I’m in my home office on a gloriously sunny fall day. This beautiful weather won’t last, so I’m making sure I notice it and appreciate it all day.
I am reflecting on the last couple of weeks. I’m in a different place than when I wrote my last blog. What I shared struck a chord with many of you – for different reasons. Thank you to everyone who reached out and let me know why.
A note especially touched me from a thoughtful friend. She wrote:
Thank you for being vulnerable. Change is hard. I too struggle with acknowledging the loss and making space for it. It would’ve been very helpful in many transitions in my own life. Thank you for this reminder – to be gentle with me and gentle with others who are experiencing changes.
Lots of us are in the middle of personal and professional change. Many will also identify strongly with the term “over functioning perfectionist.” Types like us need to be reminded: “It is OK not to be OK.” We need to make the space to feel our emotions and be a regular human.
It is a lot easier to get support when other people know you need it. Compassion and kindness have a softening effect. It worked on me. People sharing how they empathized and identified with my emotional experience made accepting and moving through change a lot easier.
Dealing with my emotions is why I’m not in the same place that I was two weeks ago, and why my perspective is shifting. The consensus in the change and transition literature is that change represents an event and transition is a psychological process that happens over time.
Real change doesn’t begin until we start to feel it. If we don’t feel it, it could be because we are stuck in denial. Or maybe the change hasn’t happened yet – it is still a concept. Or maybe it isn’t a significant change. There is a big difference between rearranging the furniture in a room versus moving into another house.
The impact of a change on us personally can vary depending on whether it is our idea, how we perceive what we stand to gain and lose, and our choices around handling our emotions. If we have any unresolved feeling from past losses, they can pile on and intensify the impact of the one we are in the middle of experiencing now.
In all cases, we must grieve, in our way, to accept change and make the transition. We need to let go of old identities, ideas, workplaces, workspaces, relationships and what we thought we wanted or what we thought was true.
And, usually, it is in our best interest to do our grieving in private, with trusted friends.
If it is a work change, we don’t want a temporary period of emotional adjustment to define us as a “change resister.” Fair or not, organizational changes don’t have to make sense to us to happen. What we say – and to whom – matters. People notice how we handle it when things don’t go our way.
We don’t want our “letting go” to negatively colour our “hello” to the new people and places in whatever is next for us career-wise.
But don’t shut down. We do need to address the emotional impact. Seek out safe spaces and people to work through the emotions. Do it all in the service of accepting reality as it is and increase your ability to act on what is still within your control. Discover your choices and keep looking for the silver lining. It is there.
So how did I intentionally and privately grieve over the last couple of weeks? I stayed weepy and emotionally raw for a good week after publishing that blog. Sharing it made my feelings more real, and in some ways, I felt more vulnerable.
I knew I had more to feel and say in private. The quickest way to move through it is to embrace whatever thoughts and emotions are coming up and don’t resist. It was OK that I was not OK. I made finding ways to express my feelings a legitimate goal.
Spinning a change into a positive before you’ve fully acknowledged what you are losing is delusional optimism. It is a form of denial that can come back to bite you later. Don’t lie to yourself to get through it. Tell yourself the truth, and don’t tune out your emotion.
Instead, find ways to safely and privately feel your feelings – your way, and on your terms. Invite the feelings in and amplify them to get them out and detoxify. Be pragmatic. Think about what you are doing as an emotional cleanse.
So what are my ways of emotionally cleansing? I highly recommend seeing a movie like “A Star is Born” if you want to let loose with the tears in a dark auditorium with strangers. More accurately, I was in the room of strangers with my husband.
My husband didn’t join me in my cry jag. He sat patiently (OK, nervously) while I cried until the lights came on in the movie theatre. It felt good.
Next, I dedicated time to do some good old-fashioned, free-for-all stream of consciousness journaling. I took pen to paper and said all of the “unsayables.” I let loose with all the petty, one-sided, honest thoughts, fears and feelings about my past, present and future.
This kind of writing helps me sort through my “not ready for prime time” reactions in private and to get out of my head and in sync with my heart. And there are upsides and downsides to every change. It is complicated.
This kind of writing is never intended for publication. The venting and lamenting are in the service of removing the clutter. After I ‘m done I can see truth more clearly and make informed, conscious choices.
As my mentor, Jack says: “The truth is a multi-faceted jewel, and more than one thing can be true.” The truth is I am heading into an interesting time. I can see opportunities and new ways to use my talents. Dare I say I’m even starting to feel excited. I always find the silver lining.
I also found out I am not alone in this time of transition. Good people surround me. My story is developing, and I know yours is too. I love hearing from you. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.