Do you ever think to yourself that life, your life, is flying by? Weren’t we just looking forward to autumn and somehow it’s now winter (in the northern hemisphere, vice versa for the southern)? Believe it or not, just yesterday I was a single mother, full-time elementary school librarian with a host of part-time jobs trying to keep my head above water and my two daughters in potato chips, prom dresses and Diet Pepsi. Now I am a retired wife and grandmother with a big, empty house.
I started blogging about 4 years ago to fill the emptiness that had become my life after retiring rather unexpectedly from a job I had loved for 25 years. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with the free time I had so much of all of a sudden. No books to shelve, no classes to teach, no children to hug. And at home, similar nothingness in many areas.
It has taken months of adjustment to get where I am today.
Wherever that is.
Somewhat adjusted to what has been a series of life-altering transitions. Learning to embrace this new chapter. And even thriving most days! Today, I thought I would share with you what I have learned along my way.
In my journey to transition from the world of work to retirement (and now back to occasionally working part-time), I realized that there are steps to accepting change, just as there are similar steps to grieving. In my research, I’ve found references to a 5-step model for accepting change and a 7-step model for working through change. Gavin Webber’s “Seven Stages of Change” resonated with me. Read more about them in his post, here.
I kind of condensed Webber’s seven stages into four of my own. These are the steps I moved through while working toward being more contented with this new chapter in my life called retirement.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
First, allow yourself to feel whatever your are feeling. Not to say wallow in a bed of self-pity forever but if you are sad or angry, that’s ok. In a Psychology Today article entitled “Keys to Handling Life’s Transitions“, author Robert Taibbi explains:
Expect to feel depressed and anxious. Whenever we move forward we leave something behind, and this creates a psychological state of grief, however small. And if the change is unexpected and unwanted…the shock and depression are greater. [source]
Acknowledge your feelings, accept them and then move on. Begin to think positively, approach this transition as an opportunity to rediscover and redefine yourself, embrace new habits toward creating a brighter future.
Allow time for reflection. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with not denying the feelings you are having but perhaps allows you to begin to move into accepting this change or transition. In everything I have read, there has been something said to the effect of when one door closes, another one opens.
We have all been through the process of transition before in some fashion or form. Reexamine how you have managed change in the past. Take time to think about how you are feeling – journal, talk to a trusted friend or counselor. Identify where you are going, set goals, and plan your next steps with purpose.
Have a realistic time-frame for adjusting to transitions. Rome wasn’t built in a day. There may be days where you feel paralyzed. In limbo. You’ve let go of the old but haven’t fully embraced the new. This is a great time to find a mentor, make a new friend. Talk with someone who has (recently) experienced a similar transition. Attend a meetup for new mothers. Find a divorce support group. Join a newlywed or young marrieds group at church. Keep in touch with family and friends. Ask for advice in handling the recent change in your life. Live in the present and take one day at a time.
And lastly, something that has helped me as much as anything…
Shift Your Focus
Shift your focus from concentrating only on yourself to helping others in need. I think this kind of goes along with climbing out of that bed of self-pity or shutting down the pity-party.
In an article entitled, “How to Make the Most of Your Life Transitions” in the Huffington Post, Dr. Shannon Kolakowski suggests:
One way to shift your focus is to look at others who may need your help. If you’re at work, it may be a coworker who you notice is having a bad day. If you’re in a prenatal yoga class, reach out to another mom-to-be that seems like she is having a hard time. Making an effort to support others helps you remember that everyone struggles at times, and that human connection can be a powerful aid in helping get through it. [source]
My first year of retirement, I found great healing, solace and a renewed sense of purpose by volunteering at both the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center and at Assistance League of El Paso. But your shift in focus can be something less structured or routine. Reaching out to help another is often even more helpful to ourselves.
Author Robert Taibbi from the Psychology Today article summarizes handling life-changes this way:
Transitions are those unique times when we toss off the old but have not yet stepped into the new. While the circumstances are always different, the skills and attitudes needed to successfully move ahead are always the same, namely being positive, patient, and proactive.
A new journey awaits. [source]
Life is all about changes. We face them every day, but most of them not as significant as the decision to retire. Hope that perhaps you can take away from this post to help you through the next change in your life. I still continue working toward embracing this new chapter in my life. If you are in the midst of a transition period, please consider yourself hugged! Come back again, and we will figure this transition thing out together.
Hugs and kisses,