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Archive for the ‘What has become clear’ Category

The Struggle

The struggle of transition to the Third Act is a familiar one for me, one which has been embedded with fear and loss. Likewise, the journey has opened new horizons to explore and opportunities to embrace. This is the Struggle Phase of the Third Act, creating space for what is to come while releasing things from the past that no longer serve you.

Key to success at this phase of the transition experience is understanding that there can be no new beginnings without endings. Beginnings and endings are two sides of the same coin.

This is the point where you recognize that you are a creature of habit, that fundamentally you like things the way they are and have been. You really don’t want your life to change and yet it has. There are choices to be made – hang on tight and refuse to budge or take a deep breath and dive into the deep water not knowing what you might find there.

Craving for the comfort of desired events and outcomes, we ignore the uncomfortable but exhilarating gifts of living life as a continually unfolding process in which all moments are valuable. Absorbed in our ‘inner movie’, we miss the many minute transformations that enrich and ennoble our lives”
Julia Cameron, Transitions

Julia Cameron in her book of reflections and prayers for transition, suggests that you trust your own resilience and trust in the generosity of life. For me this also goes to the power of intentionality, reminding myself that the transition to the Third Act can be arduous and difficult or it can be fueled by ease and grace. I personally prefer the latter. So yes, you are in the struggle and yes, you can guide your own journey with an intentional choice.

I am transitioning into my Third Act easily and effortlessly,
enjoying the many moments of this journey,
fueled by curiosity and the power of ‘what if?”

 

Shift Happens

I began writing this blog posting over a month ago. Yes, time does fly and ‘shift’ was happening.

Jim and I have been discussing releasing our current home and property, which we call Tigh Shee (house of Peace) and what would be the best timing for this. This is a natural part of our transition to the Third Act as we have stepped away from offering retreats and we have downsized our business. We no longer require this much space and, as we grow older, the property, all 2.5 acres of it, is placing more demands on us physically as our bodies age.

On a recent trip home from Niagara on the Lake, Jim said he thought we should consider putting the house on the market next spring. Silently I said to myself OMG then drew a deep breath. That soon? We have been discussing this move for a while now and yes, sooner or later this release will happen. I found myself fully in the struggle, in a wilderness of grief and anxiety. Overwhelmed, I turned to meditation and reflection to understand what I was experiencing and why.

There are three qualities that define my persona and guide my life: purposefulness, responsibility and loyalty.

As I retreated into my struggle I began to appreciate that so much of my life here at Tigh Shee was connected to my purpose, the work I had been engaged in for the last two decades. Releasing the property feels like releasing a huge part of who I am.

Then comes responsibility – Jim and I built this place together, the gardens and our labyrinth, as a gift to ourselves, Mother Earth and others. How could I give up this responsibility now? Were we, was I, finished with this work?

And finally, loyalty. It is a challenge to release anything, anyone, that I have dedicated my life to. And yet….

I share this because while in theory I understand the struggle and the art of letting go, this past summer I have experienced the depth, width and pain of the experience. I have also come to understand that my purpose is intact and will continue to be expressed, albeit in another form. That my responsibility for our beautiful Tigh Shee has been fulfilled and now it is time for another person or family to assume the stewardship of this property. All of this understanding has been guided through reflection and prayer.

 

Space Management

So now it is your turn. The struggle is about managing the space you have in your life and questioning what you want to move forward with.

Without realizing it, you, like me, have accrued a backpack of responsibilities, beliefs, attitudes, and belongings that may or may not continue to serve you. It is time to empty the backpack, to examine fully what the contents are, to discern what continues to serve you as you move forward and to divest yourself of the rest.

I can assure you, this is not as easy as it sounds. Give it all the time, reflection, meditation, prayer, and conversations with yourself (and a higher power if necessary) to examine the contents and begin the release process.

Remember that when you release, you create space. You experience endings and you invite new beginnings.

In the moment, the decisions you make will challenge you, perhaps make you sad. Grief is a natural part of the process. All of this simply lightens the load and I can promise you that levity, optimism, and curiosity live on the other side.

