The Truth About Transition

In the last couple weeks I've had interesting comments and feedback from some of you, appreciating my honesty and transparency in this move.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

I don't mean to make any of you squirm. This is not a tell-all blog. There are certain subjects I just don't blog about. But my personal struggles and where I'm at emotionally are not taboo topics.

the view of the sunrise from our door

My desire is to simply "be real", especially since many of you have told us you are inspired by what you read here. And if that's the case you need to know the good, the bad and the ugly (there isn't too much ugly to be honest but there is struggle).

I'm sharing this now, while the move is still fresh and a few boxes are still stacked around my feet (literally under my desk) waiting to be sorted and unpacked.

I'm sharing this now, to look back and remember when the next transition hits. To remind myself I will get through it. 

I'm sharing this now, before I start blogging about how joyful I feel in the everyday blessings of downsized family living. Before I start bubbling over with how excited (and scared) I am to learn a new language and to live an adventure with our children.

That excitement, joy and everyday beauty is my reality. So is change and transition.

And here's the difficult truth about transition - I really don't like it.

Perhaps it is a cosmic joke then that I married an idea man. Someone who encourages me to dream. Someone who is willing to try new ideas. Someone who is not afraid of calculated risks (Damien's a visionary but he's also a Mr. Steady - for this I am SO grateful).

All of these actions - the dreaming, trying new ideas, taking risks - invite change into our lives.

Require change in our lives.

It's probably not a cosmic joke. I think God knew exactly what this stubborn, stuck-in-her-ways, routine loving, (recovering) perfectionist, high achieving girl needed in her life. Indeed I was just a girl when I met Damien and I've grown into adulthood with him by my side. What a blessing.

God knew my idea man needed a get-things-done woman as a partner. A good manager, someone you can trust with the details. God also knew I needed someone to help me dream big and move out of my comfort zones.

In the coming months I hope to write a bit more about personality. Understanding how people tick fascinates me. It's also very helpful in relationships, and homeschooling, to understand how we, and those around us, operate.

To get that "knowing me, knowing you" (understanding personality) started and to help explain my challenges with moving I'm going to tell you a few things about my personality. How I tick. Most of these traits make me an excellent home manager (my main gig). However, these very same traits make life "changing" events difficult for me.

  • I don't have patience for the process. Let's just cut to the chase and get done what we need to do. 
  • I have difficulty trusting and understanding what I haven't experienced first hand. I want to put my hands on it, physically sense a situation to understand it.
  • "We'll figure it out when we get there" makes me anxious. I want to know what to expect in advance.
  • I want to make things right. I strive to bring order to disorder.
  • I love structure, routine and predictability. When my physical environment is cluttered it affects me emotionally and mentally. I cannot "tune out" (without great difficulty) this kind of noise.
  • I feel a high level of responsibility for the well being (physical, emotional, spiritual) of those in my immediate circle.

Some of my better traits are that I am organized, efficient and responsible. I'm a bunch of other stuff, that could be perceived as difficult to live with (smile) but I'll get into those another day. Today I'll focus on the positives.

Here's the point:

The way I'm wired makes moving, and all the change that brings, very stressful. There are so many changes in this move - the smaller space, learning a new language, being in a brand new community and province - all of which is so different from what I'm used to.

The way I'm wired makes being sick and incapable of caring for my family emotionally difficult. I like to be responsible and "on top of it". Letting myself be sick and in some cases, not meeting everyone's needs as I attend to my own feels like failure (I know it's not, but I can be irrational when my emotional defenses are down).

The way I'm wired makes having boxes piled up around my ankles mentally draining. Even if only for a week or two. My keen ability to make order out of chaos helps our family achieve small space living. But I want life organized and I want it done yesterday.

When you put all three together the reality is that the past two weeks have been a hard go.

The only way I'm emotionally able to make a move like this is because my partner is almost a perfect counterpoint to me. We complement each other and working together, can accomplish our goals. It's a wonderful partnership and I feel so immeasurably blessed but you need to know something.

I struggle.

Not every day or even every week. My life is so blessed and when I take the time to write those blessings I am embarrassed for feeling self pity at my struggles.

