radical shifts in life and the tenderness of endings


I've noticed lately that a large number of people I care about are encountering situations that are shifting their lives as they know them. Perhaps you've been feeling similarly.

I feel like a rug was just pulled out from under me, but also like I shouldn't feel so shocked since I've been watching it slip from under my feet in slow motion for the last several months.

There's been an incubation, an inevitability, that big life changes were going to happen and that existing circumstances were going to have to end to make way for a new path.

We know when we fall into patterns that don't serve us that something will have to change. In some ways, we look forward to the change because it will offer its own form of relief. But that doesn't make the death of one way of being any less painful.

And I mean death in both a literal, physical sense and in a more figurative sense—all endings that feel particularly impactful. In my case, the death is a figurative ending, but the principles are more or less the same.

Dealing with the fallout

If you, too, find yourself dealing with the fallout of a radical shift right now (or expect to at any point), the options are to either resist with all your might and feel the weight of the world crushing you, or to surrender to the forces of change with grace and acceptance.

Does surrender mean you lie down and let the chips fly in your face? No. You're still an agent of change. But surrender does mean you release your grasp on the past as best you can and begin to face forward. The shift will happen whether you want it to or not, but you get to decide how to interact with the changing circumstances.

Do not forget who you are and what has brought you here. Moving forward has everything to do with taking stock of where you have been and remembering your path both ahead and behind. But radical change is what shakes your firm, fearful hold on what was. Start reaching ahead of you instead, in your own time, as you are ready.

Allow yourself to grieve the loss of what you thought would go a particular way. Allow yourself to feel lost and uncertain. You do not need to know what is next.

And, too, open to the unfolding possibilities from what that ending means. The opening might take a while, but sometimes even that glimpse of possibility can too mingle with the grief.

If we see an end coming ahead, it is up to us to ask ourselves whether we have engaged fully, tried to do all we could, before letting this part of ourselves go.

That said, when it's time for a part of ourselves to die, it dies. When it's time for a shift, the shift happens. But, importantly, if we examine what we could best engage in our current circumstances first, at least we meet an end with the knowledge that we did all we could. There is not the wondering or the what-ifs, but instead the grace of closure.

Know as you grieve that you are not broken, even if you feel so, and that in fact this loss will ultimately reveal more of your inherent wholeness to you.

Tenderness in ending and renewal

There is tenderness in death, both loss of life and the ending of particular ways of being. Death is an inevitable and nonetheless sorrowful part of our existence, but there can be an unfolding and enveloping in our own selves as we interact with it. Death is not to be reviled because it is necessary and because it is part of the greater life-death-life cycle that both extinguishes and renews.

That's the part we forget sometimes: the renewal. The dead of winter is always followed by the life of spring.

What the renewal requires is your faith and your patience. Trust that the newness is coming, and do not rush or force to make it happen.

A few days before my current upheaval, here is what I wrote to myself in my journal before knowing I would need hear it . Maybe you need it to:

"Tap into your strength of being gentle and compassionate, loving without binding. It is time to reconnect with nature. Moderate extremes now. Be temperate, go the middle way, and allow yourself to renew as necessary. Be patient. Compose yourself. Be a master of focus, compassion and self-control. Harness this power. Be insightful, be do not dwell on the details. Know that the rewards are coming. Brace for change. This is your personal breakthrough."

Now that I am in the midst of change, the words ring even truer than when I wrote them. Trust that this path you are on is the right one and that this is your personal breakthrough.


Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.

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