In those days, we had to wait 6 weeks for our phone connection, so I had to walk 3 blocks to the nearest pay phone to call the AT&T operator to make my once a week call to my family at $2 a minute. Sometimes I couldn’t reach the line, and would have to wait till the next day or so to try again. I had more things to share than I could fit into the 15 minute call I could afford to make. We wouldn’t get our household goods for 4 months, so we had to survive on lending closet dishes for the time being. After 3 weeks, I got so stir crazy at home, I broke down and bought a $2 kiddie water color paint set and started my artwork on brown paper bags from the commissary.
Though I lived in a building with 26 other military families, it was hard to make friends as they kept to themselves mostly, or others were the gossipy types I wouldn’t want to associate with. I knew it would be temporary and I would adjust, and fit in. I still missed my old friends and I knew I couldn’t get around that.
The next summer, ten months after I had arrived, my sister came to visit. Something radically happened in that time and the preceding 8 months I had lived in Georgia with my soldier husband. I had changed. I didn’t notice it until I saw my sister’s reactions to my new behavior. Somehow, with the absence of almost everyone I knew, the layers of my social behavior had begun to peel off. The loneliness, frustration and self-consciousness had allowed me to do some inner soul search and amazingly, personal growth. I was starting to find my inner self. Without anyone to influence my behavior, I had developed into being the real me and I guess I started to like myself. I’m not sure how my sister felt, but I wasn’t sure if it mattered. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I had discovered this and started to understand how it works.
As a life coach, I’m learning that this happens to everyone in a different way; and there is no way to really learn it except by experience. However, being aware of it, and watching ourselves develop is a great tool to ease the transition. My ultimate mentor and Life Coach pioneer, Martha Beck, calls it the Square 1 transition. When a major life change happens with us, our identity of the previous life is lost, and we never fully go back to the person we were before. The main reason is once we go through the transition, what we learned from the experience and the personal growth enables us to become a much different person, and hopefully, an improved one. Recognizing this is a major benefit, as we learn that it’s something that we can’t change, and find the tools to grow. Dr. Beck emphasizes that the Square 1 phase is a limbo time, and it takes some time to adjust. We need to allow ourselves to be, if that means crawling into a cocoon of warm snugly blankets sipping tea for a week.
I went through all this over 20 years ago, while Dr. Beck was still writing her dissertation. Had her books been around then, perhaps I would have gone through this square much more smoothly, plus the more trying times which would come later. Who knows?
What I do know that through all of it, I grew; and once we all find the tools to grow from an experience, the transformation is amazing.