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I am back. After a hiatus from writing, accompanied by some exploration and reflection, I am exploring the possibility of pulling together a program/learning manual dedicated to Thriving in the Third Act. I always do better when I have a little structure.

In the upcoming weeks I thought I would use my blog to roll out the framework and hope that you, as my audience would offer some feedback to me. I have never written a book this way before, so bear with me. It is a new way of doing it for a new phase in life. So here is the first installment, the Forward:

Thriving in the Third Act

Forward

Tim Carroll, Artistic Director of the Shaw Theatre wrote this for the 2017 season:

“An actor friend of mine said once that all directors are either mechanics or gardeners. A mechanic solves problems so that the machine works; a gardener creates the conditions in which something can grow. Some of the most vital jobs at the Shaw require mechanics but to direct our plays, I want gardeners.”

As I read this, I could not help but reflect on how his words not only applies to plays, they applied to life. If you simply replaced the word play with the Third Act, would the same sentiment not also apply. You can be mechanical in your approach to the Third Act. You can address whatever issues you have identified with a mechanistic approach of ‘let’s fix it’, as if life were a machine that has simply broken down. In fact, this has been in my view, the way in which retirement planning has been approached, a plan which deals dominantly with finances and the practical aspects of the Third Act years.

Or, you can decide to be gardeners and create the conditions for your Third Act whereby you can thrive. And what does thriving mean: feeling curious and engaged, exploring how you might use your gifts, talents and experience differently, being of service both to yourself and others and more.

Carroll went on to say that gardening in theatre work means “a process in which rehearsals are playful and exploratory. It means we don’t try to nail down the ‘right’ version of a scene; we play inside it and allow it to reveal itself.

Isn’t that just perfect. The Third Act is not a new job, it is simply your life’s work and experience. There is no requirement to ‘nail’ it down. The experience is designed to be softer, easier, free-flowing allowing you to ’play inside it and reveal itself ’.

I think this is perhaps the most important aspect of the Third Act, a stage in life, and if you will your ‘two-thirds life crisis’, when you transition into a new phase. It need not be governed by goals as many of you have been forced to live by during your working careers. It is most likely best expressed through intentions, the knowledge of what you want with no need to understand exactly how you will obtain this. Goals nail down the results whereas intentions allow you to live into this new phase of life and let it be revealed.

That said, what you want may not be obvious. I know that has been the case for me. In fact, the ‘do not wants’ have been much more clear at times, most of them predicated on a fear of boredom, and becoming a ‘couch potato’.

Welcome to Thriving in the Third Act, a personal self-discovery journey for ME, as I learn to transition from my career as a coach/consultant into my Third Act and one which I invite you to share.

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Jim and I host Labyrinth walks four times per year on the change of seasons. This years walk was special as we were celebrating the 15th anniversary of the construction of the labyrinth as well as paying tribute to our country, being Canadian and the 150th anniversary of confederation. As I reflected on the event, and wanting to create/write something to read prior to the labyrinth walk, I explored what Canada means to me and what it means to be Canadian.

This is what came to me:

I am Canadian, born from generations of Irish and German, immigrants who arrived on eastern shores seeking refuge from persecution, a safe place to raise families, prosperity and a new home.

We are Canadian, a tapestry of immigrants who have landed on this soil across the centuries.

We are Canadian, the original inhabitants who lived from the earth and roamed the great expanses of land before the Europeans began to trickle in.

We are a nation, born of diverse cultures, values, races, religions and belief systems.

As we gather here this evening on the eve of Summer Solstice and the eve of Canada’s 150 years of confederation, we do so with the intention of love, peace and harmony throughout our nation.

We stand proud in our desire to lead the world in peace, in health, in protecting our precious Mother Earth.

We are responsible for serving this great nation of ours as stewards of her beauty and bounty, her resources and nature.

We choose pro-activity over inaction, intention over complacence, leadership over following, speaking out over acceptance through silence, respect and love over animosity and judgment.

We take our place in the world with pride. We stand up for justice. We walk tall with the belief that we inhabit one of the greatest nations in the world.

We are Canadian.

I also wrote this prayer:

Mother/Father God.

We ask for your blessing for all who join us in celebrating our Canadian home, for those who are here with us in spirit, for our neighbors, friends and families, for our communities across Canada and beyond, for our nation.

May we prosper.

May we lead with love and through peace.

May we take our place in the world as good stewards for Mother Earth.

May we thrive and lead by example.

For now, and forever, for as long as it is appropriate, in gratitude, Amen

 

Please feel free to share this on if it speaks to you.

Until next time,

Betty

 

Blessings

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

Change

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

 

 

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

Freedom

crossing-over

Crossing Over

Between two worlds you
linger, waiting for freedom.
Choice is everything.

I feel compelled to write about the conversations and work we did with my mother-in-law Dorothy during her recent illness, choices that were designed to offer her freedom.

