once again, excitement and terror all in the same moment.
All that said, whether we step into transition or get shot into it, it is a process filled with excitement, terror, labor, sweat, fear, faith and joy. The order in which we list those emotions can be any number of combinations.
Transitions like getting married, having a baby or buying a new house are changes that we generally choose to set in motion.
Transitions like losing someone you love, being diagnosed with a disease or losing your job, not so high on the choice scale.
Two years ago, I found myself in a transition I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen, but knew deep in my soul needed to happen.
I was sick in body, mind and spirit. After 22 years, my very fulfilling life roles of being Mom and social entrepreneur on a mission abruptly disappeared. That’s when I found myself wondering who was this weak, weepy tired woman and what could possibly be next for her? (If you want the skinny on that topic, you can read all about it here: When I Disappeared )
As with any transition we do not necessarily choose, SO MUCH, IF NOT ALL of who we are gets called into question, doesn’t it?
Funny how fear and doubt even manage to creep into some of the transitions we do choose… Am I up to the demands of this new job? How did I not know that I was such a selfish person before I got married? Can I really do this parenting thing (living most of life sleep deprived)?
It seems to me the gift of transition is beginning again. It seems to me the hard thing about transition is beginning again.
THE GIFT IS THE HARD.
Ask any writer or artist, the blank page, the white canvas is full of both possibility and paralysis, of both freedom and fear. It is rarely one or the other. It is both and. It is the gift and the hard.
It takes a heap o’ faith to begin again, to put yourself on the page, to trust you still have more left to give, more left to do, something of value to bring to the table, a place to contribute and belong…
Learning to paint this summer has taught me so much about this messy process of transition, about the trial and error of filling of a white, wide open canvas. I thought I was just learning to paint, but I got the bonus course on learning about the faith, courage and experimenting required in finding my way into something new.
I decided to paint a picture of my baby girl from an old photo that makes me smile BIG, which was surprising because I never imagined myself even wanting to paint a portrait! (I was thinking more along the lines painting of an apple…)
As you can see, she is outfitted for a summer frolic in the pool. She was, “Going fwimming!” that day, although she never intended to nor did she ever get in the water!
I began with a rough (I mean really rough! Please be nice..) sketch. Ironically, it’s been the same kind of really rough sketch with my transition. Both have required the courage to just begin somewhere, somehow!
Did I mention just how timid and tenuous and even a little foolish I felt in the beginning of both painting and transition?! (There have been a few tears and meltdowns on this side of the screen. And yes, I am in my 50s and often described as someone who has her act together.)
As with art, life transitions often look scary and feel awkward before they have enough shape and form to get better…but both require a brave first step, in order to have something to build on.
Next came time to put down some color, to do something solid and commit to the canvas…
And so went the transition of testing the dream of a new business idea by summoning the courage to take action… Can I tell you how hard that was after working through burnout and a major business failure? My business moxie had atrophied and I was in the process of shedding a cloak of failure from the recent past.
Here’s another interesting phenom. In its awkwardness, transition can be misunderstood even by those closest to you. Because you don’t fully understand the path you’re on, it can create a world of worry and angst for them. Don’t expect everyone in your life to be able to cheer you on…patience towards yourself and them, too 🙂
Our beginnings are beginnings because we cannot see the road ahead or predict what the journey will be like. I found the same to be true of painting. It’s only in the act of painting that you are able to begin to see where you might be going.
(Oh Lordy, she looks like I forgot to put sunscreen on!! Truth be told, I probably did.)
Both art and transition require a creative process. Both are about experimenting, making mistakes, being brave enough to push through doubt and fear, and then allowing yourself the space and time to step back and ask yourself, “Does this look and feel right?”
(Maybe if I add a little bit of sunset in the sky will keep her face from looking so, SO burned?)
It was at this point I began to discover art really begins where what is familiar and known ends. Transition begins there too.
Art has asked me to trust the creative process.
Transition asks me to trust my Creator and His creative process in me. Trusting nothing in my life is wasted on Him and learning to deeply believe He is up to something good, true and lovely have become very real and very daily for me.
(What if her hair doesn’t have to be brown like the photo? In fact, maybe it is actually more interesting NOT being brown.)
Perhaps, one of the greatest gifts art and transition offer us is the opportunity to see ourselves through a new lens and in a different light?
Here’s the tension I kept feeling, while it is exciting to get a glimpse of something different beginning to happen, it’s also a bit terrifying as things are going through unfamiliar territory and scary first. (The dark vacant eye sockets could give any girl nightmares!)
This is when the choice became so obvious to me. I could either stay in a place of paralysis and scary or push through to something new and full of possibility!
So what the heck, if her hair doesn’t have to be brown maybe her skin doesn’t need to be just pink? (Stand back people, we are not in Kansas anymore!)
Could getting lost in the adventure of experimenting actually be freeing and divine!?
After all, isn’t life more about letting ourselves make discoveries and mistakes that help us find our way into something new? Talk about a transition!
This just tickles me now! So about what you see here, I honestly couldn’t see it when I was painting! I took this picture of my progress and sent it to my hubs who was away on business and BAM!
The more objective lens of the camera did not lie! She was looking more like a Gila monster with a nice set of gills than my sweet baby girl three years fresh on the planet!
It has been the same with this transition I am in. Were it not for the more objective lens of a few close friends and family members speaking truth to me about who I am and who God is, I would be a Gila monster. (And truth be told, I probably have been on more than one occasion!)
This painting kept asking me to press on to create something that brings me joy. In the process, I found that my fear of not “getting it right” took a back seat to the freedom of enjoying the adventure of discovery.
This transition I’m in has kept me pressing into who He says I am without the titles of business owner or social entrepreneur on a mission. He has offered me the bigger invitation of discovering what it feels like to simply be the beloved of God, just me in this moment, beautiful, worthy, loved – His creative work in process.
At the end of the day, this portrait is not an exact representation of the photo that informed and inspired it. It was never supposed to be.
For that matter, I am not who I thought I would be either. Thankfully, He has always intended my former life and my former self to inform and inspire the less fearful, more joyful and freer version of the Annie I am becoming.
Anyone want to go “FWIMMING”? 🙂
As my friend Pastor Rob Bell warns: “Don’t rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.” Don’t let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding. Because that moment? That’s the moment when interesting begins.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else.
– RICHARD ROHR
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears! – Philippians 1:6 MSG