Another Fourth of July holiday, another half-year gone and with the time-fog of the past year it’s like what a woman said when she rang up my purchases yesterday: “The year of the pandemic seemed like ten years and this year has felt like one week.” I understood that sense of distorted time and have found myself frequently referring to a calendar and reminding myself of the day and date. What’s easy to remember is what I was doing last year on Independence Day: moving.
We were cleaning out our house, that final act as a couple, dividing up forty-years of belongings and making our old home ready for the new owner. How exhausted I was then–and how I felt the weight of the upcoming meetings for our divorce settlement. There was no relief from the work and worry– no place to hide.
But now, a year later, a year settled into my new home-my apartment and almost eight months into our divorce, I feel like I’ve partially arrived on the bank of the other side of the river that was The Gap. I wrote several posts (will reference at the end) about using Bill Bridges Map for Change that I learned through my Life Coaching course. To review, Bridges said that the process of change involves three steps: Endings, The Gap, New Beginnings. The model can apply to any type of Ending– job loss, break up of a relationship, relocation etc. The ending can be by choice– like leaving a job because it’s not satisfying, or a forced ending– like being fired. The Gap is that uncertain middle phase when the old is gone but the new hasn’t arrived. And New Beginnings continue to have uncertainty– but at least you’re onto the new world that you’ll inhabit. The purpose of the change map is like a road map; you can anticipate the course of the journey and find the direction you need to get to your destination.
As I look back over the year since the last 4th of July, I realize I crawled up the bank of the other side of the river of transition and I’m firmly planted in that New World. I’ve been navigating this new territory as a single woman– which is quite a change after forty years of marriage. This time is not like when I was last single as a twenty-two year old; a different world, a different me. It’s still a time of uncertainty and feels a lot like the steps I took during that time of being in The Gap. But it also feels like I’m aiming toward ‘life and joy’ as I had hoped in the ending of last year’s July 4th post:
“It’s time to finish this post so I can load the car. My hope is that you’re celebrating this Independence Day in the way that you desire. And may the time between now and the next Independence Day have us both navigating to New Beginnings that bring us life and joy.“
Last year I was anticipating the decisions I’d be making on my own–with no husband to confer with, no one’s approval needed–just stepping out and deciding all by myself. It wasn’t that I hadn’t made decisions on my own in the past; it was that now I would truly be on a ‘solo journey.’ Like those trips I’ve been taking alone since I turned fifty, it’s totally on me how that journey turns out; if it’s great– take the credit, if it’s terrible– take the blame.
I don’t know what kind of Gap you’ve gone through in the past year or what New Beginning you may be experiencing. I think there have been many changes created by the pandemic. It doesn’t have to be something as big as a divorce to put you on that road to a different life. In last year’s post, thinking about personal freedom, this is what I wrote about allowing ourselves to move into that:
On this ‘Independence Day’ there may be areas of our lives where we need the freedom of making our own decisions, feeling positive about the direction that is right for us.
I do think the only way to the other side is through; to avoid, to deny, to stay angry and stuck does not get anyone to the New Beginning that can be filled with opportunity. Going through is at times awkward, overwhelming, scary, exciting, and nerve racking. Part of my getting to the other side has been to take the control I had with dating during the pandemic– which has been online dating. As many of you know from reading my posts about online dating, it has been a rocky path. But as hard as it’s been, I have gained knowledge and skill from that experience. I feel l’ve gotten to know myself better– who I am and what I’m looking for at this point in life. I feel positive about my ability to navigate that crazy world. My writing has been expanded by sharing as honestly as I can about those experiences–both to help others and to use the experiences in a creative outlet. Last week, my post, “Bring Me Your Warts: Online Dating” was the most controversial one I’ve written. I felt a little uncertain about publishing it– but overall, felt I had to in order to give a more complete picture. My friend, Cindy responded to that post on Facebook:
“Liked your post, brave and self-assured.”
Now, I consider Cindy’s comment and feel that she’s right; I am more self-assured. That confidence comes from moving forward and embracing the uncertain, taking awkward steps until they became more sure, more smooth.
One area of my life that has expanded during my New Beginnings is dancing. Now that things are opening back up, I’ve returned to dances I used to go to and have added new ones. Both the familiar venues and friends, and the new venues and dancing partners are a new experience as a single woman–since I was married when I danced before the pandemic. I’m learning to navigate this new terrain.
I wonder what new terrain you’re navigating now. How is that journey going for you?
In looking back at posts from my time of going through The Gap, I remember my restlessness and my impatience– which are not unusual given my personality. Even in this New Beginning phase, there are times of waiting–just like in the first two phases, as is true for all of life. Now, I reread my “Worth the Wait: Continuing in The Gap” post and think that I still need to keep in mind the types of waiting:
This week when I was struggling with waiting, I read portions of the book Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life by Henri J. M. Nouwen. I like his summary of the section, “A Time to Wait.”
“Active waiting is being open to the promise yet to be fulfilled. Patient waiting is staying fully in the present moment. Expectant waiting is trusting that this long process will bear fruit.” (pg. 153)
Now, I return to what feels like the final big rock in the river, next to the bank. There I can sit with Nouwen’s definitions of waiting– broken down for me so that waiting feels like doing something and in that I can release my restlessness.
I’m still waiting for things to unfold on this side of that river. I still carry my personality and that need to be reminded to settle down, to wait and let things happen in their proper time. Nouwen’s words are just as helpful today as they were a year ago. At this time, I’m focused on “Expectant Waiting” and I’m trusting that this long process will bear fruit. I’m seeing some of the fruit but hoping for an even greater harvest.
On this day when our country celebrates our independence, when we honor those who’ve made our freedom possible, when I can casually talk about my personal freedom because of the sacrifices made by others– I feel grateful for my slow liberation since the last July 4th. I hope that you are also celebrating the new discoveries in your life since last Independence Day, and that those things are bringing you new life and greater joy.
Happy 4th of July, Friends!