There is a fabulous 13-episode podcast called “Finding Fred.” It tells the story behind the story of the beloved Fred Rogers. The sometimes-radical ideas he presented to Congress, the barriers he broke when he shared a towel with Officer Clemmons, a black policeman on his show. He talked to kids about the war, about disabilities, about being their best self. And all of this he did with such genuine kindness. Check out the podcast if you get a chance.
I bring this up, because I came across a Fred Rogers quote that I wanted to share with you today.
“Often, when you think you are at the end of something you are at the beginning of something else.”
Endings and beginnings are a part of life. 2021 ended and we transitioned into 2022. Christmas decorations went up, and then they came down. Betty White passed away, and new babies were born. It is a continuous cycle.
Life transitions happen at all ages, but somehow in our 50’s and beyond, they can seem to pile on. Our careers end, our children move out, we may have a health crisis, or we may become caregivers. These challenge us to find the new beginnings.
Three stages of transitions
One of my favorite books on this is Transitions, by William Bridges. In this book he talks about the stages we go through. There is a new book out by Bruce Feiler, Life is in the Transitions, that defines very similar stages.
William Bridges calls the first stage Endings. There is grief from loss associated with this stage, even if you wanted the ending to happen. Let’s talk about the end of a full-time job. If your job was terminated due to downsizing or the pandemic, you are understandably feeling a sense of loss. A loss of control over the timing can be unsettling. If you have planned for your retirement, you have the big going away party, and you wake up the following Monday with no office to go to. That may feel wonderful but over time you recognize the loss of routine, the loss of friendships, the loss of structure and the loss of a paycheck. Bruce Feiler refers to the Endings as The Long Goodbye.
Once you move through the Endings stage, you move into what Bridges calls The Neutral Zone. Feiler refers to this as The Messy Middle. This is a time of uncertainty. A time of introspection. You are questioning what has worked for you, trying on new ideas and new habits. It can be uncomfortable because it is a time of reinvention for many people. The time in the Neutral Zone can be short, but it should not be rushed. There is a richness in “being in the wilderness” and giving yourself the time to explore the new thoughts and opportunities that are showing up.
Eventually you will come to a New Beginning, as both Bridges and Feiler call it. “Genuine beginnings depend upon inner realignment rather than on external shifts, for it is when we are aligned with deep longings that we become powerfully motivated.” That is a quote from the Bridges book. Being in alignment with deep longings comes with giving yourself time in The Neutral Zone or the Messy Middle to look inside, explore and try out new ideas.
Life is in the Messy Middle
As Fred Rogers said, “Often, when you think you are at the end of something you are at the beginning of something else.” Life is in the Messy Middle, in the Neutral Zone, where we redefine who and what and why we are. We are in unprecedented times with the pandemic and the wild weather and the political infighting. It may seem outside of our control. Focus on what you can control, make your voice heard. Build the life you want to live. It is ok to be in the Messy Middle until you get some clarity.
If you want to talk more about the stages of Transition and would like some help navigating your own personal transition, I lead a 6-week group workshop called “What’s Next?” that will help you identify your own desires and the dreams you may have left behind and begin to visualize your new beginning. It will begin on Jan. 11 and we will meet from 4:00-5:30, for 6-weeks. I am limiting the group to 6 individuals so that we can all have time to participate and form bonds. You will get a copy of the book, Transitions, by William Bridges, along with a new chapter of exercises and ideas each week. The full cost is $650, and if you register by January 5, it will only be $600 for the full 6-week program. Why not schedule a 20-minute discovery call to see if this program might be for you?
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