Change—big or small—always reminds me of the anxiety-producing and sweat-inducing nightmare that can be driving your car through an unfamiliar area.
On a recent trip home from Michigan, Darrin and I found ourselves navigating as best as we possibly could with zero cell phone service through the backwoods of the lower-peninsula. We forced our tiny Corolla down at least three different dirt roads before we actually made it back to the highway.
One road took us right up to what looked like an active construction site. We waved awkwardly at the men in hard hats confusedly staring at our tiny car as we cautiously maneuvered around their huge machines. I’m sure vehicle designers created tinted windows with these exact moments in mind (#hideme).
Another road literally just ended. We drove right up to a forest of oak trees and had to turn around, praying that we wouldn’t meet another lost car head on as we drove back to where we came.
The third dirt road lead to another dirt road, which lead to an even narrower dirt road. And that dirt road lead to what I was convinced was probably someone’s driveway but was actually just the only road through this small town that (praise the good Lord) finally lead us to the main highway.
Two hours later we were back on track. And we were both much happier for it.
But changes in life—whether they’re planned or unplanned—can sometimes feel a lot like being lost on a narrow dirt road.
Our family is anticipating a lot of change in the next few months: a new job, a new place to live, new routines. And even these roads down which we’ve confidently decided to venture can, when their route is unknown, make us hunch over the steering wheel and anxiously squint at every passing sign just to make sure we’re on the right track.
So here are 5 things that I’m trying to remember as we navigate change. Hopefully they might be of some help to you too.
Loosen Your Grip:
White-knuckling the steering wheel as you navigate your season of change won’t make your car faster, the distance shorter, or the signs you pass along the way easier to read. If you’re feeling stressed and anxious about a particular change, take a deep breath. You don’t need to deny the fears and anxieties you might be feeling. But you also don’t need them ruling your heart and mind.
So loosen your grip. Allow yourself a few moments to relax. And remember to just take the drive one mile at a time.
Where You’ve Been:
Change has somewhat of an ego and usually likes to be the center of attention. If you’re having a baby, you start preparing a nursery, stocking up on diapers, doing those damn keggle exercises; you focus your attention on the change taking place—what you need to do now so you feel better prepared for what’s to come. Other changes, like the loss of a loved one, might happen unexpectedly, and even then we find ourselves focusing on how the change in our life will affect our family, the steps we take to move forward, the decisions we make to honor the one we lost.
These, of course, are all important practices and questions to ask in the midst of change. But focusing solely on the change taking place can easily induce fears and anxieties that might cripple our efforts to move forward. Feeling lost and unprepared for what’s ahead can really do a number on our self-confidence.
Remember where you’ve been. Think about your story. As much as this change has shaken and affected your life, remember that the person you are today has been shaped by change before—and your story didn’t end with those changes. Remember where you’ve been, who has been with you. You might start to recognize the path that will see you through.
Ask For Directions:
Sure, we all might have GPS built into our phones, but when you find yourself stuck in some random backcountry of Michigan without any cell service, it might be a smart move to stop along the way and simply ask someone for help. Maybe you’re too proud. Or too embarrassed. But I know for a fact that Darrin and I would’ve been able to navigate our way back to the main highway a whole lot faster had we took a moment to stop and ask someone for directions.
Odds are good that someone you know has also navigated through the very change you’re currently experiencing. Seek them out. Tell them all about where you’ve been and where you’re hoping to go. Maybe they can help you along your way.
Roll Down Your Windows:
Even though Darrin and I were terribly lost on our road trip home, the views out my passenger side window were beautiful.
The dirt road was lined with wildflowers—pinks, yellows, and purples. There was an incredible amount of green everywhere we looked. Lush, tall trees had a way of looming above our car with a pride only Nature knows how to wear.
Change can be scary when you feel stuck in the unknown. But even in that period of “not knowing” there can be life and surprising beauty. So after you’ve loosened your grip and discovered a gratefulness for your story, roll down your windows. Seek out the beauty around you that, had you let your fears and anxieties rule your mind, you might have missed.
After I became a mom and struggled to determine what that meant, taking a moment to regain my sense of confidence (or “mom-fidence”) and appreciation for my new role was incredibly important.
The unknown that accompanies change can be a scary place, but it doesn’t have to be.
Stop For Snacks:
Change can sometimes take a lot longer than you expected. The road may twist and wind for long stretches of your journey. It could take months before a new job finally turns up, before you start feeling confident as a new mom, before you know where you and your family will be living…
So be kind to yourself along the way. Stop for snacks. Treat yourself to something that will make the trip easier. Buy a sugary, gas station slushy and a few king-sized chocolate bars. If the ride is going to be longer than you thought, you might as well make some time to enjoy parts of it in whatever way you can.
Just because change is inevitable doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes patience and perseverance and sometimes a lot of sugary chocolate bars to make it through stressful periods of change. Navigation can be tricky. You could feel lost for most of the trip.
But maybe remembering these little things—loosening your grip, remembering your story, talking with others, discovering the beauty around you, treating yourself—might make the journey a bit easier for each of us.