But the truth remains that I struggle with transition and change. And in those very worst moments, which there were a few during the last two weeks, I am full of doubt, uncertainty and "can we just quit now?" I also cry a lot in that place.

Moving forward with life changing ideas when you're a routine loving person is hard work.

Character building work.

For me, character building work involves tearing down the walls I've built to protect and maintain order, opening up myself to the unknown (scary!). Evaluating ingrained habits and mindsets and accepting new ideas and ways of doing things.

Even if I hadn't gotten sick during the move I still would have struggled with the situation. And the actual move and settling in process is just one small piece of this whole new life we're building together as a family.

Can I just be done with transition and character building for a while?

the view of the sunset from our door

That's the truth about transition. It's hard.

But I honestly believe it's worth it. Easier to say now that I'm through the past two weeks, which were transition times ten. 

It's worth it to have Damien home with us. It's worth it for the opportunity to live in a different culture (indeed, Quebec is a different culture). It's worth it to be surrounded by natural beauty, right outside the door. It's worth it to have our daily living more in line with our family values. It's worth it to be in a position - financially, spiritually, and physically - where God can use us for the greater mission and the big story.

That's the truth about transition. It's worth it.

PS. Please don't worry about me and my struggles. Or worse yet, pity me. Trust me, there is nothing to pity (my cup runneth over) and I can't stand people worrying about me.

I'm emotionally, mentally and physically well. I'm also vulnerable, full of foibles, completely human, and face frequent character building struggles. And that's all I wanted you to know.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Lauren J

    Lauren J on Nov. 29, 2011, 3:35 p.m.

    Just found your blog and love your decision and constant effort to live a more natural life. We don't have kids but my husband, our two dogs and I moved out of our 1500 sq. ft home in August and into a 600 sq. ft barn loft where we will stay until April. At first it was difficult finding a place for everything but eventually we have come to absolutely love the smaller space. In fact we are a little nervous about moving back into a bigger space once our time here is up (my husband is going to be a lawyer for the air force). It's amazing just how little STUFF you asking need to live, and how refreshing it is to remove the clutter from your life and your mind. Good luck with the transition!


  • Michelle

    Michelle on Nov. 29, 2011, 3:51 p.m.

    I am a lot like you. Change is hard for me. I like to be steady, stable, secure. I feel that I could live anywhere as long as my husband and child are with me but like you it is the inbetween time that causes stress. Unlike you, I don't like to travel. I can't stand flying but I do it reluctantly. I dislike staying in hotels or other people's houses. I like to have my head on my pillow at night. People think that is silly but it is how I am. I don't like it much either but what can you do? I am glad you are past the worst of it and that you have a good man like Damien to walk this road with you.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 29, 2011, 5:51 p.m.

      Michelle, here's the funny thing - I don't like travel. I like being there. Being in new places and having new experiences. Especially meeting new people - love that! But the getting there part - like driving or flying - anything that requires patience - ack, don't like it at all.  Hotels - hate 'em. Homes, where I can brew a cup of tea and lay down my sleeping bag and mat - love 'em. Part of going places and doing new things for a routine person like me is learning how to take some of those routines with me wherever I go. Certain comforts.  For example my sleeping bag and pad make me feel "at home", so does drinking a cup of coffee in the morning (I even have a little titanium french press that can go anywhere), taking a writing journal wherever I go, and other things.  I'm learning these things about myself and creating little routines and comfort "crutches", if you will, because I'm married to an adventure loving man. He wants to do long hikes and go places all over the world. So do I, want to do those things because I like having different experiences and I LOVE being with my husband. But I know the only way I can really open up to that is if I can find some sense of normal in that also.  I'm working on it. In the transitions where I can't find normal is when I flounder, big time. 


  • Renee

    Renee on Nov. 29, 2011, 4:33 p.m.

