This week I hit another milestone; after weeks of work my house was ready for market.
The sign was placed in the yard on Wednesday evening and the reality of leaving this home hit hard with a mix of emotions; proud and gratified with how much I had accomplished; sad that the neutralized-house-that-doesn’t-look-like-mine is becoming a memory of one more thing I’ll be losing with this divorce.
After the past year, you’d think I’d be used to having a mix of emotions, changing like a mood ring going from sunshine to overcast skies. It helps me to go back in my personal history to see if I’ve ever experienced the same things. Before, I’d return to my journal entries but now I look back at my blog posts.
The last time I felt such uncertainty, was three-years- ago when I was transitioning from full-time work as a school nurse to retirement. I re-read those posts about that change as I entered a new chapter of my life. Even the title, “Afraid of the Next Chapter” tells me there are similarities.
In describing that time, I wrote:
It was awkward, like I wasn’t sure where I was stepping and while people told me about their experiences of retirement, I knew it was different for each person. I had to go it alone. While most of me was tired and ready for my new life, part of me was scared, afraid of the next chapter.
I’ve had those same feelings during the past year of marital separation. The folks who’ve been most helpful are those who’ve experienced the turmoil of divorce. But even with the similarities, divorce is different for each person, and in that way there’s the experience of “having to go it alone.”
In that post about retirement, I recalled what I learned about helping clients with transitions in my Life Coaching program. From my textbook, I looked at one model we’d studied that used a Map for Change by Bill Bridges. According to Linda Bark, the author of our text and creator of our program, Bridges model for change breaks the process into three phases: Endings, The Gap, and New Beginnings.
I’ve experienced a lot of endings over the past year, mostly focused on my marriage and all that you become accustomed to as a wife of over forty years. These represent small and large losses. They are the stuff of therapy sessions and two-hour talks with close friends. Since March we’ve all added the loss of life as we knew it with the COVID-19 shelter-in-place and the changes we’ll face in the future. On April 30th, I added the loss of my mother. All of these are different kinds of grief that require time and energy to work through.
But now as I go forward with selling our house and moving to a new home, I’m approaching the uncertainty of a new community and getting closer to my new life after divorce. While I’ve had definite struggles with clear losses, now I’m approaching the less clear path of transition that is The Gap.
When I finished my work as a school nurse and was facing the uncertainty of my next chapter, I had little experiences with ‘gap’ periods in my life; I seemed to have gone from one structure to the next, one position to another over the years of my career.
The middle of the change process described by Bridges, seemed to be the most difficult for me to approach. This is what I wrote in the post when I applied that model to retirement:
The Gap phase can be muddy, trying to make your way in foreign waters without that old familiar course you followed on autopilot. It’s a time when you “sit with things” instead of rushing on to fix the uncertainty about the new chapter you’re entering.
How many times have I tried to ‘fix the uncertainty’? I think about this now in terms of my Christian faith and once again, a familiar scripture comes to mind:
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you Hope and a Future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I think about how we’re exhorted to live into the mystery of God, knowing that we follow by faith and not by sight. We’re encouraged to look at the examples of God’s faithfulness in those who’ve gone before us.
Perhaps to “sit with things” in The Gap instead of rushing to fix the uncertainty is to sit with the promise of God that our plan will unfold in God’s timing. The middle is about waiting until that plan takes shape–forming from out of the muddy foreign waters.
How About You?
What area of your life may be described as being in The Gap?
How can you allow yourself to relax in the uncertainty and wait on God’s timing for your course to unfold?