We live a life full of transitions. Some are planned – meticulously planned – while others are abrupt and coarse. Some transitions call for fancy dresses and a band, adding a new title at the end of your name, or converting the guest bedroom to a nursery. However change arrives, it arrives just the same.
I think of my transition into motherhood. It was planned and thought down to framing our Indiana Foster Parent License on our wall. But the moment a child enters your home, which you are the legal guardian of, the game changes. With my son, I received a call. I got in my car three hours later, I had a six-week-old baby boy. With my daughter, I saw two blue lines. The day had finally come for those transitions to take place. Mom was forever added to my title.
In the last month, I’ve watched a friend celebrate her last child’s eighteenth birthday and pack her up for college the very next day. Another friend drove her children to the hospital to say their unexpected final goodbyes to their Grandma after what was to be a routine surgery. She buried her mom two weeks later. I have two more friends who each are marrying the one they love in just a few weeks. An empty nester, a motherless mother, and a spouse are all faced with transitions.
So what happens in your spirit when changes come, and you are neither prepared nor welcoming to them? I think most of the time, these types of transitions are what I am most challenged with. Like catching a glimpse of yourself doing the mundane, but somehow, your reflection in the finger-smudged bathroom mirror meets you. You stop and look at your face, the gray hair, and your skin. I am powerless to stop the wrecking ball called aging.
It also seems that when one transition happens, everything seems to follow. When I told my first husband I had filed for divorce, he dropped to his knees in sheer panic and shock. And just as quickly as those papers were signed, we had different addresses, utilities in both of our names, and a lot more closet space. I knew it was coming, and he did not but change arrived just the same.
When the child becomes the caretaker of a parent, like my role is currently being introduced to, it is not shocking but more like sitting for a final exam of a class that I never bought a textbook for. New roles bring new transitions into new responsibilities. I knew it was coming, but that does not mean I know what’s coming next.
Some life transitions happen to you, and some happen because of you. Either way, self-preservation occurs in the way we respond to them. It may be the only thing we can control in those situations.
What about regret over where those transitions have taken you? The what if’s, as my mom would call them.
Should I have taken that other job? What did I just do? Why did I break up with him? We should have put an offer in on that house! What would my life be if I had decided to go to college? We should have waited longer to have kids. OMG, why did we even have kids?!
While the “if-onlys and the should-haves” have crippled moments and days, and seasons of life for me, I long to be free of this second-guessing and unsureness. I am so easily swayed by the eight bajillion tabs open in my brain, replaying all of the possible scenarios of how things could have been.
The question of regret was asked in a sermon I was listening to last week. The speaker asked what kind of life we wanted – a life of satisfaction or significance. I don’t have an answer, but because I am human and want what I want, I guess I would tell you that I want both. I want a life of significance that is satisfying.
It seems obvious we live on a spectrum of the two in the typical daily cycle. We won’t always feel satisfied in the role as a partner and spouse, in the long commute to that job we worked so hard to get, or when we are knee-deep in baby wipes and pull-ups and crying toddlers, but we must acknowledge our significance.