One of the most important parts of the journey to being a happy man is learning to become comfortable with the in-between, transitional phases of life. For some men major life changes come when a wife says, “I need space” or “I love you, but I’m not in love with you”, or “I want a divorce.”
As linear thinking, action oriented , “fix it” men, we start making changes to change the situation and during the transitional phase, she doesn’t trust us and to be honest, we don’t trust ourselves.
In this relationship limbo land transitional phase of life, we find ourselves making changes, trying new things, and feeling uncertain if we are “doing it right” or if we are even “on the right path”. We just want everything to, “Go back to the way it was.”
We want certainty and we want it fast.
Very few things in life happen instantly. Whether it is something serious like turning a marriage around or reconnecting with the inner joy you were born with, or something less serious like learning to skate, or growing your hair long, there are always transitional phases. There is always a beginning ( where we were ), a middle ( where we are ), and an end ( where we want to be ).
Where we were is familiar, but isn’t working or isn’t where we want to be. Where we are feels uncertain and scary. And, where we want to be feels like it’s always off in the distance.
It’s the familiarity with the old, uncertainty with the new, and the feeling of “never gonna get there” that pulls us down, causes us to beat ourselves up, and to ultimately quit trying, sometimes just short of our goal.
I’ve been where you are , I know your pain.
I’ve had my wife say, “I don’t think I want to be married anymore” while we sat on a park bench in our quiet suburban Austin neighborhood with the late October afternoon sun shining on my face and I know what it is like to make changes and live in that limbo land with uncertainty of the internal mental and emotional challenges of being the man I want to be.
The fear and uncertainty of that transitional phase is something many men struggle with. You are not alone, and that is a good thing because, it takes away the personal failure, the “there must be something wrong with me” feeling that creeps in when we try to make a life change and have failed, again.
Take growing hair. Over the years, I have attempted to grow my hair long a handful of times and each time, the transitional phase got the best of me. You would think that growing hair would be the absolute easiest thing in the world to do.
Step one, don’t cut your hair. Step two, walk around like Big Foot with your big flowing locks dragging the ground. I mean come on, hair grows on it’s own, while you sleep. But every time I’ve attempted to grow my hair, I’ve managed to shave my head every time. Why? Because the in-between phase is the space where I would start telling myself stories, worrying what other people will think of my temporary man mullet, looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, “Come on! Get there already!” All the while, telling myself, “Just don’t cut it! Just don’t cut it! Just don’t cut it!”
Today, I have the longest hair I have ever had. It’s not a goal for everyone, but it’s a goal for me and this time it’s more about overcoming the transitional phase than the hair itself.
Most recently, I have experienced the same thing with learning to roller skate. I have been practicing for little over a month now and when I started, the first 30 minutes of every skate session, I was in absolute terror. “Why are you doing this? Oh god, I hate this! I hate this, I hate this! Why are you doing this!!!” But as I have learned to be okay with falling, and how to balance, and how to shift my weight, and steer with my skates, the terror has been replaced by joy.
Even when I fall down now, I laugh and then I get back up and keep skating. As someone said in the community lately, “It is how we get back up that’s important because, when we fall the mistake has already been made.” That statement resonates deeply with me because, even while I am making progress, I have to remind myself to be okay with being in that in-between phase, to acknowledge how far I’ve come and let go of needing to, “Get there already!”
The transitional phase is both exciting and uncomfortable, both encouraging and discouraging, and in my personal journey to reconnect with my joy and fully be my authentic self, I am learning how important it is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable because, that transitional phase is where progress lives. It’s where growth takes place. It’s where life happens.
When we are uncomfortable, we have actually moved out of our comfort zone and into a new place of being.
We are in fact, making progress by not being the same as we were before. It’s just that this new place is unfamiliar and unsettling, so we look back and think, I should give this up and go back to what I know.
In his book, The Power of NOW, Eckhart Tolle asks, “Has your life ever happened in the past? Has your life ever happened in the future? Of course not. Your life only ever happens in the now.” This is a powerful statement on it’s own, and when we combine it with the fact that we have the power to choose how we are being, we realize that being in that transitional phase is the most powerful place we can choose to be because, it is life happening now. It is the life we are choosing because we have agency over ourselves. That’s powerful!
When we finally internalize that the transitional phase is good and replace transitional uncertainty and fear with agency and power, we realize that we are in the best possible place we can be, regardless of the destination or desired outcome. We are living fully now, the way we choose to live because we are already being who we want to be.
We are not static beings. We are always in a state of becoming.
So why not embrace the transitional phase and own it as our comfort zone. It is life happening now, which is the only thing that is real. When we are in that space, we are fully awake, fully conscious, no longer sleep walking through our own life, no longer a victim of circumstance or negative self talk.
In my case, my wife did learn to trust me again. She now regularly says, “I love you” on her own, without me prompting her or engaging in meaningless call and response I love you statements from me. This renewed 2.0 relationship is due in part to the fact that I have learned to love and trust myself. I have regained my confidence, regularly plan things with friends, and spend less time worrying about what she is doing or not doing because, I have my own goals and priorities to focus on.
So as I move forward with skating, growing my hair, coaching, and just life in general, I carry with me this vital life lesson, to embrace the transitional phase because it was my twenties, my thirties, my forties, and soon to be my fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. There’s no need to “Get there already!” I am already there, shifting my weight, lifting my skates, and laughing when I fall down.
Are you finding it hard to let go, to laugh when you fall down, to push through that transitional phase to where you want to be?
Maybe it’s time to talk to another man who understands you and your struggle. Maybe it’s time to make a lasting change in your life because, you are the only person you will be with for the rest of your life.
Maybe it’s time to learn to be comfortable in your own skin, to be free of anxiety, to live the way you want to live and not the way you think other people think you should live.
Maybe it’s time for you to love you for you, and for the benefit of those around you. Maybe today is the day you do something for you because, you are worth it and being who you have been isn’t working for you any more.
Whatever the reason, I’m here to listen without judgement, to hold up a mirror for you to see yourself from the outside, to offer perspective and ask the hard questions that only you can answer, to be your mentor and coach. When you are ready, I’m here for you.
Much love brother,
Happy Man Coach
Photo by Gustavo Fring