Transitions are sneaky little things, sometimes they approach slowly like a light on a dimmer switch getting gradually brighter to reveal hidden truths that must be addressed. Other times they catch us off guard like hitting a brick wall going 70 miles per hour. Whether gradual or abrupt, finding yourself in a life transition is a challenging thing to navigate alone. In a transition we loose our footing. If we are wise, we reach out to someone who will offer a helpful perspective or stabilizing life-line that is not available to us on our own during this time of uncertainty. Transitions require forward movement, step by step movement through choppy, muddy ambiguity until our footing is once again stabilized on the other side and we are gradually able to find our way forward once again.
My latest transition was a combination of the dimmer switch getting brighter and hitting a brick wall going 70 miles an hour within weeks of each other. It all started when I noticed laundry sitting on my dryer that I couldn't bring myself to fold for over two weeks. Ok you may say, who cares? It's just clean laundry sitting on your dryer for goodness sake, no harm, no foul! Now don't get me wrong, I'm not completely a Martha Stewart, but this was very unusual behavior for me. With this awareness that something was wrong, my training in Counseling nudged me to seek professional help. I needed to figure out what was going on with me. I knew I wasn't depressed, however, something had shifted in my ability to do menial chores around my house and I couldn't seem to muster the same verve for life I usually possessed.
After one counseling session with a well respected colleague, I realized I was displaying classic symptoms of burnout. I had been at the same firm for 14 years steadily climbing the corporate ladder. For the last few years I had reached the status of Partner. I loved the work and the people, yet on a recent company trip it hit me that I was the only single Partner, and the only woman. I was managing my household, raising and launching young adults as they transitioned, and managing my business all alone. My daughter or my sister were my guests on business trips. Don't get me wrong, they are fun, but I decided I wanted to share my life with a life partner. It was time to invest in the next chapter of my life. I knew what was missing, but how would I find him?
In my counseling sessions, I started to set goals and envision what would come next in my life. As I worked through my process, little did I know I was heading right into a brick wall at 70 miles an hour. A recent change in our corporate metrics had left my team short on one of 4 metrics. Even though 3 of our 4 metrics were on top of the company ratings, I was looking at a metric that I was not going to hit. The rat race of corporate America was something I no longer wanted to build my life around. Coming up against this reality forced me to make a decision sooner than later about transitioning into the next chapter of my life, even though I wasn't quite sure what that would be. I knew it was time for a change and this was my opportunity. I negotiated my way out of the firm with a 6 month severance package and an open invitation to return. I decided I would finally take time to fill in the missing pieces of my life I had been yearning for.
Like I approach everything in life, I started goal setting. I knew the missing piece of my life was a life partner. I am also a person of faith and I believed there would be a greater force at work eventually bringing the right person my way. That being said, I also knew I had to do my part and put my faith into action. And so, I took the first step.
With fear and trembling I started on-line dating. Marketing myself like a commodity and placing myself in a "display window" of sorts, made me feel very vulnerable. I was scared. but I knew I had to overcome my fear and see what was out there in dating land. I also knew I would learn new things about myself at this stage of my life. What was I looking for in a life partner? How would I be perceived? I decided I would not settle for someone who didn't meet my criteria just to have a partner, but I had to begin this process because this is how it's done these days. Ready, set... go!!!
I asked trusted men in my life, my brother- in-law, nephews, and male friends to review my profile and coach me on which of my qualities to emphasize. I had to learn how to quiet the business woman gladiator I had become, not dumb myself down, but not scare men off either, which I seemed to be doing at first. By the end of my 4 month experiment, I had been on 4 different dating sites. I had experienced scammers, I had gone on dates with 38 men, and was dating 4 different men a week by the end of the experience. If you are wondering about anything turning physical, I have to admit, I am really a prude and very few dates even ended in a kiss. It was usually coffee or a glass of wine, and thanks it was nice to meet you. Throughout the process I had compiled a list of over 100 qualities I was looking for in a man. So far, no one had come close. No one was holding my interest.
Finally one man seemed fun. We had a connection and had a few dates. He asked me to date him exclusively. When I agreed we had a couple more dates. Soon after, I was out of town on vacation and returned to find out he had, "very unintentionally" found another woman, Yeah right! Whatever dude! I didn't despair, he really wasn't worth despairing over. Well, I called him several expletives (not to his face) but I moved on very quickly. He told me his news via text on a Monday and by that Friday I had 3 other dates secured for the week.
This time of dating was about finding someone to share my life with. I had 4 more days on the dating sites before my last subscription expired. I had decided to re-contract with my former Financial Services Firm and go into a personal practice with one of my former partners. I wouldn't have time to date after I re-contracted so I had decided to accept dates from a few men I normally wouldn't consider. Every date taught me something new either about what I did or didn't want and even more about myself.
He winked at me, Anyone who has ever dated on-line knows that "the wink" is the first step to show someone you are interested. As you are on the dating sites longer you learn that a "wink" doesn't always get the attention of a suitor. If there is someone you are really interested in you just email them. By his cute little "wink" I could tell he was new at this on-line dating game. Glancing through his profile it didn't seem we had anything in common. He claimed to be a widower. He lived in Port Orchard, which I had heard of but didn't have a real idea of how far it was from the Eastside of Seattle, where I currently lived. He rode Harley's, I didn't care about that. He also was a University of Washington football fan. Finally, possibly one thing we had in common. With a snide and flippant attitude, I responded to his wink by saying, "Well, it looks like we might have football in common". After our first date I knew there was something different and special about him, but he was so different from what I though I was looking for. I checked him against the list I had been compiling and I could check off every quality but one. I wasn't sure after one date if he would get along with my friends. I agreed to a second date.
Fast forward 16 months. We surprised our Super Bowl guests on Feb 1, 2015 by pausing the TV's at half-time and starting the music. Our guests were handed invitations, which, upon opening, informed them that they were guests at our Super Bowl half-time flash-mob wedding. Our boys gathered at the fire place. Our Minister friend (donning a referee shirt) blew the whistle, and our girls started down the stairs into the living room where our guests had been gathered. In front of our fireplace- everyone but me wearing their Seahawk jerseys- we said our vows, and became husband and wife. Ten minutes later the TVs went on again. Needless to say the celebrating has not stopped. We are enjoying every moment of creating the next chapter of our lives together. I am treasuring each day of my new happy ending.
My latest time of transition started with the realization that I needed a huge life change. I couldn't fold the laundry. I sought help, I was scared, I was also courageous, I was opened to coaching, and I went relentlessly after the life I knew I was missing. In hind-sight, it all seems like the perfect story. Happy endings always look great at the end, but each happy ending starts with that first courageous step. I took time to figure out what I really wanted for the next chapter of my life and when I found it, it came wrapped in a package I almost dismissed. Had I not done the work of compiled the list of things I was looking for as I went through my process I would have never agreed to a second date, and that would have been a huge mistake. I share this story because over my life time I have found it more valuable to take coaching from people who have been through what I am going through. If we are honest about the rocky times in our life, I believe we become a more valuable resource for others as they navigate the rocky uncertainties of theirs.
Transitions have a form and a pattern, they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It takes intention, introspection, courage and effort to navigate well through the twists and turns of a transition. Transitions can be wonderful and terrifying all at the same time. This is your one and only life. Embrace it passionately and walk boldly into your next new chapter. As your coach I will help you see where you are in your transition and help you move forward with clarity and intention. As your coach I will short cut your path to the stable footing of your next chapter. I welcome the opportunity to be your coach through your next wonderful life transition. Let's get busy creating your next happy ending.
On we go...