We have landed, officially.
After a crappy hiccup last week that left us scrambling to find a place to live very last minute (it was a total mess, you guys, but all is well now), we got into a short-term rental on Saturday and Justin began his new contract here on Monday. I think it’s only been in the last 24 hours that I have been able to take a deep breath and look around me, begin to think past the immediate, to get some sense of our life here for the next three months.
For over two years now, we have done some version of this transition every three months. We’ve held our breath as a contract drew to a close and waited to find out where we were headed next, generally followed by a mad scramble to arrange housing there (there is always some unexpected difficulty and it’s been a little different every time). Then we land and do our very best to dive in head first, having realized early on that three months isn’t nearly as long in a place as it initially seems. Rinse and repeat.
I began writing this post thinking I would say something along the lines of having become pretty good at this whole transition thing. But I don’t know if that is, strictly speaking, totally true. There is always a part of me that feels some tug of resistance to leaving a place. There is always a bit of dread at knowing the period of uncertainty and scrambling is coming. There’s always a sense of surrealness and displacement when we first arrive somewhere new and I realize that I have no idea where to wash the pile of laundry we’ve gathered en route before I run out of underwear. These things are always there. I haven’t “gotten used” to transition to the extent that I don’t sometimes feel exhausted by it and struggle with the idea of figuring out all of the logistics yet again.
What is true is that I have learned over these years to stay sane during the crazy transition time and to keep hold of (most of) my bearings throughout the shifting. Which, I have to say, feels like no small accomplishment and I’m quite excited to have reached this point. Here are a few thoughts that have helped me get here:
Urgency is almost always a lie. I’m not saying that there is never a time that acting quickly isn’t necessary, but I am saying that getting caught up in feeling like something is life-and-death urgent very rarely serves anyone outside of emergency response teams. And even then, there is a difference between acting with a sense of urgency and feeling urgent. We can act with purpose and focus, we can adjust in a timely manner, without allowing the desperation that urgency creates to creep in and mess with our heads and our decision-making.
Here is an example from our recent housing fiasco. After a delay that left us cooling our jets in a hotel room, we learned mid-day on Friday that our rental fell through. Justin was starting work on Monday and ICU nursing isn’t exactly the kind of work that is okay to show up to unshowered after having camped out of the back of the truck for a period of time. So we started scouring Craigslist for furnished three-month rentals (I assure you, there is not a glut on the market here) and reaching out to anything that looked like it might work. Most of what we found was out of our budget. Many of the responses we received were apologies that the property had already been rented. We found a single place, well outside our budget, where someone could meet us and we might have a chance to move in before Justin began work.
Here’s what I mean about urgency being a lie: it felt like we HAD to take whatever we could find immediately or the results would be dire. That was the lie of urgency. The truth is, we didn’t. Camping out for another week was not ideal. But ideal is not the same as possible. We could do it if necessary. It would be super inconvenient, but we could shower at the gym and get up early to drive into Anchorage on time for Justin to get to work. If we gave into the idea of urgency, we were backed into a corner and had to take the out-of-budget option that would leave us in a tough position financially.
So we paused.
We stepped away from the hunt that had turned a little frenetic and we made some lunch. We just stopped for a minute. We didn’t take the expensive option off the table entirely, but we brainstormed exactly what we needed to do to buy ourselves a little more time to find a better option. We resisted the knee-jerk panic that said we had no choice. Because when we paused, we realized that we did, indeed, have a choice…not an ideal choice, not a comfortable choice, but a choice nonetheless. And with the empowering realization that things weren’t as urgent as we’d been feeling, we resumed making calls and eventually found something that worked. Not something perfect, but something far more reasonable that the option urgency wanted to push us toward.
Urgency is almost always a lie and there is usually more space somewhere in the situation than there initially appears to be- we have pause for just a minute and look for that space.
Overestimate what's needed to get through the shift and build in some space from the start. This can be tricky when the transition is sudden, but there is almost always a way to make it work, though it might mean letting a few things from the bottom of your to-do list drop off the end and hit the floor. That’s okay. Really. And if it’s not a sudden situation, even better.
When I was shooting weddings full time, I always urged the couples I was working with to build a lot more time in their wedding day itineraries than they thought necessary. I always recommended giving everything at least a third more time than their most generous estimate of what it would actually take. And over ten years and hundreds of weddings, I saw the same thing over and over…even if they didn’t end up needing the extra time, the couples who build it into their itineraries were always more relaxed and always had more fun- without exception. This is true in our every day lives as well and definitely during transitions when, by definition, we are outside the realm of what we know and are very likely to hit unexpected bumps.
If I stick with the example of my own weekend, I had to do some adjusting on the fly. I send my monthly email newsletter out the last Saturday of every month and I had quite a few back-end logistic to work out and set up before I could include the information I wanted to include in last weekend’s email. I’d earmarked Wednesday as a move-in day and Thursday and Friday for work days where I could pull those back-end logistics together and get the email out as planned on Saturday. But things shifted and that schedule fell apart when our rental did. While it would have been possible to get it all done on time, doing so would have meant a bit of full-on craziness on my part, at minimum little-to-no sleep and giving the bulk of responsibility for our housing fix to Justin. But, again, my newsletter urgency was a lie (I hardly think anyone was sitting by their computers early Saturday morning eagerly awaiting my missive with baited breath…people have lives, y'all) and when I stepped back, I could see that everything would be just fine if it went out on Sunday instead. Allowing myself the space to deal with our situation on Friday and our move-in on Saturday without also trying to tackle all of my to-do list was clutch in retaining some sanity. As it turned out, we were able to get moved in more quickly than I’d anticipated and I was able to get to more than I’d planned, which left me feeling like I’d scored a bonus win instead of feeling like I’d failed to do 647 things in a single day.
There’s more I’d like to get to (gratitude, acknowledging choice, etc) but given that I’m already almost 1,500 words into this monster post, I’ll leave them for another day. But I want to close with one more thought…
Transition is a constant in our lives, whether the shift is a big obvious one like a move or a new job or a new baby, or a more subtle one like shifts in self-perception or health habits or seasons. Most of us have an ingrained habit of saying (and believing) that “once ______ is done, I will finally be able to take better care of myself/create good routines/fix this ongoing issue/etc” but it seems like there is always a new transition to fill the place of the old one and we’re left feeling frustrated and often like we’ve “failed.” We haven’t failed. We haven’t. But we could do ourselves a big favor and begin integrating habits that help us feel less pushed around by our life shifts and more present within them.
The very first of those habits (as you may be tired of hearing me say, but it’s just the damn truth, you guys!) is to pause, to take hold of the power we have to stop in the midst of what we are doing and ask ourselves if it’s working, if it’s getting us what we want in our lives, if there might be a better way, if what we are doing is actually necessary. There will be different answers at different times, but taking the mere moments to pause long enough to ask and answer honestly is revolutionary to the quality of our lives.
Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.” And we can. Let’s do it together, you guys.
I have officially opened registration for The UnCrazy 2018 Challenge and would absolutely love to have you join us as we make our last eight weeks of the year UNCRAZY. It’s FREE and low time-commitment- learn more and register here!