Transition Woman

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Fourteen years ago, when I was moving from Hungary back to the U.S., my friend Gwen would often remind me that I was living as "Transition Woman." Transition Woman was allowed to live in a super-normal state of haziness and clumsiness. Transition Woman didn't have to always be coherent. Transition Woman went from tears to laughter at any given moment. Once again, I find myself as Transition Woman.

I wish I could offer a glowing description of my current transitional state. Perhaps I would have lost ten pounds, instead of gaining them. Perhaps I would be waking early each morning for an hour of prayer instead of rushing off to start too long of a day. Perhaps I would be the perfectly loving mother offering unending support and empathy to my daughters, instead of feeling helpless and guilty in the face of their transition. Three months ago when I began this process, it all looked different in my head, but now I'm living with the messy reality of a foggy mind, tired body, and chaotic days. I am making mistakes, fumbling over simple tasks, and facing bumps in the road and minor disasters at every turn.

What is it with change? It seems that when you decide to make a major shift, everything else seems to shift around you. In the last three months, our washer and dryer broke irreparably; my daughters and I caught the lice epidemic at their school (to all in our immediate vicinity: we have been lice-free for twelve weeks now so you can stop feeling itchy); the lead pastor at my new church contracted pneumonia; my dog scared a friend's pet rabbit to death (literally); and this week, using desperately needed family funds, I booked a non-refundable flight for the wrong date. I could go on, but then this column might start to get a little whiny.

And whining it indeed may be, because I am privileged to have a home, a job, and a supportive community of church, family, and friends to help pick up the pieces. There is an end in sight once things begin to settle. What I am facing more than anything is the illusion that I am in control and that things are supposed to move in a smooth upward line.

Life doesn't move that way except for those who can afford the illusion for the most part. Many people in our world live in transitional space. The realities of poverty, war, hunger, immigration, sickness, unemployment, and natural disasters uproot and disturb normal patterns for millions every day. Transitional space may in fact be more common to the human condition than the settled condition that I think of as "normal."

Transitional space can also be holy space. Much of Scripture was written in transitional space as Israel struggled to forge and maintain an identity under the threat of foreign invasion. Those who have lived through great transition often hold deep wisdom and strength. There is an invitation in transition to go deeper, to let go of false securities, to lay down the masks that you don't have the energy to put on and to find a deeper current of God's presence in the world.

My current reality as Transition Woman is something I must accept as I bumble through it, but it is also a crossroads. I can choose to resist the transition with anxiety, fighting off the ever-looming chaos. Or I can lean into it by accepting each day's new reality, unclenching my fists, seeing the beauty that surrounds me, trusting the movement of the Spirit within me, remembering that the strength to do my calling does not come from my ability to muster through but from God as I follow the path of my own transition into compassion for our world full of transitional space.

Even Transition Woman is invited to dance, though my steps may be faltering. Today, I accept.

6/22/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Jenny Warner
    About Jenny Warner
    Jenny Warner is the Pastor for Justice, Spirituality, and Community at First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. She graduated from Biola University with a B.A. in Intercultural Studies and Psychology in 1992, and in 2010, received a Masters of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary. She is a trained spiritual director, certified by Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle.