My daughter and I were building a sandcastle on the beach. That would be a very typical scene in my life. I always liked the feel of the sand, the ability to shape it into a castle, and ultimately watching the tide reclaim the sand.
That day, my daughter was about 4 years old. She is 18 now. My father was sitting with us. I told my Dad, “this is a lesson in the impermanence of life. You build. It falls. You build again.”
I was a chaplain at a hospital then. I had seen many lessons in the impermanence of life. Life was hellos and goodbyes. I watched people come into this world and watched people leave this world. I watched many leave the hospital, some recovered and some with their lives changed forever.
Change really is a central part of life, as much as we fight it, as much as we resist.
Change still sneaks in. Life continues to move forward.
A few years later, I was in the kitchen, having just earned my SCUBA certification. I commented to my wife, “I need to find a dive buddy.” My darling 8 year-old daughter looked up in all earnestness and said “Daddy, you don’t have to look. I’ll be your dive buddy.”
True to her word, 2 years later, as soon as she could, she got certified. She has always been my little girl.
Which brings us to now.
For the first two days of this week, I spent it at college orientation for my daughter. It is hard to believe we are just a couple of months from her launching into a whole new chapter in her life!
For 18 years, I have sought to protect her from harm. Now, I have to send her into the world, to find her own way. That takes some recalculations on my part.
Life keeps moving forward. We can either embrace the changes or fight them. Either way, the changes will come.
So what do we do when the transitions come our way?
First, we can acknowledge that grief is part of the process.
Even if it is a movement to something far greater, when we leave something behind, we feel the grief.
My daughter will be changing her status in our family. She will be no less my daughter, but she will be adding on the fact that she steers her ship now. She is the captain.
Second, we can either see it as a challenge — a learning experience, or we can see it as a crisis.
In reality, every experience and transition has something to teach us. But only when we are ready to learn. The nice thing is that if we are not quite ready, the lesson will wait. But it will insist on being learned.
Third, we wait for the “new normal.”
It takes a little time to find our equilibrium. Sometimes, we keep thinking that something must be wrong.
If we wait it out, we find what is on the other side. We discover that normal returns. It is a “new normal,” but it does become comfortable.
It’s like that new pair of shoes. It rubs in all the wrong spots. Until it molds and stretches to our unique foot. Then it fits. It starts feeling right.
Transitions make us uncomfortable, unless we wait them out and discover what is on the other side!
I could not be more proud of my daughter, and she could not be more ready to jump into this big world.
And I will get used to the new reality.
It just may take a little while!
Lee Baucom, Ph.D. is a best-selling author, therapist, coach and speaker, and has over a quarter of a century of experience helping couples and individuals learn to thrive in their relationships and their lives. He is the creator of the internet marriage program, Save The Marriage.