Tag: neutral zone

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Moving and that irritating neutral zone

In my last blog post, I wrote about being in transition – how I have often used it as an excuse to avoid making decisions and moving on with my life. Given that there will always be some aspect of our life that is temporary or uncertain, I argued, we should not use transition as a pretext for putting life on hold and staying in a “neutral zone” forever. Even though it feels like I wrote it yesterday, that post was six months ago. That’s how long it took me to emerge from the neutral zone of my latest move.
Moving is as transitional as it gets. The hardest part about moving, for me, is not the work involved in packing and unpacking our whole existence, with all the associated crises and catastrophes, big and small. My biggest challenge is making it through that nerve-wracking phase of constantly searching for stuff. You know, the weeks (or months) after you have moved into a new place, when you cannot find anything – or rather, you can find things, but not the things you need and definitely not when you need them. The time it takes for you to get used to where everything belongs, including yourself, that’s the neutral zone between leaving one home and creating another.
Moves sometimes are like black holes that make our lives, as we know them, disappear – thankfully not forever. That irritating searching phase is only one way in which that happens. How do people deal with that? Is there a way to shorten the neutral zone and not feel like the move is taking over our existence, forcing us to put everything on hold? I have been thinking a lot about these questions because for the past six months, I have
missed doing things that I love – including writing. Creating a new home, even with existing “material,” is exciting and inspiring; and it is all consuming. Everything else tends to be relegated to second, third, fourth place, joining a long list of things one will do “when settled.” But that takes a very long time. Half a year is a very long time to put everything on hold.
Every move has been a learning experience and
this one has taught me that it’s important not to fully immerse, thinking that it will speed up the process. It’s worth more to allow myself to keep doing what I am passionate about – even if it is in small installments; to find the time and space to engage with what energizes and motivates me; to not have my life on hold, even if only for a few minutes every day. Remaining connected to the  part of me that functions and creates outside the move gives me the strength and inspiration to put together the perfect home. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
I’d love to know – does a move take over your life and how do you cope with that?

State of transition

I’m in that mode again. You know, the one where you avoid doing any kind of long-term planning; where you don’t book dates, make commitments or take decisions – big or small; where basically you don’t get much (of substance) done. I’m in the mode where you tell people –and yourself – ‘I can’t deal with this now, it will have to wait for after…’

I’m waiting. I’m in transition. I don’t have time to live.

This behaviour would be perfectly understandable and even deserve a bit of indulgence – given that we are about to move house again – if transition had not been an almost permanent feature of my life for the last two decades. Whether it was an international move, a degree to finish, a new job, a new home or a new child, some sort of transition was always in the air. And, for a while, that made me hold back – from decisions, commitments, but also, essentially, from life. Being ‘in transition’ served as an excuse for not investing in things – whether these were ‘grownup’ furniture, a family home, a city, a country or a friendship. Transition and temporariness were present at the back of my mind every time I had to make a choice that would imply a longer-term investment in something; settling down. So I didn’t. For a while.

There is a bestselling book on transitions by William Bridges, where the author describes the three stages that, he claims, are part of every transition: an ending, a ‘neutral zone,’ and a new beginning. When I read this, the middle stage felt the most familiar. It’s where I had been spending most of my time: in a ‘neutral zone,’ being neither here nor there (but definitely not in the present), not necessarily benefiting from the reflection, reorientation and renewal that was promised to lead me to a new beginning. As soon as a transition was made and I could theoretically move on with my life, I would already see the next one coming.
I have always been intrigued by the different ways people approach transitions. Not so much by those that, like in my case, involve hiding in a neutral no-man’s-land for a while, until you are comfortable enough to come out of your shell and invest (by which point it may be time to move to the next transition); but by the other extreme, where you throw yourself head-on into the new and unfamiliar – place, home, people – and fully embrace it. Where you immerse yourself, not taking time horizons into account. I wonder what it is that makes the difference. Is it a particular personality trait? Is it special childhood experiences and upbringing? Is it the strength of character to deal with the consequences of immersion – because the deeper you set your roots, the more profound the pain of your (predictable) uprooting? Do you have to go ‘all out’ one way or another, or is there a middle way? I’m still looking for the answers.
In the meantime, at some point I recognised that, if past is any guide, I am always going to be in some sort of transition or another, with respect to some aspect of my life. So there is no point in waiting for the ‘after.’ Living in transition – my normal state – shouldn’t be an excuse for avoiding life. That neutral zone, the in-between place where I was (granted, very comfortably) frozen into inaction, is no place to live. Life is short and I still have a lot of items on my bucket list.
How are you when you’re in transition?