When lifequakes strike
I recently ran across a word I hadn’t seen before: lifequake. So, I looked up the definition to see what it meant and found this: “an event that suddenly changes your life – a car accident, being laid off, terrible illness or getting divorced – in the same dramatic way that an earthquake might destroy a building.” I looked back through my life and easily identified several personal lifequakes. And I’m reasonably sure you’ve experienced events that have disrupted your lives, too. Lifequakes can definitely transform your life. When we experience a lifequake, you often need to rewrite your story. Bruce Feiler’s excellent new book, “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age,” details how people handle these disruptions. “Everybody had a similar story. We all have these moments in our lives, according to Feiler.”
We all experience events that disrupt our lives. Still, only ten percent of these could be characterized as a lifequake that leads to a life transition. We are likely to experience three to five of these in a lifetime, with each transition lasting an average of five years. Feiler says about half (53%) of these are involuntary, for example, being diagnosed with a severe disease, getting fired or having your spouse be unfaithful. The other half (47%) are voluntary and include events like quitting your job, moving to a new place, starting a business or cheating on your spouse. Some lifequakes are positive, like getting married, having children or being cured of a serious disease, while others are negative. Lifequakes can be collective, such as an earthquake, a hurricane, 9/11 or the pandemic we’re currently experiencing, which will undoubtedly result in numerous life transitions and may cause “emotional concussions,” a subject I’ll cover in my next post.
Successful life transitions must be voluntary, Feiler says. It’s something you choose to do if it’s going to work. It will be scary in the beginning, messy in the middle and refreshing in the end, which is actually a new beginning. Any time you’re trying to say good-byes, get rid of old habits, create new habits and struggle with emotions, it’s going to be tough. You’ll have to deal with shame, sadness and fear, among other emotions. You’re going to feel lost at times. “Every great religion has a time in the wilderness, the desert or the forest that’s a part of it. Every great myth, fairy tale and story entails a period of getting lost and being concerned and afraid. You can’t discover a new land until you get lost from the old land,” according to Feiler.
Grief and loss
Unfortunately, many lifequakes are not asked for or wanted. These include losing a loved one, contracting a disease or experiencing a serious injury. These are events we have little control over, which can lead to depression and/or anxiety. It’s important to remember that grieving takes time and that you will feel better one day. In the meantime, practice self-care by reaching out to a trusted loved one or a mental health professional when you need help going through a major life transition. In the end, change is inevitable, so why not make the best of it? It can lead to new opportunities.
Coping with lifequakes
There are many ways to help you deal with your fears and find your way again. First of all, acknowledge that change is happening. Writing down your biggest fears can help, as can remembering that things could always be worse. Another great way to cope is to get busy doing something. Exercise and eating healthily also help. You can also focus on making a plan to help you get through a significant life shift. Another way is to give your brain a break every 15 minutes or so instead of keeping it in overdrive. When you’re focused all the time, you’re collecting bits and pieces of information. You need periods when you’re not focused to put these pieces together. See these events as great opportunities to reexamine your passion and purpose – to ponder what gives you meaning.