 

Until Next Time,

Betty

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Every once in a while I reach into my bookcase and pull out an old friend – a book read months or years ago which is not forgotten yet not at the fore front of memory. This morning I reached for John O’Donohue’s books, specifically Bless the Space Between Us. I think it is best to describe O’Donohue as a ‘Celtic Mystic’. whatever category I place him in, his words speak to me. This morning it was a blessing for retirement:

This is where your life has arrived,
After all the years of effort and toil;
Look back with graciousness and thanks
On all your great and quiet achievements.

You stand on the shore of new invitation
To open your life to what is left undone;
Let you heart enjoy a different rhythm
When drawn to the wonder of other horizons.

Have the courage for a new approach to time:
Allow it to slow until you find freedom
To draw alongside the mystery you hold
And befriend your own beauty of soul.

Now is the time to enjoy your heart’s desire,
To live the dreams you’ve waited for,
To awaken the depths beyond your work
And enter into your infinite source.

There are so many lines in this poem/blessing that sing to me.

What is left undone – do I even know? what do I need/want to say that has been unsaid; what is it I want to express in art or writing that has not yet been painted or written?; what is it I want to see, explore or experience which has not yet been seen? This is the opportunity of the Third Act. Time to create a ‘bucket list’?

Befriend your own beauty of soul – now this suggested finally releasing the self-critic, a lifelong companion, and seeing the beauty that lives within me: my strengths, my gifts, my wisdom, my experience, all that I still have to offer which has taken a life time to hone. This calls for new conversations with self and my soul, a little bit of neural re-programming.

To awaken the depths beyond your work – awaken! doesn’t this feel a bit like letting the genie out of the lantern. Despite a naturally curious mind I am still a creature of comfort and the known. Habits sustain me. Somehow the notion of ‘beyond my work’ suggests there is so much more to explore which of course fuels my curiosity but also scares me just a little. The great ‘what if’ this leads to a more interesting view of life, or what if there is so much more that I just do not see?

As I transition into this new land, it is these short yet powerful phrases that put me on notice and perhaps remind me that it is not so much what I am doing at the moment but more about who I am being. Being allows me to receive, reflect and ponder before jumping into any new beginnings, to continue to play in the Neutral Zone of life, feed both my curiosity and creativity and DREAM.

I would love to hear your thoughts on O’Donohue’s words.

Until next time,

Betty

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The spark for change is change.

From this morning’s message from the Universe, this short quote emerged. If you don’t subscribe to Messages from the Universe already, I highly recommend this – go to http://www.tut.com for your daily dose of wisdom and humor.

Change – there has been a great deal of that going around these days. Change and Transition. In my view transition is the human side of change, how we react and respond to the events around us that influence our lives. As we all know change is inevitable and there is that platitude, ‘change is the only constant‘. Curse change if you will and apparently you cannot escape it. Do you then embrace it or is that simply expecting too much?

I will admit that I am a person who seeks change. In my younger years I was plagued by boredom which resulted in me changing jobs at an alarming rate. I thought that a new venue would be more interesting even though the work with the inherent responsibilities were the same. Self-employment has been ideal for me as a result, as you get to create what you do, you can shift responsibilities around, search for new directions – you get the picture. And somewhere in there you need consistency and direction otherwise self-employment will spin out of control. Fortunately I have also been purposeful and yes, somewhat driven, which makes the changes upon me now the most challenging ones. This change is my transition into retirement.

Over the last few months I have been musing about this eventuality. The decision to release my ‘work’ responsibilities has not come lightly or easily. And, by the way I am not there yet although well on my way. As a self-employed coach, consultant, facilitator and teacher, my work has taken on many forms through the years from corporate consulting to individual coaching, from running and facilitating retreats and workshops to public speaking. I have never been bored in any of these roles because of the diversity and the variety which this approach has offered me. And trust me, I still love all of it.

So why retire or as I prefer to think of it re-tire. I have been living with a number of questions recently, the most important of which is “what is left for me to do or be in my Third Act?” I am ready for change and for new frontiers to explore. This awareness has led to my understanding that if my plate is still filled by all the activities that I have consistently been involved in, there is no room for anything new. Change sparks change. Emptying the plate creates space for something else.

When I first landed on the literature regarding the Third Act, my interested piqued by both the language and the possibility of what’s next for me, I decided that understanding this would be part of my continuing journey. The thing was, I was premature in thinking that my timing was right to dive in. After a few weeks of playing with the material and planning, I put it aside. I was acutely aware that I was not ready to pursue this. There were a few transitional steps to complete before jumping into a new arena.

