Moving on, one day at a time.
My creative juices just weren’t flowing during my newsletters in March to June, for which I apologize greatly to those who took the time to read them! The first 6 months of the year are somewhat of a blur, with significant periods away from home; and quite different challenges to the ones I thought I would experience. No one warned me that it takes about a year to transition fully into retirement (or a different phase of life). So where is life now, and what has this taught me? In other words, are my challenges ones that are common to others, and will my observations from them help you to move on?
I’ll use William Bridges’ theories on transition to show just how relevant my experience is to most of us. What has happened? The process of retiring from clinical practice, selling our family home, claiming pensions, and all the other sundry items that came to me in January 2021 arent for the faint hearted. The only mind picture that describes what happens when you do something like retire is to think of how it felt when you graduated from high school and moved to college/ or into a career. It is both terrifying and exhilarating! Too much of the literature out there talks of retirement as if death were just around the corner, and that we should prepare ourselves for it (estates, wills, reducing home size, etc). My experience has been far more basic than that. It doesnt bother me that I am now one year older, and getting more forgetful. My decisions have been about where to live and what to do with my life. I now have the time to do the things I need to – paint the house/ fix up the property, coach young people, hang out with friends, travel.
Bridges’ transition theories tell of change having an ending, beginning and transition. During the latter it is pretty common to feel disjointed, disappointed and depressed. With healthy transition comes new feelings eventually – excitement, acceptance, anticipation, etc. Once you have made the hard decisions, this new phase brings about the new beginning that you expected. I now catch myself thinking (and occasionally saying) that I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff! This new phase frees me from bitterness about the last phase, and challenges me to want to contribute in this new one.
So, the application of this message is the follows: are you stuck in the memories of an old phase, or you cannot get out of that phase mentally? You’ve moved along to a “new” phase in physical terms, but your mind still hasn’t moved into the new place! So many of us get stuck in a rut, and need to get kicked into a new way of thinking. That’s what it takes for new energy to come about! The signs of being stuck are the same as those that Bridges talks about – disappointment, feeling devalued, depression, disownment. COVID has paralyzed many of us.
May this new academic year be a time for new beginnings that are meaningful and make life worth living.
My best wishes, Peter Craighead