Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Who Needs an Old Fashioned Transition Toolkit? This Modern Girl

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and admit that the old school way is still the best way.

Just as people today in their 20s and 30s are getting inspiration from Zig Zigler, and improving their attitudes with Dale Carnegie, I had a big YES!  moment from reading about Virginia Satir's transitional phases, a model she put together in the 1980s.

It seems when faced with a big life transition - like moving, divorce, new job, emptying or populating nests - we experience and process the change the same way we always have.

Why is this important to know? Because when you're going through your next transition - God love ya - you'll recognize what stage you're in and find some reassurance that you're not on Step 2 out of 4,568.

According to Satir's model, there are only six phases and while some of them might take some time, especially if you stumble and bumble and fight the transition tooth and nail, you will survive them and make it to the finish line. That's the hope anyway.

Think back on a transformational moment in your life. You probably went through these six steps - some more painstaking, drawn out, and laborious than others perhaps - but I bet you'll recognize all six. Because I've moved so often, whenever I have to look back at an example of a life transition, I go to one of my many relocations. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Stage 1: Late Status Quo

This is the uneventful present, where things are going along just as you expected. But this is called late status quo for a reason. Although you don't know it yet, your precious status quo is about to blow to bits.

For me, this stage is where I start considering starting a big community volunteer project or applying for full-time jobs, thinking I'm now rooted into my new community. My husband wouldn't move us now, for goodness sake. I can finally sit back and enjoy the completely painted and decorated house, the fence that we just had installed, and the fruit trees we just spent a fortune to have planted. Life is good. I love the status quo. Status quo and I are going to get a room.

Stage 2: Foreign Element

Here, an unexpected event occurs. You get a call from your lawyer. Or your doctor. Or your boss's boss. Whatever it is, the foreign element tells you instantly and urgently that everything has changed.

Red lights and sirens are going off in my head and I'm short of breath. And I have a headache from banging my head repeatedly on the washer. I conspire with the kids to have us all run away from home and live with one of their friends locally. I'm not eating a lot in this phase, but I am drinking. A lot.

Stage 3: Chaos

Your life has been turned upside down. All that you thought you knew has to be reconsidered. Your future plans are probably in jeopardy at some level or another. And while this stage is very unpleasant, it gets your mind working, reanalyzing everything, and processing what's going to happen next.

What's going to happen next is that I'm going on a rampage. That's what's going to happen next. I'm spending half the day on the phone with relocation coordinators, real estate agents, appraisers and my kids' guidance counselors and the other half of the day trying to decide why the eff one of Ohio's airports is in Kentucky. In closing out our current town, I'm cramming all the fun we forgot to experience into our last few weeks, but at the same time trying to hate it so we can leave room in our hearts for our new place, which has all different cool stuff. Stuff we know nothing about.

Stage 4: Transforming Idea

You have an a-ha! moment. All that chaotic thinking results in something clicking into place. You find a way forward and you start to think about how to make that happen.

For me, this stage means suddenly remembering all the things I can get out of, now that I'm moving. Sure, I'm sad that I can't run for school board, but I also can't be treasurer of the PTA anymore or any clean-up committee at all. Nor will I have to figure out a solution to that kid next door and his obnoxious basketball dribbling 20 hours a day. I start to check problems off my list.

Stage 5: Integration and Practice

This is where you try out that transformative concept, weighing the pros and cons, and test-driving ideas until you find the one that fits. This stage can be discouraging, especially if you are new to life transitions and are feeling your way. But you'll keep up the trial-and error until you get to the final stage.

Stage 5 is the rollercoaster that is moving. One day you're ecstatic about having a swimming pool in your life and the next day you're crying in your p grig over going from a house with 12 walk-in closets and a finished basement to a house with one storage closet that also holds your washer and dryer. "I can do this! This is going to be great!" you tell yourself. "I'll be the swimming pool lady. I won't be the lady that has 36 of everything anymore. It'll be great, right?"

Stage 6: New Status Quo

Aaaah! As you get used to your new approach or outlook, you settle into a comfortable peace.

Stage 6 is my favorite. Sometimes Stage 6 doesn't come for a couple of years. But eventually, I start to love my new house. I've gotten the whole dang thing painted, organized just the way I like it. The fence is up, the dog has determined that she can, in fact, walk up stairs that are not carpeted, and the home décor is finished. I'm looking for a long-term volunteer project and am thinking of applying for full-time jobs.

Oh, status quo,  my love, don't you dare. Don't. You. Dare.


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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