Completing a major project (or job, or other major part of your life) and letting yourself move on involves:
- recognizing that you are “done”
- giving yourself permission to be “done”
- actually completing the thing
When and why is it hard to recognize and accept when you are done?
- If you think you ought to not be done yet.
- If you thought you would or should be doing “it” forever, or that it would last forever.
- If you don’t know how to physically complete it, and the fear that you’ll never be able to has you push away even thinking about it.
- If you feel like you are “helping people” and “are needed” at the thing.
- If your identity is wrapped up in doing the thing.
- If you have family or partner or economic pressure to keep doing it.
- If you are afraid you don’t know what you might do next.
- If you have an idea of what you might be called to do next, and are afraid and don’t feel ready (this might be a sign that you aren’t actually done or ready).
- If change, in general, is scary (which it is for all of us).
- If transitions are hard for you, or were hard or scary in your family (for instance, kids of divorce, with the drop offs and going back and forth between parents, and the huge amount of tension and layers of meaning between your parents that you couldn’t decipher, brings a lot of baggage to transitions. Or if your parent lost a job, and the way it went down was awful and you witnessed that).
Why is completion necessary?
We learn and grow by trying and doing new things. You will always get bored, eventually, and need a change. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to leave your job, you may be able to restructure it, or take on something new at it. But, given how a lot of jobs are structured, this might not be possible and finding a new gig might be necessary.
Everyone has different thresholds at this. Even as a kid, I was always starting new things, burning through them, and then being completely done with that thing. As a kid, it was relatively easy to cycle through hobbies. As an adult, it’s taken me a long time to accept this about myself and what it means for my work (i.e. that I’ll always be reinventing it and that’s OK).
Practicing completion clears the space for the new things to arise. Without clearing the old things, you are forever beholden to them, and your energy is stuck keeping them alive. A portion of your energy flows to old, incomplete projects. Is that where you want to spend your energy?
Sometimes, you want to be done before you really are done.
On the other hand, sometimes I have wanted to be done so badly, because the thing I had Sourced was not that fun. It was something I needed to work through, but not something I enjoyed. This happens.
Our souls want experience. Sometimes they want experiences that are painful. Not because they are masochists, but because they seek transcendence and integration of that experience.
If you find yourself trying to be done, but just not able to complete or shift the experience, try embracing it instead. Try being where you are, and accepting that there is something not complete here. Try being with the ambivalence and discomfort of being where you are, and look for clues for what that is teaching you, or why you are still drawn to it. Study it. Let it be OK that you are here. Examine any judgments you have about yourself for being where you are, and let them go. There are no experiences that are inherently better than other experiences. There is no better place to be than where you are, fully. Judgment blocks integration and inhibits the flow of movement through an experience.
What if I’m afraid of the new thing?
That’s a good thing. It’s a clue. You are afraid you aren’t ready, but deep inside you know that someday you will be ready. You are afraid of all the things you know you’ll need to go through to get to the place that you can hazily sense is next for you. Relax, though. This process doesn’t need to be painful. If you have “new things”/”transitions” hooked up with “pain”, the idea of new responsibilities, new competencies, new possibilities can be scary just because it’s new. Affirmations can help:
I accept that change is inevitable.
I choose to embrace change.
I have the ability to handle new things.
I always wanted a life of unlimited possibility and now I have it.
Fear can also be a healthy boundary. “Hiding” is OK if that is what you need to do right now.
Contrary to what you may have been told, it’s OK to stay still until you are ready to move. I’ve done this countless times in my life, and it always takes a large dose of self-acceptance.
Consider chickens. They grow in their egg for about three weeks. Then they peck their way out. But this is a natural process. They don’t have anyone “should”ing them at two and a half weeks saying hey, why aren’t you pushing your own envelope? Don’t you believe in your potential? Come on!
Sometimes creating a shell is the next thing. Or it’s the preparation for the next thing. This is not always well understood in our culture. So create your own culture. Decide it’s OK to hide in a cave, hibernate, create a shell, until you are ready.
People get afraid that they will never leave their shell. I don’t really buy that. There are people out there stuck in ruts, this is true – people who are truly hiding. The difference is, when you make that shell, create that nest, hole up in that cave – you are going to have an encounter with yourself. That’s the thing to do in a nest. It’s not about hiding from the world, it’s about encountering yourself. It’s about ignoring the external and finding the center.
Sometimes this looks or feels like depression. Often depression is what gets you there – because you aren’t hibernating and you need to be. Your body eventually refuses to run around when what you really need is to be still. Listen to it.
If you are afraid you will get stuck, ask yourself if you are willing to look at yourself, truly look in the mirror, while you are hibernating. If that’s true, you will not get stuck. You might look and feel stuck. But you will be slowly, inevitably, growing.
I’ve learned to trust this process. To delight in this process. It’s wonderful to be able to go away from the world, and find yourself again. To find a new self, to create a new self – to watch yourself grow from the inside out.
I think people have different needs for this at different times in their life. It’s definitely an integral part of my process; it might be different for you. Mine is kind of dramatic, and looks a lot like depression. It’s still pretty hard to let myself “drop out” for six months. In our culture, we just don’t do that without making it pathological. But I do it. And it works for me. I emerge, with this essential vibrancy and trust in myself. I need the cave to get there.
And there are always moments in there where I am afraid I will never emerge. It’s those moment that teach me the most though – because when I do emerge, they teach me that I can have faith, I can believe in myself. Encountering the core of your fear leaves you vitally alive, as you realize you are more than that fear, and it doesn’t rule you anymore.
A major purpose of hibernation is mourning. To create something new, you don’t just need to let go of the last thing you did. You often need to mourn and grieve and integrate a host of old painful stuff in order to become the person you need to be to do the next thing.
So if your transition is calling you to hole up for awhile, let yourself. Don’t be too eager to move on if what you need is to be still and face what is most deeply true in yourself.
Whatever you need, give yourself.
Whatever your process is for deep transitions is, notice it. Embrace it. Love it. Document it, if that helps, with journalling or artmaking. Remind yourself it is a sacred process.
You make a lot of good points here. Timely for me too. Thanks.
Love this! So right on cue for me today.
Carol Willis says
It was good for me to read this tonight. My deep transition is that my husband of 39 years died last December and I’m trying to make a life for myself. Part of that is living on my own for the first time ever and experiencing professional as well as personal metamorphosis. Everything you say here rings true for me. I think I need to print it out and carry it around with me for awhile. Thanks.
This is absolutely brilliant. It’s no accident I’ve found your article and website at this time in my life!
“So if your transition is calling you to hole up for awhile, let yourself. Don’t be too eager to move on if what you need is to be still and face what is most deeply true in yourself.“
This is so validating. Thank you!! You’ve given permission for people to transition well and follow their journey.