Recently I spoke with a client who had just completed a massive project that took several years of her life to bring to fruition. It was a huge accomplishment for her to send her “baby” out into the world, and she was really happy about it.
Except that … she also wasn’t. She also felt lost and … sad?
How could this be? This was the time she’d been waiting for! In fact, at points during her journey she’d sworn the project would never be finished and couldn’t wait for it to leave her hands.
Because this was the first creative project of this scope that my client had seen from start to finish, she was unprepared for the letdown she felt when it was done. And it was making her really nervous that she wasn’t sure what her next project would be.
She didn’t even have any ideas. She kept trying to grab onto opportunities that came her way, but none of them felt right.
What my client was feeling was so, so normal.
When we imagine finishing something big, we often envision the elation that will come with the accomplishment but we don’t realize that there is a sense of loss in finishing, too.
We get thrown into “creative transition.”
Our tendency during these times is to rush ourselves through them because they feel so uncomfortable.
If we rush ourselves through, though, we miss out on the opportunity to become the new “us” that the transition time provides. That’s what transitions are, after all — bridges or tunnels from one version of ourselves to the next.
It’s kind of like when we end a relationship. Most of us have had that experience of breaking up with someone and then (oh, crap!) getting back together with them a week or a month later.
What happened there? We crawled back into our former lives, not quite ready to go through the “deep cocooning” process we must embrace in order to emerge as that new “us.”
This is okay. As Robyn Posin says in one of her wonderful posts, we’re never fully anywhere until all of us arrives there. (I’m also reminded of an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry compares ending a relationship to knocking over a Coke machine. It has to rock back and forth a few times before the whole thing falls over.)
So what can we do to make times of creative transition easier? Here are a few suggestions.
* Allow yourself to come down from the trip.
Recognize that at the end of a long creative journey, we’re often functioning — to some extent — on adrenaline. This is especially true if we have a bunch of deadlines to meet or events to attend in order to complete our journey and we’re (understandably) tired. Adrenaline will kick in to help us make it through.
Remember how badly you wanted the semester to be over back in college, and you got all your papers in and exams taken, and then didn’t know what to do with yourself for a few days? That’s because you were still pumped with adrenaline and it was compelling you to do something, anything! When we come down from that heightened state (which, by the way, is not healthy for us to remain in), we will feel more centered and present and at choice.
* Allow yourself to feel sadness and loss.
There is nothing wrong with you if you feel a sense of loss and even grief after achieving a huge success. It is part of the natural process of moving from one phase of life to another. It’s normal to enter a “liminal state” at this time, what Martha Beck refers to as “Square One.” (Martha’s wonderful book Finding Your Own North Star explains “Square One” at length.)
* This is an excellent time to cultivate curiosity.
As the sadness and loss mix with your joy at your achievement and wash through you, what’s taking your interest? What do you notice about the change in yourself from the beginning of this journey to now? As you move through your daily life, what are you needing? Comfort? Connection with trusted friends?
Journaling about what you’re going through can be a great way to gain more awareness of your current needs, and the ways your inner compass is pointing you to your next step.
* It’s okay to go slow — in fact, it’s best to go slow — at this time.
When you allow yourself slowness as you enter creative transition, you really get a chance to experience who you’re becoming and what this transition is all about (though that may not be totally clear to you until you exit the transition phase!). This time is an amazing gift and you’ll never get it back in exactly the same form again. So how can you find ways to savor rather than hurry it?
You may need support in doing this. Our culture does not encourage savoring and slowness. Trust that support is out there in the form you need it!
What have you noticed about creative transitions for yourself? Has anything in particular helped to make them easier for you? I’d love to hear from you.
And: These are the last several days (through March 31) to purchase my package of four coaching sessions as I will have new offerings up on my site soon (I can’t wait to share them with you!). The package of four saves you $75 and is a great way to get ongoing support from me. Take a look here to learn more!