Transitions to retirement or anything new 2
William Bridges wrote a very personal account of his own transition during and after his wife’s battle with, and eventual death from, breast cancer. The Way of Transition is the book. In the book, Bridges helps us to understand transition as so much more than simply a change from one state to another. He explains that transition has three parts, only one of which is the liminal space. The three parts, which Bridges says overlap rather than occur sequentially, are:
1. Making an Ending
This involves more than just leaving your job, or waving bye to the kids as they move out of your house. A good ending requires that you let go not only of what you used to do but of who you used to be. For example, I retired and then immediately start working as a substitute teacher, my rationale was that I still wanted to teach and I thought a bit of extra money and an opportunity to continue to work with colleagues and students, would be helpful. But the real reason was that I still identified myself as a teacher. It took me another 8 years before I realized that I needed to end my role as a teacher and find a new role. Without an ending, there is no new beginning and no possibility of transition.
2. Inhabiting the Neutral Zone
Danaan Pary describes it as letting go of one trapeze bar and grabbing the next one. “But every once in a while, as I'm merrily (or even not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It's empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts, I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar and move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to let go of my old bar completely before I grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and, for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.”
William Bridges speaks of this time, as a time of chaos, as “that state of pure energy that is experienced either as a jumble or a time of empty nothingness [that] makes us feel out of control and a little crazy.”
3. Making a New Beginning
When beginnings come after a definite ending, and time hanging out in the liminal space, those beginnings have great power. Bridges assure us that they are “marked by a release of new energy in a new direction–they are the expression of a new identity.”
Every new beginning confirms that the ending we experienced was real. We will feel a sense of the original loss. And we may worry that this won’t be the right new beginning for us, or that we might fail.
How to Survive and Thrive in a Liminal Space
Liminal Spaces requires that we be willing to live with the ambiguity of not knowing what’s next. That’s an incredibly uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking place for many of us.
While waiting is the primary task of the neutral zone, there are a few things you can do while you wait.
· Schedule a new experience at least once a week. Ideas could be everything from wandering through a toy store to taking a guided walking tour of your own town.
· Pay attention to meaningful coincidences, or what Carl Jung referred to as synchronicity. They often serve as arrows pointing the way to your next step.
· Access your creativity in whatever form works for you. You might plant a garden, paint a picture, or write a poem. Creative acts are both soothing and supportive of self-understanding.
· Meditate. Meditation is enormously helpful in managing anxiety and getting us used to wait peacefully.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell