Retirement can leave you feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under you. When you're not going into work everyday, you may begin to think you're turning your back on everything you've learned—all the experience you've accumulated. With this comes a loss of professional identity and social status, and no clear sense of direction. You're in the middle of something—just not sure what it is. You're in limbo, and it doesn't feel good.
According to authors Richard Leider and Alan Webber, "Being in limbo is all about learning to cope with the in-between-times. We’re forced to live in the question What’s next? Limbo can become a form of resignation, a kind of prison sentence to accept the way things are, as the way things have to be. When you decide that limbo is an opportunity for self-exploration, you discover new energy and new possibilities."
The challenge is how to hang out in this in-between-time for a while without feeling overwhelmed by a loss of direction. We're entering the unknown and not sure when a sense of equilibrium will be reached. As a friend questioned, "How long will this turmoil last and what if it does not end or resolve in some way?"
As with any major life transitions, there are no easy quick-fix solutions. Marketers would have us believe otherwise. Companies understand the economic potential for addressing our needs—suggesting retirement communities with non-stop scheduled activities to keep us from experiencing "the middle." However, I think it's very important that we create our own solutions to move through this transition. There is much to learn about ourselves during this stage of life—perhaps the first time in a long time that we've had a sense of creating our future.
Robert Brument, author of Finding Yourself in Transition: Using Life's Changes for Spiritual Awakening, cautions us about rushing to create a new beginning so that we can alleviate the discomfort of the middle. "Sometimes we may attempt an external beginning before we are internally ready. We may feel uncomfortable in the Void [middle] and eager to 'get on with our life,' and through the power of our personal will acting alone, we may make something happen. What we've then created is not a New Beginning but a 'pseudobeginning.' A pseudobeginning is not living a new life but is simply living the old life in a new form."
From what I've learned about transitions, the middle is a rich source of self-discovery, exploration, and opportunity. Instead of focusing so much on getting through it, consider it a journey. As Brument suggests, "The transforming power of the transition process lies not in our arrival at a certain destination but in our experience of the process itself."
Copyright 2016 Patrice Jenkins. All rights reserved.