Learning to “Let it be”

As I began moving from full-time, compensated employment to something else I realized I needed to refresh myself on managing through change. Retirement is a major life transition, probably one of the biggest in my life. As I read through the retirement books & blogs, many discussed how the ending of a career can cause a shock to the system or even be the start of major depression. Kinda scary.

So I went back into my Corporate training looking for information to help myself manage through the change to a better place than depression.  Change management training reminded me: transitions have 3 key phases and transition takes time.

I am also learning a new meaning of time! I have discovered:
–  It takes time to establish a new life rhythm.  I never realized how much time work took – not only physically getting there and being there, but the mental space that it took as I mulled over issues and problems seemingly 24/7.  That is a lot of time to fill.  I am adjusting to more time in the house, more together time with my husband, and more alone time.
– It takes time to sort thru and define what could be a passion area. But my nature is a planner, so I need to plan and do, not just think and understand. So it has been a struggle to not just get busy for the sake of being busy.  I am learning to balance my to-do list nature with allowing time for reflection, spontaneity and serendipity.

So, the 3 phases of transition:

Phase 1 is “let it go”.   (Yes, even without kids, I’ve listened to the Frozen anthem many a time.)  This first stage of transition is time to say good-bye to the past and acknowledge it has ended. Thinking about work/career and identify, what needs were being met that might not be met in the future. What losses will need to be replaced?  Think through affiliation, routine, identity and accomplishment.  For me, the loss of daily connections to people was a big need that needed to be replaced, and quickly. Identity was also something I would need to think about. How was I going to answer the infamous question “what do you do?” without saying “I’m retired”, which says nothing really. Letting it go can also include acknowledging feelings of anger, betrayal or fear, especially if this transition was not as you planned. My husband was dealing with some of these. (Did I mention he retired on same timing as me? More on that in a future blog!)

Phase 2 is “let it be”.   Transitions experts agree, transitions have a period of low energy, a feeling of limbo.  This is the time to mull over the change occurring…time to just “let it be.”  It helped me to think of this time as an incubation period, a fertile time to think and be creative, or the cocoon that allows the butterfly to emerge. This phase has felt long for me as I am taking the time to contemplate what comes next and am exploring some options to discover what might work for me. Being in this phase has often felt like treading water versus moving forward, especially as I’ve been working through the confusion as to what to label myself and the frustration in not knowing what’s next. But, I listened to others who have transitioned into retirement and strongly advised me to not rush through this phase just for the sake of doing something! I am still taking little steps and not quite ready to run into new beginnings.

Phase 3 is “let it begin”.  This is new beginnings.  This is the phase I am looking forward to – a state of high energy to take acton, be in new situations, take on new endeavors, make commitments to new ways of living, and fully adopting new habits and activities. Yes, I know for me it might take me another year to fully reach this stage.  And that is OK!

It is OK to take the time and learn to live in the “let it be”.

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8 thoughts on “Learning to “Let it be”

  1. I just found your blog and find it chocked full of insightful and relevant information. I started my blog to share my “retired in a work world” experiences. The blog and I continue to evolve. I look forward to more of your posts and your “transition” experiences.

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  2. My husband retired 18 months before I did. He established his new life pattern and I was still working. It felt like he had a new life and a lot of the time it didn’t include me. When you are both working, you take it for granted that you have to go separate ways throughout the day. Now I am retired (1 month) and figuring out where our lives intersect and where we still need to have our independence. It’s a journey!

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  3. Great post. Lots to think about. And applies to all transitions, not just retirement. I’m in career transition and it all applies! Wise words! Looking forward to more!

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  4. This really got me thinking about a similar transition under way in my life — the empty nest. Now that one son is married and the other has graduated from school and starts his “big boy” job in a new city four hours away, I’m struggling with my own identity. I’ve spent the last 25 years being somebody’s mom. And while I’ll always be a mom, it’s very different parenting adults. Thanks so much for sharing this. I need to reflect on how these three stages apply to my own life.

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    1. Bonnie – so great to hear from you! And yes, I think empty nest is a similar challenge, as I have some friends dealing with similar loss of identity, loss of connections (all their connections were their kids friends moms!), and suddenly lots of free time (no longer taxi driver, maid and cook as a second job). I am hoping to share some of the tools I learned thru this blog on how to make the transition (how to identify new identity, new friends, new activities). Might be some you can reapply. (Congrats on successfully launching your kids, too!)

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  5. My husband retired two years before I did and he warned me that the everyday social connections we have at work – the ones we hardly notice when we are there – would be what I would miss the most. And, he was right. Fortunately, many of our neighbors are also retired (we don’t live in a retirement community – it just happened that way) so we socialize with them a lot. I do feel, though, that I need to branch but beyond our neighbors and expand our social circle. Volunteer opportunities, clubs, exercise groups, etc. There is a lot to do and discover out there!

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    1. You are very lucky in having neighbors is similar circumstances. Most of our friends and neighbors are still working. Branching out is something I have started to do and it is tough. But I keep trying.

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