In his book Transitions, William Bridges describes the first step as ENDINGS. Sounds easy! Yet endings implies letting go and I have found this to be a challenging process. First you need to make a decision to let something go. Then you need to actually do it and then you need to be in the impact of that decision which, from my experience, has been both grief and relief. First I decided that we would take on no new clients. That wasn’t so bad as we have, and continue to have, corporate clients who keep us well occupied. This was followed by decisions to stop offering weekend retreats, stop our monthly Healthy Living Cafe, and finally to stop writing my monthly newsletter. I also gave up my license to marry people and stepped down from my role as chairperson of the local arts council. These decisions took place over a two-year period, allowing me to deal with one ‘loss’ after the other. A wise decision and one I recommend for anyone, as an all or nothing approach can have a devastating effect.

Interestingly, I have led my own transition. I have made my choices when I intuitively knew it was time. There will be more decisions to make down the pike. In all, the changes have been emotional yes, and relatively easy because of the pace.

What of the person who retires from a  ‘conventional job’ where one day you are working full throttle and the next day you are not. This is a more significant shift, one which many folks are not prepared for. This is where Third Act planning can help and hence where my interest lies.

And now that I have emptied my plate from a significant amount of responsibility, the space is there for me to explore. I am now entering my CREATIVE ZONE, the second phase of Bridges’ transition model. It is not a time to fill the plate with new doings, it is a time to consider options, be curious and explore. It is a time for life review and capturing the things that ‘light me up’. It is a time to acknowledge my gifts, talents and strengths and wonder as to how these might be engaged in some new way. It feels freeing and exciting and a little scary.

Care to join me?

Until next time…..

Betty

 

 

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My friend and colleague Aileen Gibb and I had a conversation two days ago about what’s next. With both of us on the brink of retiring, or at least adjusting our life style as we are apt to name it, a bag full of questions have emerged, what’s next being one of them.

Our conversation then took a detour to the subject of our respective ‘Third Acts’ and the idea of thriving or flourishing in  the last decades of life. It seems I cannot escape this conversation. A year has passed since I first began to examine the idea of ‘Flourishing in the Third Act” and then life stepped in and the subject was relegated to the back burner. Not forgotten, just less of a priority as my current work life clicks along and family matters superseded this conversation.

In this recent conversation Aileen asked, “What shape do I want my work to take in the next 10 years?” My Work – these are the critical words for me as retirement needs not imply stopping, stepping back, doing nothing, putting your feet up (although all are options). It can mean re-tire, replacing the old treads with new initiatives, interests, opportunities, learnings, and so on. Okay – I am definitely up for that!

We also discussed how we can contribute to a world of meaningful conversations, legacy and appreciating what you have achieved and accomplished over a lifetime, story telling and capturing the collective wisdom of elders. All of this can be captured within the context of Thriving in the Third Act.

Here is what I have also noticed: People do not prepare for retirement. There are a lot of assumptions about that blank slate and what will fill the space previously occupied by work. Yet retirement and the Third Act are one of life’s great transitions, and in William Bridges words, a significant ending to many of the things we have known and experienced. For most, retirement is not gradual as North American society has yet to introduce a ‘graduated retirement process’ as they have done in many European countries. One day you are working, the next day you are not.

I recognize that I am shifting from Third Act to Retirement and back – the two are usually, though not always, synonymous. For the purpose of this discussion let’s agree that the issues are similar – what shape do you want your work (note this is not J.O.B.) to take in your retirement/third act years? And how do you prepare?

Let me mention one ‘bugaboo’ here – the number of times I hear people say that once they retire they will either a) volunteer or b) pursue their favorite hobby full-time. Golf is a good example! I should also mention the number of third act clients I have coached who have become totally bored with that hobby or completely burned out by the volunteer work. Why? Because it has no inherent meaning.

Back to the ‘transitions work’. In Bridges model, once the endings are completed which includes a mourning period of sorts, you enter the neutral zone, a time of exploration, reflection, learning and remembering. Exploring your options; reflecting on your past and understanding your gifts and strengths; learning new skills that might propel you forward, and remembering what is truly important to you. All of these aspects inform what will become your new work. I can assure you that your choices for the future, volunteering as an example, need to be rooted in what interests you and gives you a sense of purpose, otherwise you will simply be marking time.

