Making it through Transition

On a recent hike through the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, I struggled up a steep incline toward Bell Pass.  My goal for the day was a 9.4 mile loop through beautiful desert.  I had made it fairly easily through the first two miles of the trail with its gradual incline.  I could see the top of the ridge but didn’t know exactly how far I had to go to the pass.  I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath and let my legs rest.   This reminded me of a term that was described during my Bradley method birthing class: transition.  This is the worst part of birthing a baby, when the pain is the worst and you feel like you just can’t do it.  Knowing about the transition phase and that you are in it, helps you to get through it because you know it will pass.  In the same way, as I labored my way up the trail, I knew that this was the hardest part and well worth the overall hike.  When I reached the pass, miles of open desert stretched out before me in a gorgeous view and I rewarded myself with a snack. 

Many times we talk about making a transition in our lives or careers.  I had never related it to the birthing term before though.  The hike through the preserve was a good metaphor for my journey so far in my coaching business.  I had hiked up the first part in a gradual  climb, taking classes and gaining my certification.   This was challenging but very doable.  Now I am in the steep climb of refining my work and building my business.  I am not really sure where the top is.  There are ups and downs.  I often have to stop and catch my breath and look for support.  Once I reach the peak, I will still have lots of hiking to do, but hopefully it will be enjoyable.  Knowing that I am in the transition phase helps me to understand why I am struggling and that I will eventually get through it if I keep putting one step in front of the other.  Then I can gleefully jog down the next part of the trail until the next incline slows me down again.

As I help others through their transition, I try to help them keep their eyes on the goal while accepting that this is difficult and it may take some struggle to get there.  We can stop and rest and catch our breath.  We can pause and look back at how far we have hiked up the trail.  We can look to small goals along the path such as reaching the next ridge then celebrate when we get there.  We can enjoy the scenery along the way and the support of those hiking with us.  The journey is worth it.

Your Next Chapter in Life

Instead of thinking of midlife as a time of crisis, it can be a time of renewal and rejuvenation.  It is the perfect time to figure out how to make our work and play more meaningful and enjoyable.   When social security was started in 1935, the life expectancy for men was 60 years and for women was 64 years.  If you made it to retirement, you could enjoy it for a few years at most.  Currently, those of us who make it to 50 years old will likely live into our eighties and most of that time in good health. 

Instead of retirement being a freedom from work, it can now be a freedom to work: and to work at jobs we enjoy.  We can relish work that brings us meaning, that allows us to try out new skills, and to take paths we had always wanted to explore.  The first chapter of life entails growth and education.  The second chapter is a time for raising families, launching careers, building a home and establishing some financial security.  The final chapter is one of reflection and decline, “retirement”.  Most of us in our fifties and sixties are not ready for that final chapter.  We still have so much to give in terms of knowledge, experience, energy and purpose in our third chapter.

This is the time to rethink work and what we want from it.  This is a new stage of life, not an extension of the previous one.  There is time to go back to school or learn new skills.  There are more resources now to help explore the options and make this transition.

A life coach can work with you to figure out what you truly want and what will make you happy and fulfilled.  She will help you figure out the right questions to ask.  What is your financial situation and what will you really need to live long term?  When do you want to bring what you are currently doing to a close and how do you do that with dignity and satisfaction?  Will you need further education or updating of skills?  Do you want to work full-time, part-time or have a flexible schedule?  Can you volunteer to learn new skills or just for the enjoyment of it?  How about a gap year?  What is truly important for your daily life and relationships?

This can be an exciting time of pursuing work and activities in a more intentional and meaningful way.  If you put some time and energy into exploring what you truly want and how you can succeed at getting it, this can be the best part of life yet.

Lessons from Nature: We Need Rest Also.

In Phoenix, the trees lose their leaves in January.   As I approached my soul tree today, a cool sunny December day, its leaves were a mix of red, orange and green.  It reminded me that there are cycles in nature of growth and rest.  The trees lose their leaves and shut down during the winter then come back to life in the spring even stronger – bigger and more beautiful.  We are creatures of nature also and have similar cycles.  For too much of our lives, however, we believe we have to keep striving and growing, pushing through any downturn.  We need periods of rest as much as the trees.  When we go through periods of stress or challenge, we need some down time to recover. 

Around the trees were flowers in full bloom, specific types planted to suit the weather.  This is a good reminder that different people thrive in different situations.   While the trees are going into their rest phase, these flowers are at their peak.  We can’t compare ourselves to others and base our needs on theirs.  We are all experiencing different things in our lives that are challenges or boosts.  What are your individual needs right now?  By taking care of those needs, you can take advantage of the sun shining in your life right now or accept the cold and clouds so you can rest up for the spring.

Finding your tree-mate to connect with nature.

Being in nature has multiple health benefits.  It lowers our stress hormones, blood pressure and heart rate.  It boosts our immune system and decreases inflammation in our body.  It boosts our mood and increases our focus and energy levels.  Getting out onto a hiking trail through the desert or forest has many short term and long term benefits for us.

In busy times when it is difficult to go hiking or during this period when we are physically distancing, we still need to experience nature on a regular basis.  One way to do this is to have someplace close to home that you can visit at least a few times per week and get your nature boost.  This can be simply a tree near your home or in a small park.  Choose one that calls to you by the pattern of its bark or shape of its leaves or its location next to a fountain.

Once you are sitting or standing by your tree, first spend some time really noticing your senses.  Look at how the sun comes through the leaves or how the branches split from each other.  Smell the fresh air or the rain coming or flowers nearby.  Listen to the breeze rustling the branches, the birds singing or people talking.  Feel the air on your skin, the ground beneath you, and check in with how your body feels.  Notice what is changing around you.

Then share energy with your tree.  Touching or hugging the tree can help but you can also just sit nearby.  Imagine the roots going deep into the earth pulling out nutrients and water and stabilizing the tree.   Take a few deep breaths. Feel the energy coming from the earth and into you as you breathe in.  Feel the energy flow back into the earth as you breathe out.  Look at the branches reaching to the sky and the leaves absorbing the sun and its energy.  Feel the energy coming from the universe into your body as you breathe in then back up to the sky as you breathe out. 

Ponder all that nature gives us and have gratitude.  Think about how you should give back.  Take some time each day to pause and be with nature in some way.  It will calm and restore you.

My tree-mate at Civic Center Plaza in downtown Scottsdale