Gently Swaying Through Transition

When I was completing my undergrad work in dietetics, I was already the mother of two.  So, when I was required to take a class called Family Science, I figured that I already had it nailed; I was living family science in all of its insanity.  In retrospect, it was one of the most important classes that I ever completed in regards to general “life knowledge”.  I had an incredible teacher that made each lesson entertaining and impactful.  There was a concept that she really focused in on and that was “transitions”.  In one lecture she held up a baby mobile that would hang over a crib. She snapped off one of the dangling stuffed animals and we all watched the mobile swing to and fro and then settle on a lop-sided tilt to the heavier side. She explained that this is what happens to a family when you lose someone.  Someone is snapped out of the family and for about 2 years, the family swings from ups and downs trying to adjust and then hangs lopsided forever.  Lop-sided isn’t an awful outcome, it is just a different balance….a new norm.   The same rings true for adding people to a family.  It reminded me of defining transition of becoming a mother and then becoming a mother of two.  I wish I could look back and say that I shifted gracefully but I kicked and screamed my way through it often wondering if I had forever lost myself to diapers, feeding and restless nights.  Though, as my wise professor warned, the mobile example rings true for any major transition that a family, individual or close group endures together.  What really stood out to me is that the research-based, scientifically supported timeline for adjusting to these transitions is an average of 2 YEARS!!!!!

This brings me to the reason that I have not been actively blogging.  I have been in transition and it smacked me in the face without warning.  That is a blatant lie…everyone warned me.  At least a dozen people warned that I would be jumping on a roller coaster aptly called “emotional crisis”.  If I was more of a strategic planner or if I even had a process for thinking through giant life changes before making them, this would have been really obvious to me.  However, that is not me.  I jump at the opportunity to experience new challenges and think about the struggles later.  I am grateful for this part of my personality because it has led to my greatest adventures.  However, I am usually woefully unprepared for the initial emotional toll that big decisions will take on my family and me.

So, we have lived in Montepulciano for 4.5 months. My mobile just stopped swinging violently and is gently settling into its lop-sided new norm.  More importantly, I think the kids have found a new norm.  Because, another aspect that I did not give enough consideration to is that, as a mom, it is my job to support them through huge transitions.  OBVIOUSLY!!!!!  But, alas, I did not fully understand the importance of that role either.  As I have been swinging from moments of total bliss while gazing at the Tuscan hillside from my kitchen window, eating decadent food or drinking perfect wine to feelings of deep sadness missing the comforts of home, my children were doing the same.  However, we were not synchronized in this process.  Many days, they have painfully interrupted my euphoria with complaints of missing home.  While there have also been days that they were feeling great and I interjected some destabilizing thought into their minds like “Hey, maybe we should just move here permanently” throwing them into fits of panic.

That being said, I have learned a lot. Lessons thus far:

  • I can depend on the delicate relationships with my children and husband when I need to feel at home in a foreign land.
  • I can give myself permission not to blog or do the laundry or speak Italian on the days that I just can’t.
  • Giant life-changes can force a person to reevaluate their priorities and that process is terrifying and revitalizing at the same time.
  • My kids can cook, do dishes, do laundry and make awesome homemade Christmas decorations.
  • My husband creates stability when the earth is shaking beneath me.
  • Taking our dogs on a walk through the vineyard is one of my favorite family activities and that I will never tire of walking in Tuscany.
  • Tuscan people are welcoming and gracious and new friends are precious but can never replace the ones we left behind.
  • New holiday traditions are possible and my husband is great at peeling potatoes.
  • Christmas officially begins on November 18th in Montepulciano and it is spectacular!!!
  • To respect the process of transition and take responsibility for the choice that I made to willingly put us through “transition”.

I am doing what I came here to do; learn, slow-down, grow and honor that process. I expect that the lessons will keep coming and that our mobile will continue to slow from violent swings to gentle sways.


One thought on “Gently Swaying Through Transition

  1. Hi Megan,

    Enjoyed reading your post about life transitions.

    Transitions are normal, natural, and inevitable to every person.

    It reminded me of William Bridges book, Transitions: Making Sense of Life Changes, published in 1980. He wrote about endings, neutral zones (i.e., in-betweens), and beginnings. They occur in all aspects of our lives.

    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in her seminal book, On Death and Dying, published in 1969. Heard her speak twice in the late 1970’s and she stated that individuals go through the same stages with other significant life changes, e.g., job change, divorce, financial or health issues, too. While the order, duration, and/or intensity of each stage will vary from person to person, we go through them with each transition.

    On a related point, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale in 1967. Also known as the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale, they identified 43 life events as predictors or contributors to illness. A person’s score in identifying and reviewing all of their life events during the previous two years resulted in “life change units” being assigned to each event. A score of less than 150 indicated the person would have only a slight risk of illness. However, an individual with 150-299 had a moderate risk for illness while a person with 300+ was at risk of illness.

    Research over the last 50 years validates and reinforces that understanding and managing our mental, emotional, and physical states during transitions are critical to our overall health and well-being, short- and long-term.

    Recognizing that changes and transitions are part of being human helps us to accept the process, which can be challenging and rewarding.

    Go with the flow during transitions and enjoy the journey.



    P.S. It’s been wonderful knowing you for over 32 years and seeing your transitions through numerous life changes, including your current adventure with Bobby, Parker, and Finnley in Italy!


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