Changing Slowly, Creativity and energy of transition, Heightened sense of uselessness, Mistaken retirement for slothfulness, Retirement, The Neutral Zone, The Silly and the Serious of Retirement, Three Stages of Transition, Transitions, Willliam Bridges
I have worn sandals more often in the last three years than I have in the previous 30. This is not prescriptive; it’s just descriptive of something that has surprised me. I still get up early, clean up and shave every day (weekends included) as I had every day before I retired from my occupation, but I do all this at my pace and capacity.
Apparently stress has fallen off me – since former colleagues notice fewer wrinkles, or perhaps – an awakened attention to conversation, or just an easier-to-be-with-demeanour. Sure, I’ve aged… but I’ve got a little younger in the process.
I have time for people (especially my friends & family – and what fun with my grandchild!), time for projects (writing in particular), and behold: time for myself? Though some people still working at their jobs hesitate to stir me from what they think is my imagined slumber, or wonder if I have a golf-club permanently a-fixed to my hand, I am nevertheless as busy as I want to be… and don’t want to be any busier.
But then, I don’t want to be any less busy either. Though I no longer have an occupational identity, I continue to have a vocation (see Common Grace for the Common Good). I delight in being about my Father’s business, with as much joy and patience as I will allow to seep through the cracks of my life – in order to transform me from my natural disposition, my cultural conditioning, and my occupationally reinforced attention to efficiency and effectiveness. I am changing slowly, but I have time on my side (however diminishing this resource is).
The Three Stages of Transition:
“The first requirement is that people have to let go of the way that things — and, worse, the way that they themselves — used to be. As the folk-wisdom puts it, “You can’t steal second base with your foot on first.” You have to leave where you are, and many people have spent their whole lives standing on first base. It isn’t just a personal preference you are asking them to give up. You are asking them to let go of the way of engaging or accomplishing tasks that made them successful in the past. You are asking them to let go of what feels to them like their whole world of experience, their sense of identity, even “reality” itself.”
Beginning to Explore:
“The neutral zone is uncomfortable, so people are driven to get out of it. Some people try to rush ahead into some (often any) new situation, while others try to back-pedal and retreat into the past. Successful transition, however, requires people spend some time in the neutral zone. This time in the neutral zone is not wasted, for that is where the creativity and energy of transition are found and the real transformation takes place. It’s like Moses in the wilderness: it was there, not in the Promised Land, that Moses was given the Ten Commandments; and it was there, and not in The Promised Land, that his people were transformed from slaves to a strong and free people.”
“Some people fail to get through transition because they do not let go of the old ways and make an ending; others fail because they become frightened and confused by the neutral zone and don’t stay in it long enough for it to do its work on them. Some, however, do get through these first two phases of transition, but then freeze when they face the third phase, the new beginning. For that third phase requires people to begin behaving in a new way, and that can be disconcerting — it puts one’s sense of competence and value at risk.”
At what stage of silliness or transition are You?