All of this brings me back to basics and the ME FIRST work I have been facilitating over the last decade. I realized that the third act does not need a new program to be developed, it is just a continuation of the work I have been doing, a conversation within a slightly different context called thriving in the Third Act. As I realize this, I am both relieved and curious; I don’t have to create something completely new and what will ME FIRST look like in this iteration? More to come…..

Life is a tapestry – what is left to be woven?

I will leave you with that question. I am packing the question in my luggage as Jim and I prepare to depart for a month in Spain. Love the questions and let them lead you to undiscovered lands!

red-sky-at-night

Red Sky at Night

Contemplating the sunset and wondering what tomorrow will bring!

Until next time,

Betty

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“You need two things to get unstuck: Clarity and Courage. And, clarity is the reward of having courage.”

It has occurred to me in the last two weeks that courage is something to embrace as the opportunities for self-expression continue to unfold in my Third Act. Why courage? I am finding it challenging to crack open the eggshell of old habits and daily routines which have governed my life for so long. One of my greatest gifts in life has been my purposefulness and goal orientation. One of my greatest liabilities in life is my purposefulness and goal orientation!

It takes courage to face it down, to challenge it, to understand how I trip myself up by relying on what I have always known. It is a bit of a trap, for even though we can agree that purposefulness and goal orientation is a great thing, I also see the limitations, the blinders these habits impose.

Enough self-flagellation; this is not meant to be a critique of me. The question really is ‘now what’?

In a moment of clarity, the other day I realized that what I really wanted to release was the ‘need to work’. Yes need. I don’t know how it has been for you, but I was raised in the school of responsibility, obligation and ‘shoulds’. The reality for me is that I no longer need to work. Now on the government payroll with CPP and OAP, I may not be completely set for life and I know that our financial health is strong. So what is this need thing, this drive?

In its place I would much rather embrace the joy of work and be open to whatever that may be. I still love what I do and offer clients. I thoroughly enjoy coaching, facilitation and teaching. Am I not fortunate? And there are as many opportunities out there for me now as there were 20 years ago when I started my business, perhaps even more.

And here’s where courage comes in – saying ‘NO’ to the less than perfect opportunities, releasing the work that lingers that no longer engages me, because I don’t need to hang on. This gives me the space for clarity, the opportunity for opening new avenues of connecting with and serving people. None of this is a surprise; I have been ruminating on this for a while.

I am a person that also enjoys structure and routine and again I am asking if I need it. With summer upon us, I dream of morning walks, time on the front porch in the early morning sun, gardening and painting, hammock time with a good book, evenings in the gazebo sharing a glass of wine with friends. My usual work schedule does not accommodate these things or this life style.

As I envision the July and August landscape, I see great possibility. The second week of July is fully booked with a series of workshops we will be facilitating from Quebec City to Vancouver. Yes, it will be an intense week. More importantly, by having the courage to speak honestly with our clients, we will be engaged in work that we love and which we believe will make a significant difference for our client. Clarity was our reward.

Then guess what, the remainder of July and August is a fallow field. Will I have the courage to ‘BE’ in it allowing time for new possibilities to emerge and clarity to grow?

So onto you. Some things to consider. Are some of your greatest strengths also your liabilities? It is a great exercise to recognize this.

Is it time for you to address some on the repeating patterns that have governed your life and crack open the egg? What would you like to replace these patterns with? Remember if you can’t name it, it is unlikely you will get it.

Summer is such a wonderful time to relax and allow yourself to sink into the days. Why not do so? I plan to and hope you will join me, perhaps even share with me a few of your AHA’s that show up.

Have the courage to let go of what you have always known and create space for clarity to walk in the door.

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Ah yes! Time to breathe. Even in the Third Act, where apparently we should be smarter and wiser, the hours can fill up. Whether intentionally or not, the hours of this past week have been filled and fueled by much doing balanced with a smidgen of being.

