The dark side of change happens just after the initial excitement dies down. Now you are in the middle of something foreign and strange, without the usual familiar landmarks.
I hate this part of the process. It’s necessary and cannot be avoided, but it’s also unsettling and awkward. I end up declaring that I’ve made a huge mistake, but then I realize that once again I’ve confused unfamiliarity with disaster.
Change is messy. It’s frustrating and awful and glorious, all at the same damn time. The only way I know to get through to the transformation is to trudge through the mud of the frightening middle. No shortcuts exist when we are trying to jumpstart our lives.
We moved this past weekend into our townhouse. As a family, we’ve embraced the ideals of minimalism, but I’ve discovered that it’s one thing to believe in a philosophy and another thing to put it into practice.
Downsizing from a five-bedroom home into a much-smaller three-bedroom townhouse is bloody hard. What looked sleek and clean after minimizing in my big house now appears cluttered and overstuffed in my new space, even after getting rid of lots of our possessions.
I hit several metaphorical walls as we moved in (not to mention literal ones when attempting to bring boxsprings up narrow staircases). I began longing for my big and comfortable house where I knew every inch of the space I had. I craved the familiar, the simple, the stress-free. I cried, a lot. I felt afraid that this move was never going to work and wondered if we could unpick everything that brought us to this point.
Sleep and time are two wonder cures for the exhausted mind and body. My instinct is often to rush, to unpack everything in a single day, to paint every room on all three floors instead of taking it wall by wall. I have trouble celebrating the progress that I make when there are still so many problem areas to solve.
Big change is not easy. If it were straightforward, everyone would be doing it. A provincial move is a stressful experience. The best we can do is be patient and gentle with ourselves while in the midst of so much uncertainty.
Everything we do involves both loss and gain. We say goodbye so that we can now say hello. We cry over what is gone but then we smile when we consider what is ahead. Just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s just not what we know, at least not yet.
I must give this move time. I cannot set the bar so high in terms of what I can get done in a day, a week or even an hour. Process is slow and messy and unpredictable. It’s okay to feel lost and unsure. This is part of being alive. Frailty and grief come with the package deal that is humanity.
When I’m overwhelmed, I will slow down. I will remind myself to breathe. To unclench and surrender to what I cannot possibly see coming. I’ll pet my cats and watch them sleep, for this is a spiritual practice.
The only way to get through the dark side of change is to soldier on. To laugh when the opportunities present themselves. To celebrate using weapons like sparkling wine and Halloween chocolate. To be when I feel more comfortable with the word “do”. To anticipate that some days are simply going to be hard as we make our way through big life transitions.