    You know what, I love that you shared this. Your blog is very real, and you offer that to your readers, that is what I want. A real family, facing real challenges and sharing the realness of it all. Blogs that present everything as light and fluffy.....and perfect just frustrate me. I definately do not have as strong a personality as you, however I am very much structured and organized and love to be in charge. This being said I'm pretty sure I could never do what you and your family have done. Do I admire it? Hell yes. Would I love to present such opportunities to my children? Hell yes. But I'm too chicken to give up the full time job, and the predictability of a steady paycheque, the security of what I know to take on the wings of adventure. Good for you. Be proud of yourself. Most will only dream of what you are providing for your family. With a few melt downs inbetween, your going to have a great adventure. I'll be reading about it at my work chicken to make any grand changes.


  • Michelle Canfield

    Michelle Canfield on Nov. 29, 2011, 4:52 p.m.

    Soooo true, I always find it fascinating to notice in myself struggle with change, especially when the change was something I consciously chose to do to better align with my future vision and dreams. It seems maybe we are all somewhat hard-wired to resist change, and it's a bit of a battle between our unconscious comfort zones and conscious decisions to move in a new direction.

    Sometimes I notice that comfort zone side of me really trying to make me miserable with the newness. I almost have to tell that side of myself, ok, be miserable, but this is the direction we're going and we're sticking with it. I think when it's something that changes your core identity there is an especially strong inertia - more so than if you're just making a minor lifestyle adjustment, like deciding to eat more carrots or exercise more.

    But kudos to you for really going for it- you could have made this a more gradual transition over ten or twenty years, but then, it would have taken you ten or twenty years! :-) Sometimes it's better to "rip the band-aid off quick", so to speak. The transition period feels much more awkward, but it enables you to get to the end goal much faster.


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 29, 2011, 5:44 p.m.

      Michelle, I love what you share here. I can relate and need to learn that self talk, "ok gotta be in control girl, you're not going to like this but we're doing it anyway. Tough noogies. You'll survive."


  • Ellen S.

    Ellen S. on Nov. 29, 2011, 5:32 p.m.

    That sunrise and sunset? Spectacular. I'm not surprised to discover that I have a lot of the same personality traits (qwurks?). I think it's why I enjoy your blog so much.


  • Aaron

    Aaron on Nov. 29, 2011, 8:59 p.m.

    I find change easy, but I share with you the need to organize. So I move swiftly into a new space and immediately begin to order it. I get home from long trips and no matter what time it is, no matter how exhausted I am, I can't go to bed until I unpack and get everything put away. This drives my wife a bit nuts, but then her ability to live with piles and messes drives me nuts, so at least we're carpooling.


  • Matthew

    Matthew on Nov. 30, 2011, 12:18 a.m.

    You might say they are negatives, but I don't think so. You don't like transition, partially because it involves doing things you've never done before. Well, now you've done them, so next time it will be a little easier.

    You have moved (more than once, I know) and know that it is not only possible but also will land you in a better situation than you were previously. So the next time, you will have one more experience to look back on and draw from.

    You're learning a new language, a fairly complicated skill. You might not learn another, but if you do then you can look back and say "I can do that" based on experience. Or you can focus on learning the languages of whatever new skill you will be learning in the future. Here's an example that you have already completed, at least to some extent: hiking and backpacking have a distinct language that you've learned enough to be comfortable in using.

    Thank you so much for sharing, you have such a wonderful way with words!


  • Nicole

    Nicole on Nov. 30, 2011, 3:38 a.m.

    When I read aloud to my husband the 6 bullets you wrote about yourself, he thought I wrote them about myself! You and I are so much alike, no wonder I love your Blog! I think I found you from Simple Mom a few months ago, and reading about your and your family has truly inspired life changes in our family. God is using your passions, and willingness to share online, to inspire others! Thank you!


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Nov. 30, 2011, 3:40 a.m.

    Wow! I could have written this post myself! We arrived in Costa Rica a week ago and even if it is fun and exciting, I was a ball of stress. I am just like you on many levels... It is great to read this post given what I am going through right now...


    • renee

      renee on Nov. 30, 2011, 11:34 a.m.

      Really? That is so nice to know Catherine because I have thought "hum, how is Catherine handling their new situation". And assumed you were naturally more gifted with change than I am!


