Remember Norman Lear, producer of All in The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and many other TV shows we all watched and loved in the ‘70’s? Well, Mr. Lear is now a lively and engaged 93-year-old! I recently heard him on one of the weekend NPR shows and he had some really great words of wisdom about life and, as I see it, transition.
The show host, Peter Sagal, asked him, “So do you have any tips for those of us who would like to arrive at 93 as spry and as successful and happy as you are?”
His answer? “Two simple words, maybe as simple as any two words in the English language: ‘Over’ and ‘Next.’ And we don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over, and we are on to next. And if there was to be a hammock in the middle, between over and next, that would be what is meant by living in the moment. I live in the moment.”
While I’m not quite sure that life transitions are as simple as “when it’s over, it’s over,” I do see the beauty in the analogy of hammock of the present moment. Transition is, indeed, like this hammock he describes. And, like most hammocks I’ve encountered, it’s not as comfortable as it looks!
According to William Bridges, renowned author and consultant about the process of change, positive transition really involves three distinct phases:
- The ending
- The “neutral zone”
- The new beginning
This “neutral zone” (or hammock), for those of us looking at ending our primary full-time work careers can be a scary (and exciting) place to be – full of unknowns, fears, opportunities and pitfalls. And, as Mr. Lear so wisely stated, it’s the place for staying in the moment, staying present to ourselves and learning what we have to learn…before venturing off into our new beginning. Too many of us jump out of the unknown of the neutral zone too quickly, before we mine the wisdom and ideas available to us, if we just stay present.
This work is challenging enough for a single individual and gets even more so when couples are in transition. Why? Well, each of us handles change in different ways. Some of us take our time completing our endings, while others zip right through. Some of us have a clear picture of our new beginning, while others have no idea about where they are headed. And, more often than not, two partners in the same relationship may have very different ideas about what that new beginning will look like.
So, like most things that show up in our closest relationships, it’s up to us to both attend to our own needs as we contemplate (or even execute) our “endings” and move into the hammock of neutrality – and – to check in with our partner about his or her experience. And, we’ve got to talk about it! What do we want to do? Where do we want to live? How will we spend our time? These questions, as fun and exciting as they are, can also lead to conflict and the recognition of our differences. Navigating those is part of the work in a hammock built for two!
So, join me as we work through these discussions. I’m hosting a fun, interactive workshop for SVPAZ Partners and friends on Thursday, Nov. 10 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Register.
A SVPAZ Partner since October, 2013, Georgianna Marie is a professional transition coach and organizational consultant. Her work focuses on leveraging the talent, expertise, passion and purpose of those who are ready to end traditional full-time work and move into a life of greater freedom, meaning and significance.