The highlight of the week was the weekend retreat we facilitated with three couples; WE FIRST. It is easy to forget when we are tossed into the throes of retirement, that this act of retiring affects not only us, it affects those around us. Most of you have probably heard the stories and the comments:

  • My husband retired and now he is underfoot
  • I keep asking my husband, ‘don’t you have someplace to go?”
  • my wife thinks that my entire retirement should be dedicated to the ‘honey do’ list
  • I thought when we retired we would have some quality time together but she is gone all the time volunteering for everything that comes her way.
  • and more….

The couples who gathered here this past weekend have all been in long-term relationships ranging from 26 to 43 years married. Some of our participants were solidly in the Third Act, others not. What is interesting is the recognition that marriages, like our lives, enter transitional phases as well. This stage of marriage beckons the opportunity for new conversations, a new understanding of how each partner wants to play with the other. Clearly, with the many years already invested in a relationship, and a strong foundation upon which to build, it is a perfect time to challenge old habits and develop new ones and reflect on how to raise the bar for an even more amazing couples’ experience.

Through a journey that included mindful communication, love languages, strengths, values and legacy, we encouraged the couples to build the ‘Blueprint of WE”, a contract for moving forward, honoring the past and imagining the future.

Third Act divorces are on the rise, the result of years of failing to pay attention to one’s partner and the relationship. The Third Act opportunity is to recognize the freedom you and your partner have in re-defining what lays before you, communicating your desires, and carving a path for the future. You can leave to chance or you can decide to be intentional.

I will always opt for the intentional route as I do believe I can co-create my future together with the person who has been at my side for 43 years. I want to remain engaged. I want to have fun. I want to explore the possibilities relationships have to offer.

All of this lays before me just as it did when I was younger, except now I know better, I am a tad wiser and I have learned to ask for what I want.

Here’s to flourishing relationships in the Third Act!

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With everything I am learning about the Third Act, one thing is glaringly clear – it is time to explore new territory. It feels like so much of my adult life was about holding back, not stepping out fully into the truth of who I wanted to be. And doesn’t it seem to you that the Third Act needs to be dedicated to being truly authentic and identifying ways to express this identity you so yearn to embrace.

Four years ago, two of my young entrepreneur coaching clients embarked on an adventure by opening their own art studio. Yes, it does seem that the ‘Y’ generation is more daring than we ‘baby boomers’. When I saw their first workshop advertised, I sent them a congratulatory note to which they replied, “we have signed you up”.

My first instinct was to refuse. Fortunately, some internal craving or deep-seated instinct stopped me from doing so. I accepted the offer. That was just slightly more than four years ago.

Yesterday, along with Your Arts Council for Cornwall and the Counties, I hosted my first Art Exhibit. With excitement and trepidation, I decided to step out. It is not about the event however, exploring this new territory has really been about finding me. As a student of art when I was young, taking numerous courses in drawing, painting and designing, I was well on my way to having a strong creative presence. And then I put it all away, for 30 years. There was no specific reason, no ego inflicting crisis; I simply stopped. Doesn’t it make you wonder why and doesn’t it cause YOU to reflect on what you put away that may be begging to be let out of the bottle again?

Art in my sixties has also been an entirely different experience. As I picked up the brush again, I envisioned myself as a Georgia O’Keefe, boldly painted flowers filling the canvases. So I did.

Life Force

This did not inspire me. It was what I used to paint those many years ago. The subject matter did not engage me. I asked myself why I was painting these images and the only answer I could find was ‘it’s safe’.

Do I want to be safe? Is this a great Third Act Choice? Or was it time to explore new territories, to seek inspiration from within, from my surroundings, certainly from different sources. A friend of mine suggested that I take a look at the daily images posted by NASA. With a small amount of cynicism, I did and there is where the magic began. The result was Synapse and the birth of what I now refer to as Earth Energy Art.

Synapse

This felt like a riskier choice. People like flowers. I wondered if they would like energy art. They do!

And it doesn’t matter.

The Third Act is just that, the third and final act of life. I asked myself, am I here to please others or me? The answer – you can guess.

The Third Act is your chance to explore new territory. Do it for yourself. It is not selfish, in fact, it is anything but. It is your opportunity to model to others both the wisdom and impact of showing up in life authentically.

There are no rules for this time in your life, only the ones you decide to self-impose.

What is it that you yearn to do, feel or experience?

What is it that you have pushed away for years and you now yearn to harness?

What is stopping you?

Time to step up and step out! Time to explore those territories that will light you up. If not now, when?

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