We spend our youth in a specific structure called school.
It tells us when we have to be certain places and what things we do at those places. Then, suddenly as you graduate from school, you enter into the vast expanse of you now and you in 89 years and there’s practically nothing that’s giving that future a structure.
Many of us like to grab onto dreams as things which guide our future. We think about family, work, home, hobbies, and then somehow after it’s all said and done, it can feel really unsatisfying.
Or maybe you’ve been putting in your time for years and now is your big break where you get to live in paradise, travel the world, and have freedom. Except, you wake up and realize there’s nothing. What happened?
Especially in cultures like the U.S. and Japan, we thrive by encouraging ourselves to focus on achievements (ummm anyone have a bucket list?). Yet we rarely are taught to navigate the moments after everything is said and done. The day after you’ve gotten that promotion you’ve been waiting for. The morning after you’re final day of work for retirement.
For me, this reality of the ???? after achieving a dream came after I finished my book, In My Own Skin.
I felt like I had created something so dark and depressing I wondered if anyone would ever read it. In fact, as I was writing, I had people offer to help me review it, and rarely did they ever finish it. I also didn’t know what do with myself now that it was done. Do I just start writing something new? After three years of hard work, is this it?
Then, a friend said, “Why don’t you host a reading?”
What comes next
Much to my surprise, as soon as I started sharing the published book, I have felt just how much joy it brings me to offer my experience and story as a guide to others on these big journeys of transformation.
I went from thinking no one would ever look at what I’d done to a line of people out the door waiting to talk with me.
As much as I have my experience with finishing a big deal project or losing someone close and suddenly so that a phase of life ends with a big bang, I’ve also found there are all kinds of other ways death manifests in my everyday life, and yours too. Death, in other words, as endings.
The Everyday endings
Most recently, I’ve become lactose intolerant.
When I was a 9th grader fresh after my dad’s death, I LOVED ice cream. I would have said it was my favorite food. I also would have said I never thought there would be anything that brought me closer to my dad again.
Then, I became lactose intolerant as a 24 year old.
Suddenly, those memories of setting 5 glasses of milk for Mom, my sisters, and I and 1 glass of water for Dad around the dinner table have taken on a whole new meaning. I’ve become connected to him in a way I never thought possible.
That is to say, there are so many things we lose in our lives (loss takes on many faces in our lives). Especially with really big things like people we care about, we can get focused on just how much is taken away from us.
We can feel like we get to the other side of an accomplishment and have no idea what comes next.
But that’s not all that happens with loss.
When my mom decided to move across the country and go to medical school, I saw my first real example of how being broken open by my loss meant not just things getting taken away but also new things coming into our lives and taking root.
Now, I am so grateful to work with people like you on your own journeys of transformation.
From Deep Waters Back to Shore – Transition Coaching
I was very good at getting myself out to deep waters as I wrote and processed my loss, but I needed a guide to get back to shore.
I believe that’s true for all of us.
Whether we choose to act on it or not, in those moments of transition we need people to help guide us back to shore.
That’s why I’m here for you. Click here to learn more about how you can age courageously.
After years of feeling under constant attack from my grief, I can finally look at my lactose intolerance and not say I’ve lost another thing, but to instead say, “Thanks, Dad. I know how much you love me.”
Endings are Beginnings
Seeing those grief triggers as love notes is just one of many ways I’ve come to feel at peace with my loss. It is an honor and a privilege to support you in finding that peace too.
There’s so much here for us, even when we think it’s all gone. That’s what I find so amazing. All this darkness we experience is what reminds us how alive we are.
When we can settle into our own aliveness, that’s when the new dreams start emerging and we find the path for our next thing has been there for us all along.
Originally published on Aging Courageously. Kirsten Schowalter is the author of In My Own Skin and founder of Aging Courageously.