Last Sunday, we dropped our precious Em off to college.
A brand new freshman at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, in a brand city, with a brand new life waiting to be lived.
The week has been hard and joyful and depressing and full of hope. I think the hardest part of the whole thing was the ride home where her baby sister cried most of the way.
And the moment they said goodbye in the dorm. And going to church without her. And sitting on her bed looking around at all the reminders of her.
Losing our social butterfly feels so unfair.
But I’ve talked to her or face-timed her everyday. She’s THRIVING. She loves it. She so happy.
She texted me this adorable picture yesterday or her and roommates.
Just as it should be. I’m so proud of her and so excited for her future.
But it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It’s been a year of hard changes for us all around and navigating change and transition takes some intention and practice.
Transitions can be exhausting and can challenge our relationships and even our identity. We also find ourselves with decision fatigue as we face so many unknowns. Your transition may be that you’re changing jobs. Maybe you just got divorced. Or your kindergartener or just went to school for the first time. We go through so many transitions. Change is actually just inevitable. It’s part of everything and learning how to manage ourselves, our minds, our emotions during times like this is really, really critical.
Things are hard because life can be hard, not because I’m doing it wrong or made the wrong decision. It means that we’re human and that we’re having the normal human experience where things are amazing and beautiful and also difficult. Let it be hard, mama. And stop beating yourself up for that.
So, today I’m going live on my Facebook page to talk about some helpful tips and reminders for your hard seasons.
In this episode we’ll be talking about why transitions are so hard and ways to get better at dealing with them.
Let it be hard, feel what you feel
Transitions are hard and it’s okay to let it be hard, to feel what you feel. We are SO GOOD at resisting our feelings, at avoiding them by buffering with food or drink or other distractions, when the shortest and healthiest way through something is THROUGH IT. When we first adopted our six year old, I kept asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard? What am I doing wrong?” Instead of just knowing that for the foreseeable future, this is probably going to be hard and I need to stop beating myself up about it or avoiding my feelings about it.
Things take time, and we have to be patient with ourselves. We have to give ourselves space, and we have to give ourselves grace. We have to feel what we feel. You know what? We’re terrible at doing? Feeling our feelings. We’re terrible at it.
What do we do instead of feel our feelings? We go eat something. We distract ourselves with social media. We buy something. We go somewhere.
We will do anything not to feel our feelings.
I just want to clue you in because I’ve really been practicing feeling my feelings for the past couple of years and it’s not as scary as you think. What I try to do when I’m really trying to accept how I feel is I try to name it. What exactly is the feeling that I’m feeling exactly? Am I sad? Does it feel hopeless? Am I angry? Am I overwhelmed? I try to name the feeling. Before we rush to fixing it, can we name it?
Then I ask myself, where in my body do I feel it?
Is it in my chest? Do I feel it in my throat. I often feel my feelings in my throat and chest. Some people feel is in their stomach or their head. Where do you feel yours, usually? Can you name what it is you’re feeling?
Here’s the other thing that’s crazy about feelings— they come and they go. They are vibrations in our bodies that are transient. If you can sit with the feeling and actually open yourself up to it, it will lose its power. And when we resist our feelings, we often feel anxious. A lot of anxiety is just resisting feelings. We don’t want to feel sadness or grief, so we resist it and then we feel anxious. Opening up and being able to just breathe into it is so helpful. Feelings are not scary. Remind yourself that you can feel anything.
I love to think of the virgin Mary when she was told that she was pregnant. I’m sure all those crazy feelings were going through her mind “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m afraid.” All the things that she must have been feeling.
But she let it be hard. She opened her hands and heart and said “Let it be to me as you have said.”
That was her prayer. Let it be to me as you have said. What if to the transitions in our lives, to the things that were hard, we opened up and said, “Let it be.” Just let it be.
I’m all in. I’m in for all of it. I’m in for the hard, I’m in for the sad. I’m in for the overwhelmed. I’m here for it. I’m here for the whole human experience. We feel like there’s something wrong with us when we have negative emotions, but negative emotions are part of what it means to be human and they won’t hurt us when we open ourselves up to them.
You can grieve what you grieve, and you can feel sad about the loss that you have, even if nobody else understands it. Have your own back. I promise open up to it, the emotion and the feelings will come and go and you’ll get through it so much better than if you keep resisting it. Say yes to all of life, even the hard parts.
