How to Navigate Transitions in Times of Uncertainty

Monica Jordan reflects on her experience moving from Argentina to the United States and how her perception of life transitions has changed.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and fully awake is to be constantly thrown out of the nest. Living fully means always being in no man’s land, experiencing every moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” —Pema Chodron, When things fall apart

When I decided to move to the United States from Argentina, I was scared. I wanted to put the chaos of my past behind me, but part of me preferred to hold on to what I knew, painful as it was. I didn’t realize that holding on was itself paving the way to my own demise. Faced with moving, the uncertainty of the unknown brought me to a place of nagging self-doubt. I felt bottomless walking through rough terrain. I had to learn to hold my conflicting views before my hesitation deprived me of the opportunity that lay before me. I couldn’t let the fear freeze me in indecision.

I left Argentina with trepidation. Arriving in the United States, a new set of hurdles awaited them: the dynamic but challenging process of adapting to a new culture, the fear of participating in a different environment, a new language, and no friends or family to lean on could. I’ve learned how painful transitions can be and push us into a state of unpredictability.

Change without the inner reflection of how we fit into the new picture will not work.

Every ending — like leaving home and moving to a new place — brings with it a sense of sadness. To overcome this grief, we must acknowledge it, honor it, and even embrace it. The heartbreak we feel when we leave loved ones behind and say goodbye to a home full of cherished memories doesn’t go away easily. Instead of running away from the painful emotions that arise, we can instead choose to stop, look inward, and feel what’s going on inside us. Only when we feel it can we heal it.

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William Bridges, author of Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes, tells us that there is a difference between change and transition. Change can be hugely disruptive, but it is situational. Transition, the inner psychological process of adjusting to a new situation, is an inner emotional, mental and spiritual adjustment. It is the process of successfully moving from the old to the new. We might feel confused or feel the fear of uncertainty and the sadness of our losses. Perhaps it is not the events themselves that send us into a spiral of anxiety, but rather the inner conflict that arises from the reorientation and redefinition we undertake to accommodate new changes in our lives.

Change, on the other hand, takes place outside of us. It’s an expected process that involves getting used to the new norms – a new job structure, new roles, new routines, a new environment and new relationships.

Change without the inner reflection of how we fit into the new picture will not work. In times of transition, old wounds can reopen in the fragility of our vulnerability. For this reason, it is crucial to go through transitions consciously. There are many transitions that we never talk about—micro-moments and subtle transitions that are rarely talked about but still affect us. There are the “Sunday scares”, morning phobia, birthdays, anniversaries, the change of seasons, aging. In such moments, we encounter our weak points and often run from or ignore the pain that accompanies that encounter.

Even with the best preparation, we cannot control everything. Job security is subject to operational changes and new regulations. Relationships change as people grow and change how they see the world and what they expect of it. Anything can happen at any time. There are never any guarantees, even if we think we have it all figured out. When we don’t know what the future holds, we deal with life as it always is: ours to live and create moment by moment, day by day.

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We all evolve, and so does the life we ​​lead. We are constantly reinventing ourselves. Fear of uncertainty can make us inflexible people. Life is never a smooth process, but we can still feel safe and grounded in an unstable world. If we don’t accept the fact that life changes and that this is the nature of all living beings, then we will suffer.

Instead of avoiding our fears, we can embrace them, get to know them, and befriend them. In many ways, as our beloved Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, “…be like water. Its strength lies in its adaptability. Water flows, it conforms to topography as opposed to rock.” The paradox is that we can shape our circumstances and even our perceptions by conforming to them, just as water changes its path by adapting to terrain adjusts.

The invitation is to witness our own rebirth into a new life in which our bodies and souls will inevitably reorganize to leave behind old, broken dreams and create new possibilities.

After all, I loved this country as my own, so I became an American citizen. I have met extraordinary people who have supported me beyond expectations in every aspect of my life. And after seven years, as I felt grounded in this new place, the universe surprised me with another challenge it had in store for me. My friend had to move to Paris, France for his job. Two months after he left, he proposed to me. And what have I done? I cried I loved him and felt exhilarated at the thought of being his wife, but I had just moved into an apartment I loved, had a good steady job, and was finally able to understand American English. If I said yes, I had to move againwith everything that goes with it: a new culture, a new language, new friends and no family.

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At first I felt overwhelmed, not anchored in a moving ocean of doubt, but I had already developed confidence in my ability to adapt to new environments, so I jumped at the chance. The reward was remarkable. Five years later, we returned to the States with our beloved daughter and a deeper understanding of what it means to take risks.

Now that I’m culturally defining myself, I’m richer because of the insecurity I’ve jumped into. I found hospitality in this beautiful country and instead of resisting the change I surrendered to the ephemeral nature of life and my world became so much bigger.

It all boils down to a gift you can give yourself: learning to be at home with yourself wherever you are, and not succumbing to the workings of your mind, which tries to lock you in the known to to protect you from the unknown. We can honor uncertainty by welcoming it and accepting it as an opportunity for new beginnings, as John O’Donohue reminds us in this excerpt from his poem A Morning Offering.

May my spirit come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers
To break the dead shell of yesterday
Risking being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today?
To live the life I would love
To put off my dream no longer
But finally do what I came here to do
And don’t waste my heart on fear anymore.

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