Sometimes big change comes upon you slowly, like one song fading into the air while another fades out, and sometimes it comes collapsing down on you like an ancient tower crumbling in a windstorm. Whether a slow unfolding or a sudden event, big change means big emotions, and big emotions often mean turmoil of some kind.
This, then, is the tender-hearted guide to making big, big change. How do you deal with the turmoil of watching what you’ve loved/built/created/worked on/adored crumble? How do you sort through the pieces for the good/interesting/worthwhile bits without scrapping everything? How do you stop yourself from saying ALL OF IT WAS A WASTE and then taking up your vice of choice?
This is the hardest and most essential element of the death of any project, life choice, or season: the grieving.
You’ll naturally want to run into the next thing. You’ll naturally want to blink back the tears and push down the pain and ignore what feels like tiny elves bashing at your eyeballs from the inside out, demanding that you cry in all the everyday places you normally frequent. (See: pharmacy, diner, bank, sidewalk, car, bathroom, bed.)
When a season ends, it’s okay to cry.
That sounds so obvious and trite and even condescending until it’s actually happening to you — until you’re actually looking back at the landscape of your life’s choices and mourning all those pieces that no longer fit.
Grieving hurts. By definition. There’s no avoiding it. The good news is, the less you fight it, the faster it will pass. When you let yourself fall apart over breakfast and in the car and in your partner’s arms and while eating bruschetta at the local Italian restaurant (SO NOT SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE HERE WHAT GIVES YOU THAT IDEA), you’re making space for the next thing.
You’re acknowledging the charred ruins of what you thought could last forever, and you’re hunting the tiny, glowing embers that will carry you into the next phase of your existence.
That’s brutally painful, because for every glowing ember, you’ll find something you didn’t think you could handle losing. (In non-metaphorical terms: you can spend seven years building a business one way, only to step away and stand still as you let the whole thing crumple. You built a whole skyscraper from your heart, and what remains is so small it clanks around in a carry-on-sized suitcase.)
The suitcase will serve you. It’s best to travel lightly.
When you’ve got your pieces…
Focus on the next step.
Just the one. You’ll want to make a 23-pronged plan and scale your ambitions or nudges of intuition with graphs and charts and scales and…no. Don’t.
The one step in front of you is generally quite simple.
You’ll take more breaks.
You’ll ask for the sale more often.
You’ll cut back on the products you offer.
You’ll introduce a new service.
You’ll enroll in a class.
Naturally, though, you’ll scale up and make ‘cutting back on products’ equal creating three new products to celebrate the products that are going away, then add a giveaway and a sale and a hashtag and a social media plan and…it gets complicated.
Try to resist the complicating and the scaling, focusing on the one simple thing you’re meant to do next. People will step in with all sorts of (ever more complicated) advice, but it’s your job to stick to the one thing.
Finally, and most importantly: be kind to yourself.
You know how we all teach what we need to learn? Yah, this is when I write directly to myself (but you can watch!). Patience is not only a virtue, but a necessity, as you choose kindness over and over again.
When you flog yourself for not seeing what is now so obvious.
When you shake your head at all the signs that mean you should have done this long ago.
When you consider firebombing your old self because (s)he is so, so stupid.
When you’re crying for the fifth time in three hours about what appears to be nothing,
or hiding from the world unshowered for the second day (read: week) in a row,
or scrolling through screens instead of doing anything that truly feeds you,
or berating yourself for all the ways you just. Aren’t. Enough.
Let your shoulders stop eating your ears and breathe into your heart and practice the difficult art of forgiving yourself. (I know, right? I scoffed when a friend told me, too.) Forgiving yourself is one of the most powerful arts you can practice in everyday life, and it means you’ll survive this latest change with something like grace and aplomb.
Seasons end, and what you thought was a sure thing turns out to be…not the surest thing anymore, and this is part of being human. You grow, you change, you shift, and you respond accordingly.
May you be brave enough to make the changes as they come, and may you know the relief and joy on the other side of watching your own work fall to the ground.
P.S. I totally read this to you in the latest episode of That’s What She Said.