The Kenwood Press
: 09/15/2013

Surviving Transition

Donna Colfer

I had just hung up the phone after a conversation with Janice, one of my dearest friends from high school. We hadn't talked for years, and spent two hours catching up. I was trying to decide whether to fly back to Chicago to attend my 40th high school reunion and wanted to know if she was planning to go. As we talked, I could hear apprehension in her voice, and could sense she wasn't going. Janice started to explain how complicated her life had become.


Janice still lives in the Chicago area and has been married to her husband Roy for 37 years. They met when they were 15. Roy has worked in the same job for the state for 45 years. Together they raised two sons, now grown with their own families. A few years ago, Roy was diagnosed with chronic depression and their marriage has been slowly deteriorating. He attempted suicide several times, leaving Janice emotionally drained and depleted. Janice works full time for a catering company and is exhausted by the time she comes home, not only from work but from what she might come home to.


Janice continued: her mom passed away in July, and she needed to move her father to assisted living. When she asked her two siblings for help with the move, they had reasons why they couldn't be involved. Not a complete surprise, as they weren't close. At this point, Janice was so overwhelmed with the weight of her emotional and financial responsibilities that she finally decided to take action. She started taking care of herself by setting boundaries and simplifying her life.


I was so impressed as she told me her plans to let go and move forward. First, she asked for help. She was seeing a therapist who helped with her marriage and her relationship with her siblings. She decided instead of being angry with her siblings, she would take a different approach. She would handle her father's needs to the best of her abilities as if she was the only child in the family. She "released" her siblings. Although she would have liked a different outcome, she did this with forgiveness because she knew she couldn't change their behavior, only her own.


Next, she planned to downsize her lifestyle by selling their home. She was going to sell or give away what they no longer needed or used, including furniture that filled their two-story home. She knew as she and Roy aged, the stairs would become a problem and they no longer needed the square footage. They could move to a smaller home with less maintenance and lower property taxes. From there she would reevaluate her marriage and take the necessary steps to keep her sanity.


Janice sounded decisive and intentional about her plans. She had gone through a lot in recent years but at the same time received help to set goals to improve her life. She shared, "I have so much gratitude for what IS working in my life... and I've forgiven so much." She asked me, "What do you think about forgiveness?" I replied, "I think forgiveness is the cornerstone to our happiness and I believe we need to start with ourselves. Forgiving ourselves for what we think we didn't do right, then forgiving those we hold grudges against. This can take a day or it can take years as you shed different layers."


Even though Janice had a plan, I knew she was fearful. These changes threw her into one of the biggest transitions of her life emotionally, physically, and financially. She faced making decisions about calculating her father's budget and his future; the sale of her home and purchase of another; reevaluating her marriage. She did her research, asked for professional help (therapist, attorney, realtor), while consciously maintaining gratitude and a forgiving heart. That's a true Warrior/Magician money type at work.


At the end of our conversation I had made a decision, too. I wasn't going to make the trip to Chicago for my reunion. I mainly wanted to reconnect with Janice, and we accomplished that right away! Our two-hour conversation deepened our relationship, and that was priceless. Not something easily achieved at a Holiday Inn dinner with dozens of other people.


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