In a world that has sometimes become sterile, devoid of the important intimate conversations of living and dying, it is easy to let things slide. We believe we cannot speak of what’s next or talk opening about death. It has however, been my learning that these are not only important conversations, they are life-giving.

Certainly, as a family none of us wanted to see Dorothy leave us; she is loved and certainly a formidable matriarch and presence in our lives. Yet as she was fading, we also spoke openly about the possibility of her leaving and that all we wanted was to support her choice, to allow her the freedom to leave or stay.

During her sickest days, each of us spoke gently with her, reassuring her that we would support whatever decision she made. I personally spent time with her massaging her back and legs, offering comfort, and holding the intention for ‘highest good’. I understood that highest good for her may not seem so for me.

The other choice we offered mom was ‘energy work’, something called IET or Integrated Energy Therapy. This technique is designed to communicate at the spiritual level and when you are as ill as Dorothy was, the spiritual gate is wide open. Our therapist, Genevieve, is gifted, gentle, mindful and truly tuned in. Working with this technique offered mom the additional energy she required to pursue freedom in whatever form she chose.

I believe that the combination of the family support we offered Dorothy, the honesty and the energy work, gave her a conduit in which to fully understand the choices available to her. She was embraced by love and respect. There was no drama, just a family united. And I believe this has made the difference in her recovery as she is alive again, in a way she was not even before she became sick.

Living is dying and dying is living. It serves no one to steer away from this reality and in fact allows us to be more whole as human beings. Dorothy chose life, for now, and in this choice I am observing a new zest for life.

My lesson in all of this is that we simply need to offer one another the freedom of choice, to know that living or dying is a personal choice that we get to make for ourselves. Giving permission to others to make this choice , to unselfishly let them go if we must, is the greatest gift we can offer another.

FREEDOM!

Nine Lives

I swear my mother-in-law Dorothy is like a cat; it is evident that she has nine lives. My only concern is that by my count she has lived at least seven of them. Two week’s ago she was clearly on a downhill trajectory, unable to recover from a severe gastrointestinal flu and complaining a terrible stomach pain. Multiple ER visits were leading us nowhere (more on that later). any attempt to receive additional care services were in vain. we were in that no man’s land where families often arrive. Even with three health care professionals in the family, we were at a loss as to how to support her.

I reached out to her former surgeon and a friend of mine who immediately referred her to Palliative Care and the physician who leads the community program. The first thing she did was totally clean up the medication Dorothy was consuming daily. It seemed radical, but several on the meds have known GI side effects. That was six days ago. This morning on the physician’s follow-up visit, Dorothy was a new woman. She is eating again and enjoying her food. Her mobility is improving. Her mood is light. She is BACK!

Polypharmacy, yes this is a diagnosis, is common in the elderly. Drugs get added and rarely removed. I am finding that drugs are not being reviewed on a regular basis by family physicians, which is by the way, part of their role. Family physicians are the gate keepers for their older patients. They need to be informed as to the side effects of medications and they need to monitor the possible drug interactions.

Secondly frequent ER visits by an elderly patient should be a red flag for those attending to her care. Several of my physician colleagues were dismayed to hear that no one connected the dots for Dorothy and no one referred her for follow-up care post hospital stay. I assume that those who discharged her thought she lived in a nursing home which is not the case.

Finally, we have a home care system which, at least from my experience to date, is not working. They have been contacted three times in the last two weeks, by myself, the residence where Dorothy lives, and the palliative care physician. to date they have not made a visit.

Let me be clear – I am over the moon grateful for her recovery! Fortunately she has more resilience than most women her age and an amazing network of family support. Without this she would no longer be here.

And I have learned that having a health care advocate is essential. My message to those of you reading this is to stand up for and speak out for the care of your elderly parents. Without my interventions and the help of my colleague, Dorothy would not have been referred to Palliative Care.

I now understand that we as a family needed to be more clear on insisting that she relieve a referral to home care follow-up before being discharged. My advice to you – don’t assume anything.

Finally be a bad ass – a squeaky wheel if you have to. I plan to follow-up with home care today to find out what is going on.

As we all age in our Third Act, we will need to advocate for ourselves as well. While we need to be reasonable in our requests, we need to speak up when we are not being heard, to stand for our own well-being, and to expect the health care we pay for in our taxes. I personally am not a big health care user at the same time I am currently awaiting an appointment to the Joint Assessment Clinic. It took my family physician five weeks to make the referral after we discussed it. Is this reasonable – I don’t honestly know. Is she busy – yes. The thing is, stay with your requests.

Okay, this is my RANT for today. The Canadian health care system is amazing as we all know. We need only yo look to our southern neighbors to realize that we are fortunate. And the system has its flaws which we can all work on to correct. Let’s work together on this, be grateful, show appreciation for our health care workers and advocate for ourselves and others.