Last weekend I attended a meditation retreat, which was uneventful. A lot of sitting on a bumpy meditation mat. But it was a much-welcomed opportunity to slow down and reconnect with myself, particularly as I’ve been running hard the past few months. I soldered on and struggled through several hours of sitting meditation, walking meditation and lecture on the four aspects on mindfulness. I left thinking it was somewhat useful but probably not the most effective use of my time.
A few days after the retreat, I was down in the dumps. Thursday of last week I walked around in a sad fog, it was almost as if a large heavy cloud had descended upon my head and was raining down on me wherever I went. I thought it was particularly odd considering nothing had really happened to cause it. Or so I thought.
Then I remembered what my friend Michelle had said when I mentioned I’d be going to the retreat – “Wow, a meditation retreat. It will be interesting to notice what comes up for you in the week or so after. These things are so powerful!”
Were the two things connected I wondered? Indeed they were. And then a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. The immense amount of change I’m currently going through but hadn’t thought to acknowledge or show myself any tenderness or compassion for.
Change is an interesting thing. It can often creep up on a person, where we don’t even recognize we’re experiencing it. I’ve seen this many times with my clients. They solider on bravely and stoically, through job changes – maybe a career transition or a layoff, changes in living arrangements, changes in relationship status.
There is no escape from the universal human change curve
There is a way that humans tend to experience change, and it’s called the change curve. It often looks something like this:
This model was developed in the 1960’s by Elizabeth Kubler Ross and if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that it tends to follow the grieving process. This model underscores the journey of change every human goes on, whether we consciously realize it or not. And when you think about this, it makes perfect sense. Change means the death of something old and the birth of something new. And it will be stressful and chaotic, even if the change was a wanted change, which in my situation it was.
My husband decided to take a sabbatical and spend some much-needed time determining whether he wanted to make it permanent and retire early or go back to work. He’ll still not sure. And I’ve been super supportive considering he traveled a lot for his job and was away over half of the time we’ve been together.
The first six months were great. A joyous time for us to have fun together and do all sorts of things that had been put on the back burner for years. And then the reality of the situation started to set it. He’s home. ALL THE TIME. Suddenly, our 2,700 square foot house in Austin which always seemed so spacious, no longer does.
People often talk about retirement being one of the biggest transitions one can make. And trust me, I’m a believer now. Transitions are tough. Career transitions bring a similar amount of stress and strain that I can directly attest to, having transitioned my career multiple times over the years. Starting my own business was a roller coaster of highs and lows as well.
Sorry, there is no bypassing the emotional impact of change
So the bottom line is that you can’t bypass the emotional impact of change. Which I evidently forgot in this case, stuffed it down, and continued to dutifully go about my business. Until I went to the meditation retreat and sat. And sat some more. And then like the lid being taken off the pressure cooker, the emotional charge had nowhere to go but up.
What came up was frustration and resentment at him, and at myself. My peace is now disturbed, we’re getting on each other’s nerves more than usual and both showing up as more reactive than we normally are. But I didn’t want to allow myself to own those emotions. To feel them. To lean into them, because then I wouldn’t be being a very good wife, right? I should be happy he’s home! I finally got what I’ve been nagging him about all of these years!
Well, the bottom line is I’m happy AND I’m sad. I’m frustrated AND I’m excited. Life has duality and change often is the prickly instigator that brings it to our consciousness. And it’s okay that it’s both. When I leaned into that thought, I started to realize this experience has the capacity to bring us closer as a couple as we navigate these issues. And it already has. But you can’t navigate very effectively what you don’t acknowledge.
Coaching questions for thought:
- What changes am I currently experiencing that I may be discounting?
- What impact are these changes having on my emotional state?
- What if I embraced both the positive and the negative aspects of the change?
- What am I disowning or not allowing myself to feel relative to this change?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership coach and career coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and step into their greatness. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!
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