Why Accepting This Truth Makes Them Easier
“Everything is hard before it is easy.” — Goethe
All that’s New is Hard
It’s true of walking and talking, eating, and riding a bike. It’s true of printing a sentence, setting a table, and driving a car. They all demand focus and concentration. They’re hard. At first.
Activities that start out difficult become automatic. Routine.
Until we change things up.
Transitions Bring a Whole Lot of New
tran·si·tion — the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
When we move to a new place (big transition), routines are thrown off or non-existent. Each little thing is a little harder than it used to be.
Shopping at an unfamiliar grocery store. Meeting new people. Maybe even conversing in an unfamiliar language. Finding parking at the doctor’s office. Finding the doctor’s office. Finding a doctor! And a soccer team. And a music teacher.
Nothing is on autopilot. All these little things all up. Each new thing drains our energy a little more than a familiar routine.
When the transition is stepping into a new role, we take on new responsibilities. We negotiate new relationships.
Interacting with a new acquaintance take far more conscious effort than chatting with an old friend. Or even with an annoying longtime colleague.
“If you would only recognize that [transitions are] hard, things would be so much easier for you.” — my paraphrase of Louis D. Brandeis.
Really. Stop comparing to the mom who has lived in the same house for 15 years, works a predictable schedule, runs marathons, and goes to weekly painting classes.
Maybe you should go to painting class someday. Maybe you shouldn’t. We’ll get to that later.
I’ve wasted so much time comparing. Even though I was in a season of transition, I compared to those who weren’t. And I always came up wanting.
Instead of relaxing in a welcoming kitchen, my mind’s been on my own half-unpacked kitchen. I’ve compared my friend’s amazing meal plan to my own grilled cheese and dirty dishes.
And don’t get me started on gardens. Mine is unimpressive. Let’s leave it at that.
I’ve judged myself for not having a hobby. “I should have a hobby. A hobby would be good for me.” Turns out, relocation has been our hobby. And it’s a time consuming one. Moving every couple of years means we’ve been either thinking about a possible move, preparing for a move, or settling in for… Over. Ten. Years.
Whether it’s a physical relocation or another transition that you’re walking through, you’re dealing with a lot of new. That demands much from you.
Adapting to change is tiring. Don’t waste energy beating yourself up about the decorating you can’t do or the painting class you can’t take.
Those are not your priority right now.
Get Clear on Your Priority
“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing….” — Greg McKeown
McKeown goes on to explain that the term priority “ …stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality. Somehow we would now be able to have multiple “first” things.” (italics, mine)
What is your priority during this time of transition? Not your half dozen priorities.
It could be to care for your physical and mental health during a difficult transition. It might be to make friends. Or excel in a new job.
Maybe it is to help your kids adjust and make friends. Then you’ll spend time shuttling them, being in places where you can meet other parents and initiate play dates at the local playground. Or you’ll get them into the soccer league, a church youth group, an acting class where they can make friends.
Perhaps it is to learn a language.
When we moved to Argentina, exploring the country was a top goal. So we waited six months before our first big trip. Wait. What?
Our first priority was language learning. For the first six months, my entire day was eaten up with shuttling kids to school, chatting with other parents, buying groceries, tutors. I sat through school meetings and church services where I understood little. I felt like I had nothing to show for my day. But we did make friends and we were learning.
By the time we drove south-west into Patagonia, we could follow directions and read tourist info (albeit slowly). We could function in Spanish. And that felt like a big accomplishment.
Top of Mind
Of course, you still have many things you need to do in a day. You can’t stop eating so you can study a language. But you can approach grocery shopping as a place to practice language. (I had sketches of produce next to the Spanish name for each item on my grocery list for a while.)
Your priority isn’t the only thing you do. It is the thing you keep top of mind while doing other things.
Ask yourself, “What would it look like for you to come through this period of transition well? What would need to happen? What relationship(s) most need your attention?”
Then, let the other things go.
Toddling through transition
You may sometimes feel like you’re learning to walk again. Taking a few steps and falling down in your new role or a new language. These new things are hard. Remember that they will get easier.
Accept that the change you are walking through demands much of your emotional and mental resources.
It is okay — right, even — that your house and your schedule don’t look like your neighbor’s. Especially a neighbor who is not currently walking through a big transition. Don’t waste time comparing.
Transition is hard. It demands much of you. To transition well means there are other things you can’t do. That does not make you weak. It makes you wise. Set your priority. Keep it top of mind. Let the rest go.