May is a month of transition. Trees are changing from brown and twiggy to green and leafy. Snow shovels are stored away (Colorado, are you listening?) and BBQ grills are dusted off. Students are graduating from high school and college, and we mark their milestones with parties and presents and say, Job well done, Good luck, and, Farewell.
A popular gift for graduates is the book, Oh The Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss. Here are the opening lines:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
It’s clever and inspirational and so Seussical. Several pages in, Dr. Seuss gets real:
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
I know this place, The Waiting Place.
The waiting place is the land of transition. It’s between where you have been and where are going, and it’s fraught with frustration and fear, uncertainty and discomfort.
A few years ago, my husband and I and our youngest daughter decided to leave our suburban life and serve full time with an organization called Youth With a Mission. We sold our house, most of our belongings, quit our jobs, and moved to Hawaii. It was our day! We were off and away!
We thought it was the start of a new life for us, but after we were gone about six months, family issues brought us back to Colorado.
When we first got back every day was a fire that needed to be put out, decisions that needed to be made, there were ups and downs and changes all around. There was no rhythm to life, no cadence to depend on, and when you’re in a season like that your just swimming, trying to keep your head above water, trying not to drown. But eventually things settled down into more predictable rhythms, familiar rhythms, rhythms we felt called to leave. (God, are you listening?) We found ourselves on the shore, no longer struggling to keep our heads above water, but completely disoriented. Where are we? Where do we go from here?
I’ve competed in a couple of triathlons, where you swim, then bike, and then run. In between each of those events there are transitions. The first triathlon I did I trained hard for each event but I never thought to train for the transitions. I figured I would just get through it.
Well, I came up out of the water dizzy and disoriented. I followed the crowd to the bike transition area but I could not remember where my bike was. I had to go up and down several aisles until I found it. Then I just stared at it for a while. I wasn’t a swimmer any more. But I wasn’t a cyclist yet. I couldn’t go back, and but I wasn’t prepared for what was ahead.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen (even) to you.
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.
You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.
And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
Not easily done, but not impossible.
Like the three legs of a triathlon, there are three stages of life transitions. Stage 1 is an ending – this is where you deal with a loss, experience grief, anger, and fear. Stage 2 is the neutral phase, the transitional period where you experience anxiety, confusion and uncertainty, and Stage 3 is the new beginning – this is where you set new goals, experience integration in your new surroundings or situation, where you begin to reinvent yourself.
Stage 3 is where I want to be.
I long to live in the space where I have moved on, where I can embrace our new place and look back at what we’ve been through and see purpose in it all. (Ahem, God?)
Yes, I want to move on, but I cannot rush through Stage 2. I have to prepare for the next leg of the race. I have to lace up my shoes, slather on the sunscreen, and hydrate before I hop on that bike.
The transition is a waiting place, but it’s not useless, like Seuss says, and it is not static. It’s a place to observe and contemplate, plan and pray. It’s a lonely place, but I’m not alone, because Jesus is with me. I may not be a swimmer any more, and I’m not yet a cyclist, but I’m still an athlete. I’m still in the game, I’m still competing.
You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)
*All purple italics from Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss