A helpful practice when things are going badly

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To be human is to have things go badly. We all experience bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years. I’ve been having a tough week myself as I grieve the too-soon loss of someone very dear to me.

As well as, of course, all the other changes going on in my life right now. I am very much in transition.

And in times of transition, things often feel as if they’re going badly.

The old way of living has ended. The newness is still bringing itself forth. Whether or not the change is welcomed, it’s only natural that the in-between time is painful and uncertain and seems beyond our control… and, very often, we think this means it’s going badly.

What can we do when we feel this way? Our knee-jerk response might be to try and create some certainty and stability for ourselves. This might take the form of “sucking it up”, doubling down on our efforts, or going deep into planning mode. But trying to carve out certainty from uncertainty could actually wind up being counterproductive.

What if our most important work in times of transition is simply to hold space for ourselves to become whatever it is we are becoming?

Our garden is full of tomatoes right now. I’ve been waiting all summer for them to ripen, watching them turn from green to pale yellow to beautiful, vibrant orange. I walked outside this morning and plucked one from the vine as I was pondering what it means to hold space.

And it occurred to me, what if we humans sometimes need to ripen too? What if what we perceive as “things going badly” is actually a normal and natural part of this process? And what does it mean to hold space for ourselves in this time?

Here’s what I think it means: It’s OK to feel messy and incomplete. It’s OK if everything doesn’t come together just so. It’s OK to go more slowly than you’d like. It’s OK to allow yourself to grieve for what has passed.

It’s more than OK. It’s necessary. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even look back on this time one day and realize things weren’t going badly at all.

Maybe you were simply becoming more of the person you were meant to be.