“The moment in between what you once were and what you are becoming is where the dance of life takes place.” – Barbara De Angelis
Transitions are “in between” times when we find ourselves between the old and the new. The coming “new” pulls at our awareness, sending us into loops of planning, impatient waiting, re-planning and still more waiting. Mix in a healthy dose of worry (it happens to the best of us) and times of transition can get a little messy. Mix in the tension that can arise as we deal with the demands of the “old” at the same time as we look forward to the “new” and we suddenly see why times of transition are often quite challenging to our peace of mind. For even the most graceful of us, transitions can trip us up as we move through the dance of life.
The year my oldest child headed off to college and my youngest started high school, I realized I was entering a transition that would draw itself out over the course of years. I admit that this realization came with a moment of panic. I tend to be a person who prefers to rip the Band-Aid off quickly rather than dragging things out. Yet, this transition felt different. There was no rushing (or desire to rush) toward the empty nest that is my future. I was simply going to have to take each step – some as quick and complicated as a tap dance sequence, some as dizzying as a ballerina’s pirouettes and some as sweet as a slow dance at the senior prom – along the way as it came.
And the steps I’ve taken during this time of transition have been as fast and as complex as the jitterbug. Moving in and out of dorm rooms. Endless SAT-prep. Impossibly expensive shopping sprees at Bed Bath & Beyond. Another prom. College tours and applications. A second (and third!) year spending Thursday nights studying for APUSH (Advanced Placement US History). These are all rites of passage for each of my children that deserve my full attention even as I sneak glances ahead to what life might be like for me after I drive home from dropping my youngest off for her freshman year.
These stealthy glances ahead seem to alternate between giving me thrills of excitement and shivers of fear. How will I fill my days? What will my husband and I do on the weekends without a youth sporting event to cheer at? Can I even remember what an actual weekend feels like? How will my hodge-podge of part-time jobs shift and change as I am able to devote more time to my professional life? Yes, these glances are a distraction from the dance I’m doing right now. But they are also necessary fodder for the daydreams, hopes and prayers that need to go into my discernment of what I’d like from this next dance in my life.
This long time of transition has taught me that there can be a certain sweetness to in-between times. I’ve developed a mindset that I call “short-timers syndrome.” This has made me much more present to life at home. I find myself not wanting to miss anything – family dinners, a snuggle before going to bed, a laugh in the car, even studying for another blasted APUSH test. I’m not going to get this time back and I find myself wanting wring all I can out of these last few years. It turns out that “short-timers syndrome” is a highly effective way to practice staying in the moment and enjoying the dance of life.
I was a little surprised to find myself facing transitions within this long time of transition. The fact that this surprised me makes me feel a little silly. After all, what is life but one long transition? Seasons have changed. New opportunities have arisen. Old ones have faded away. Relationships have shifted. With my new, keen awareness of transitions, I’ve been fascinated to watch my “dance skills” improve as I navigate each one.
Becoming graceful in times of transition, it turns out, takes practice, patience and persistence. This I understand intimately from my yoga practice. I know without a doubt that tripping or falling down is better than OK. It is an opportunity to get up and try again. Yoga has also helped me develop confidence in the slow, winding backroads of life rather than yearning to leap on the highway. Yoga has given me faith that each step along the way – the sweet and the not-so-sweet – are worthy recipients of my full awareness.
No matter where you are in life, you are between what you were and what you are becoming. We all have “moments” like mine when this is just a little clearer than others. We have the choice to receive these transitional moments as gifts. We can choose to adopt “short-timers syndrome” and throw ourselves into them completely and passionately. Even if we don’t like the music, we can choose to dance our hearts out with faith that there will be a next dance and a next …
Keep on dancing. Keep on becoming. Keep on living.