How to Navigate Through Life’s Changes

Accepting that all change involves some type of loss and how you can learn to navigate successfully through it.

“Everything in life is a trade-off”

A man whose name I wish I could remember.

Years ago, I went to visit an elderly gentleman that I knew who had been diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis, well, it wasn’t good. He basically had gone to the hospital knowing he wouldn’t be coming back out. Yeah, I know. I could have at least started with a happy story.

I dreaded going to the hospital. I have a huge tender heart and I don’t ever want to see people having to struggle, or be sad, and certainly not having to deal with the fact that they are dying. I’m an empath, to the moon and back, and I have the fortunate/unfortunate ability to feel most other’s feelings.

When I walked into the room, what I saw both stunned and surprised me. There he was sitting in his bed smiling and joyful. We chatted a bit and before I left he said he wanted to give me some advice. When someone is at the end of their journey and they want to share some advice, you sure as hades better listen well.

I leaned in anxiously awaiting his words of wisdom when he said, “Contrary to popular belief, the ants don’t go to the picnic. The picnic comes to the ants.” Um, wow, that’s actually true, I thought. Not what I expected to hear, but true nonetheless. I’ve used that phrase so many times since the twenty years that I first heard it and now I don’t destroy the ants, I move my picnic. Everybody’s happy.

Then he said the second thing which I have used endlessly, not just when I’m on a picnic. He said, “Everything in life is a trade-off.” I chewed on it for a minute but it didn’t really sink in. I smiled and left a little perplexed. I didn’t get it. I mean I really didn’t understand it at all. As life crept on, I learned to fully embrace the thought and began to see it on almost a daily basis.

You may love that house that you raised your kids in but now that they are gone and you are moving into someplace smaller. You no longer get to live in the house of their youth with all the memories and pencil markings on the wall as you marked their growth, but now you have something more manageable that doesn’t have stairs so your knees don’t pop and comes with lawn care and a big-ass pool. See! Tradeoff.

You’re excited about your new place. You look forward to finally buying a white sofa with no kids around. So why do you feel crummy? Here is the reason.

All change brings some sort of loss. And with loss, there is grief. “

Even when you are moving on to something good, leaving something else behind leaves a mark on us.

Maybe you have a toxic work environment and you know you need to leave. Oh, but that paycheck. I read a story once about a wealthy New York City advertising executive who lost his job, home, and wife. Talk about a bad time. In a bit of desperation, he got a job at Starbucks and in turn found happiness. He wrote a book on it. That book and his new life was a tradeoff of all his other loss. I’m sure he grieved and mourned but on the other side of it was a happy life.

Whether it’s your choice for change or you go into change kicking and screaming, like I normally do, you will go through a feeling of loss and subsequent grief.

Here are the ways I’ve learned, the hard way per usual, to handle change.

Know that feeling loss and grief are perfectly normal.

Yeah, I just called you normal. Don’t worry, I still think you are special. Please just understand what you’re feeling means that you are a human and that to move through those feelings you must allow yourself to feel them. No, don’t go buy a 12-pack of donuts. (Yes, I said 12-pack on purpose) Unless you buy them and still allow yourself to process your feelings. The important part is to recognize how you are feeling and not get stuck. You will begin to recover and move forward the more you process what you are going through at the moment.

Your thoughts are everything.

This is the part where I turn into the biggest pain-in-the-ass ever, because I will “whoa is me” until the cows come home. The problem with only focusing on the negative and the bad stuff is that it has a tendency to multiply. Then everything is just bad. Don’t do that.

Mourn the loss but focus on the gain. You are gaining something in this tradeoff. What is it? Focus on that. I mean, you can still buy the donuts if you want but eat them happily instead of sprinkles mixed with tears. It’s a new day! Go you!

Be patient with yourself.

Grieving takes time. How much time? That’s up to you. It takes as long as it takes you. If you are moving through your feelings and focusing on the positive outcomes, the healing will come. This is a time for a big heaping dose of self-love. Being patient with yourself and the process is a great way to love yourself. If you have a day when all you can muster is brushing your teeth, but that didn’t happen until 4 pm, then so be it. Stop being so hard on yourself.

The next day you may feel like running 5 miles. Or you may choose to paint that new office where you are going to finish that book you’ve been working so hard on. If it makes you feel good and it’s good for you, do it.

Good things are coming into your life even if the new life looks different from what you imagined. Just wait, you’ll see. And in the meantime, could you pass me a donut?

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