Gail A. Schneider, J.D., MAPP, brings to positive psychology an extensive background from the world of big business. After a 20 year career at JPMorgan Chase where she was an Executive Vice-President, she now works and writes on the issues of life transitions and the search for meaning and purpose in mid-life. Email Gail. Full bio.
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I am on the move again for the fifth time in my adult life. As I am a New Yorker, my moves have always had a certain “Woody Allen-esque” quality to them. All of the moves have occurred within a 4 block radius of each other, three within the same building and twice within a neighboring one. A friend of mine who has lived in numerous parts of the country and occasionally overseas, has said that I don’t ever really move. I just change elevator banks!!
People move for a variety of reasons. Some of them are positive events such as a growing family or a change in economic circumstances that allows for greater space and more creature comforts. Some moves, particularly in today’s world, are dictated by financial necessity, or maybe an empty nest where the space you needed during one phase of your life no longer fits your current lifestyle or circumstances.
In any event, whether you are moving 3000 miles, to another town, or across the lobby, the process of deconstructing one home and creating another is a significant transitional event. It can stir up feelings of loss and sadness or hope and optimism or a combination of all of these emotions. It can be a chance to practice your skills of resilience and savoring or to follow a pathway down the rabbit hole of negative thinking.
For most people change is hard and it has always been so for me. When my mind started spinning with thoughts about the move…the disruption, the upheaval, the endless tasks and to-do lists and the second guessing of how it will all turn out, I relied on many of the strategies in The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Schatté to help me through.When I thought of the enormity of the physical aspects of the move, I disputed my ruminating by looking for evidence that it could and would get done. I told myself, “We’ve moved before and every time I feel overwhelmed at first, but it’s always worked out.”
When I got stuck thinking about all the things I’d miss about the home I was leaving, I pushed myself to adopt a more optimistic outlook and focus on all the things we were gaining and how fortunate we were to have found the right place at the right time. When I started to catastrophize about how and if everything will work in the new space, I practiced putting it in perspective. Worst case…nothing fits, best case…everything fits, and most likely… some things will work perfectly, others won’t and life goes on!
SavoringThe week before the actual move occurred, my husband and I paused to appreciate the home we were leaving. I must admit that most of the time, we treated our home as backdrop, a stage set in the drama of our daily comings and goings.
Over a glass (or two) of wine (but who’s counting), we appreciated that our home was much more than scenery. It was an important character in this phase of our life story. It was the container for our joys and sorrows. It was the place we could return to and feel comfort and safety when the external world or events buffeted us.A week later, sitting on top of a box, amidst a sea of boxes, in a room with no furniture with walls and bookcases stripped bare, it was no longer our home, but simply another empty New York apartment and I was ready to move on. We haven’t moved into our new apartment yet as renovation work needed to be done, but I am deep in the process of anticipatory savoring, as described by Bryant and Veroff. I am relishing every decision about paint color and tile and looking forward to unpacking into new closets that will hold a pared-down wardrobe of clothes that I actually wear!!!
T.S. Eliot wrote in Little Gidding, “And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” Every life transition has an end, a middle, and a beginning. It matters how we end things. In order to make space for what is new, we must relinquish the old. For me, it was important to honor my old home, to say a proper good-bye to it with gratitude. This opened up the space for me to embrace the future with hope and optimism. Using some of my positive psychology tools, I was able to sculpt my thoughts to create the best possible outcome.
Each of us has the choice at the “cognitive fork in the road,” to choose one pattern of thought or another. As Robert Frost so aptly put it in his poem, The Road Not Taken, the path we choose, will in the end make all the difference.
Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience.. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Reivich, K, & Shattẻ, A. (2002). The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles. New York: Broadway Books.
FUSF (stacked boxes) courtesy of Ben Brown
A Glimpse (book cases) courtesy of vieux bandit
HALP!! (paint chips) courtesy of Rachael E.C. Acklin
Living B, v0 (empty apartment) courtesy of aforaro