M. Linda Graham
Hello, Day: Training for Transitions
“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” -John Allen Paulos
November is a particularly poignant month for me. Over the years, I’ve grieved the loss of too many friends to suicide. It has not escaped my notice that they all – every one – committed suicide as the sun’s rays waned in the fall – most of them choosing to leave in November. As the month progresses, I note their death dates and sigh, still struggling to reconcile with unanswerable loss. November is a month when the tender ache of change, uncertainty and transition seems particularly keen.
Uncertainty is as certain as the rising and the setting sun that frame the unpredictable events of a day. We are all threatened by uncertainty. As a species, we survived in part because we made certain that there was something on the table for dinner. But certainty is an illusion. Whether the dog got to the turkey on the table first or a serious emergency threw the day into fearsome disarray, training in how to improvise transitions has helped me through challenging times of uncertainty.
We cannot hold onto time as it passes. The ability to gracefully transition when pressed from ‘here’ to ‘there’ is a skill. There is an old expression: “99% of dancing is about the transitions.” Whether improvised or choreographed, every footfall, every beat, every change of focus, is its own conclusion and preparation. To transition well requires moving with dynamic alignment and balance, coordinated with rhythm, breath, sensitivity, grace, skill, strength, flexibility, attention to one’s environment, and the ability to decide where to go next even as one gives all to the moment. One must be creative, adaptable, and resourceful. Dancers learn to literally think on their feet, training to be in the present even as choices are made for the next movement.
The concept, value and practice of transitions is one of many parallels between dancing and horseback riding. But horses [and dogs] bring a critical additional layer to "training for uncertainty." They help us get out of our own way. Ego and a preoccupation with the past and/or future tends to short circuit the human ability to be present. Especially when traversing the tricky terrain of transitions, we procrastinate with distractions, focusing on inevitable errors, feelings of inadequacy and/or shame instead of moving forward. This is where non-human friendlies can help: horses and dogs have expectations that live only in this moment. Training with horses and dogs can help banish diversions of self-judgement. What has passed is past. No wallowing allowed.
As the gales of November blow, temperatures drop, days darken and the transition from fall to winter owns the skies, memories of friends lost stir a deep despair. Remember the past, but don’t live in the past. I look at the morning sky [focus, rhythm, balance, grace] , marvel at the beauty and terror of change, and embrace the transition. Hello, Day. I’m trained for you.