  • Sandra Livingston

    Sandra Livingston on Nov. 30, 2011, 3:47 a.m.

    Are we not such creatures of habit that we often need to control every aspect of our lives? Yes, pick me too, I am guilty of this. Ultimately God has blessed you with this journey. You know that. Ultimately we need to trust in Him. You know that too! It is so darn hard though when we can't find our missing sock and our fav pen, mug, tea, or computer paper is all out of reach. So darn hard when we have no energy to complete the mundane tasks that I should be doing gratefully because I have clothes and water and lights to do the laundry and the dishes. And I am called to do it while I Glorify and Give thanks to God. So, so hard. I get it. I am in the water struggling to stay afloat. I have to remember I really love to swim. I am not one to advise, just to admire and I get all your going through. It's OK to be in the valley, it's OK to look around and say "What have I done!". The strength we gain from change and the independence we build will make it easier to accept this "new normal". I love to hear your honesty. You are doing a great job. The rest of us are just waiting for you to carve through the jungle for us! I look into my children's faces and try hard to find the reasons for all of this!


  • Cari

    Cari on Nov. 30, 2011, 6:46 a.m.

    Again, a gift.

    Thank you for your candidness - your insight into yourself and your husband. While you didn't touch on this, I can imagine that each of your kids bring their own unique selves to this time of transition as well (a further dynamic in the already shifting sand).

    Like so many of your other readers, it seems we have a bit in common. I love order and stability and married a dreamer. Over the past 15 years I've come to see the gift in this; truly I can't imagine my life apart from him (just as he was designed).

    You're gracious to share while the feelings are still fresh. Thanks for doing so.

    I think I recall that you've read Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It strikes me that you are in the process of writing a new story - at least a new chapter in your story.

    On the top of page 105 Miller points out that, "The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen." You have indeed jumped in! What a story it will be.



    • renee

      renee on Nov. 30, 2011, 11:40 a.m.

      Oh my Cari, you are so right about the other family members in our home and what they are going through also. I had originally included a part in this post, then edited it out about transition heaped on transition as Celine is slowing leaving childhood for young adulthood and ack! it is so hard on me. This is a new dance, one I am not used to. And I am so thankful that Damien is home because man, do we need him during these years.  I LOVED donald Miller's book. I read it this summer and it put words to so much of what Damien and I want to do with our lives. To live a good story. I plan to write about how that book impacted me, when I talk a bit more about my personal mission etc... (lots in the queue as always). I wrote that very quote down in my journal and don't I I know it Hon!


  • Maricris - The Woodlands, TX

    Maricris - The Woodlands, TX on Nov. 30, 2011, 2:22 p.m.

    Hello Renee & family,

    Every words in this recent entry just truly resonated in my heart. So honest and so helpful to me as my family and I are still in employment transition. So many unknowns at this point, but God is good all the time!

    Renee, you are an inspiration! That's a precious gift to share to the world.

    Thanks, Maricris/The Woodlands, TX


  • Karen

    Karen on Nov. 30, 2011, 3:59 p.m.

    Your transparency always inspires me. If your Mom can't worry about you, who will?? Honestly though, when it comes to you and your brother (and families) I'm always shifting back and forth between that position - and prayer. Hugs.


  • Pamela

    Pamela on Nov. 30, 2011, 5:39 p.m.

    I was delighted to discover your blog this morning. Your caring and honest writing and your beautiful photos are a gift to anyone who is seeking balance in a world that often seems out of balance. I have just completed a memoir -- "TWO IN THE MIDDLE: Living, Loving & Learning in Middle School & Middle Age" about our two-year home school adventure during our daughter's 7th and 8th grade years ("skipping middle school" is what we called it): I look forward to following your lovely journey.


  • Pam

    Pam on Nov. 30, 2011, 11:31 p.m.

    Gorgeous. I so appreciate your effort in sharing this. I just started homeschooling this year and while I know it is the right path for my family, I have really struggled transitioning-but at the same time I have seen so much beauty and good. Struggle is good. It is when God teaches us and opens our hearts to receive more blessings and more beauty.


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