by Tracie Nichols
What if, by holding our questions a little longer, we saw answers where we least expected them…” Victoria Kindred Keziah
As day transits to night, I’m wrestling with words for this article about transition, specifically about the possibilities found in times of transition. I’ve been resisting the urge to “power through” and reach the end. Holding my questions a little longer, looking for a bit of unexpected inspiration.
I notice that outside my window, low-angle sunlight flickers through sycamore leaves teased into movement by cooling daytime air. I’ve held my questions until I reached this transitional moment of the day. There are certain things - certain qualities - that can only exist in transitional zones like this late summer evening. Things like golden sunlight, rising breezes, and cricket song.
When we’re talking about transitions in our lives, the same principle holds. There are certain possibilities that only exist in the complex both-and state between problem and solution, ending and beginning, here and there.
Biologists call the transitional space between two distinct states of being an ecotone. In nature, these are places like a stand of shrubs between forest and field, or a reed bed between land and water. In our lives, these are the uncomfortable in-transition places between situations like being partnered and being single, or between one career and another.
Often we only notice ecotones in passing, if at all, our goal being to get out of the discomfort of between by moving quickly from here to there.
“Possibility only lives on the edge.” “Presence is the only way to walk the edge...” Margaret J. Wheatley
Translated from Greek, “ecotone” means “house of tension.” While tension can equate to unhelpful stress, it also means the productive, supportive kind of tension that our muscles exert to hold our bodies upright (without which we’d be floppy floor-dwellers), or the motivating tension of curiosity and anticipation.
To find the productive tension that opens us to possibility in our personal ecotones, we need to approach life transitions mindfully, bringing our full presence to the dance.
Then tension suspends us, holds us upright so we can notice possibilities being created by our here and there rubbing together sparking new ideas and opening paths we never would have seen had we only focused on reaching there.
The next time life tosses transition into your path, I invite you to bring your whole presence to the experience, be willing to surrender to healthy tension, and notice both what is and the unique potential of what could be.
Tracie Nichols, MA, is a Certified Career Services Provider with a Master’s degree in Human and Organizational Transformation and a passion for helping people explore their in-between places. She offers individual career coaching and strategy sessions, as well as classes helping people create a meaningful, enjoyable work life. Learn more about Tracie at tracienichols.com or connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-527-5457.