Your thoughts are causing your feelings, not the circumstance
Your feelings are NOT coming from the circumstances. Your feelings are coming from your thoughts about the circumstances. This is a very, very powerful mind shift. You are not grieving because your daughter went to college. You’re grieving because of your thoughts about what it means that she’s now going to college. You’re not grieving about the actual circumstances in your life. Your grieving is caused from the thoughts that you’re having about the change. And sometimes, we want to grieve. Loss and grief are normal, but we must acknowledge that we are often making the situation much worse by how we are choosing to think about it.
This is super good news because a lot of times, you can’t change the circumstances. But guess wha you can change? You can change the thoughts that you have about the circumstance. When I think about this, I feel so much more empowered because so many things in my life have happened just like in yours—beyond my control. There is nothing I can do about it. This is the circumstance. I can fight against it and resist it or I can accept and welcome it and learn to manage my mind instead.
We think that we have to learn to manage our circumstances because we are always wanting to change the EXTERNAL thing instead of changing the INTERNAL thing. Your super power comes when you realize that it’s your thoughts that are causing your feelings. This is important. Nobody can hurt your feelings. They can say something negative to you, but you have to give that thing permission to take root in your life.
You hurt your own feelings by the thoughts you think about what somebody else does or what somebody else says. This is where you get your power back.
The circumstances themselves are not what is causing me pain. My thoughts about the circumstance are causing me pain. Those thoughts are optional. I can have thoughts about adoption, like this is a difficult situation. He’s difficult sometimes. This is hard. I can have thoughts like that and they might be true. But when I think that, I feel overwhelmed. What if instead, I chose to think, “This situation happened exactly how it was supposed to and we are the perfect parents for Thomas.” JUST AS TRUE and that thought empowers me to show up for him the way I want to show up.
Reframe the situation in a way that serves you
When Emme left for college, I had a choice of how I want to think about that. I can choose to think, “Things will never be the same. Our time together is over. This is terrible,” which though they may have some truth, probably won’t serve me or her.
Those thoughts do not cause me to show up as the kind of person and parent I want to be. How I want to show up for her is I want to be her biggest cheerleader and her best encourager. I want her to feel like she can do anything with her life. I don’t want her to be weighed down because her poor mom is home doing whatever the poor moms do when the kids leave.
It’s fine for me to feel my feelings, but let’s don’t push let our thoughts get so out of control that we blame others for how we feel. And when we decide to think better thoughts, that serve us, we have the freedom to do that.
This is called emotional adulthood where we take responsibility for how we feel. Nobody can hurt your feelings. Nobody caused you to feel this way. You’re choosing to feel this way because of the way you’re thinking. If you want to change that thinking, you have the power to do it.
What do I want to think and feel about my daughter who’s at college? Here’s what I want to think. I want to think that she’s ready, that she’s amazing. She’s going to be such a gift to the people that she’s with now. They’re so blessed to have her. The people she will meet are blessed to know her. I got to have her for all this time. What a blessing it is that other people get to experience how beautiful and wonderful and kind she is.
I show up so much better for her when this is my thinking.
My question is for these hard things that you’re going through, for these hard transitions—is what you’re thinking about the situation serving you? Is it helping you show up the way you want to show up?
When you’re going through hard things, when you’re going through transitions, you get to decide how you want to show up, and it starts with how you think about it and is the thought you’re having serving you and helping you show up the way you want to show up in your life.
Change is inevitable and there are ways to make the best of every hard transition, if you decide that’s what you’re going to do.
You got this, mama.
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Steph C says
This is a good word, Edie!
Donna Muller says
I would give my left arm to be in this type of happy transition. I’m in breast cancer remission but my husband has Stage 4 prostate cancer. We’ve been together since 1975. We lost one son to a heart attack 5 years ago just before he was to graduate with a dual master’s from Georgetown. He had an unknown blocked artery at age 26. Our other son is a paranoid schizophrenic, currently MISSING for more than a week from his supervised living arrangement.
I long for the sweet days of dropping the boys off at University, when the future was still bright. Cherish this time.
Angela Scott says
You are in our prayers Donna.~Team Lifeingrace
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