I was sitting in my financial planner’s office and she turned to me and said, “You could retire today, Donna.” I felt my stomach drop and many parts inside of me started screaming. I wasn’t ready to retire yet! Then, unexpectedly, I started tearing up. I got really quiet and mindful for a moment. Other parts of me were struggling with all the many transitions I have been through in my life that had jerked me around, caused chaos and fear, and huge suffering. These parts were reminding me of how much other transitions had battered me and taught me so much. I was not going to have some financial planner tell me how to orchestrate this transition! Wow, that was a powerful part. That part is my resilient self who has learned from many difficult events what it takes to make a big change like retirement healthy.
This retirement transition is a uniquely challenging one. Those of you in your sixties can really relate to this, I’m sure. Being sixty is big enough in all that it embraces with facing your whole life at this perspective and the vulnerability of feeling your aging process. When you are an entrepreneur and are in charge of your business, you have lots of flexibility with how you choose to retire. This might not be true for you and your work and retirement choices. More choice sometimes takes real planning. I am uniquely branded as a coach and a psychotherapist, so I have to respect my clients in both categories. That means, I need to plan ahead so my clients can work with my leaving. I also need to listen to all of my parts and their needs. This is the careful balance required with my retirement: Meeting my needs at the same time that I am taking care of my clients’ needs. .I want to do this with love and equanimity for myself and my clients. And, I have to work with my partner’s needs and my other loved ones close to me.
A healthy transition has the following elements: 1) The ability to find some balance in the storm – “To ride the wave” – both inside of you and outside of you; This involves being able to be in the present moment and working internally with feelings, thoughts, parts that get triggered & unresolved trauma that arises. It involves being able to find some balance interpersonally as well./ 2) Compassion for yourself and others (more about this next) 3) The ability to allow for an ending — to accept an ending. 4) Watching for the next steps of the beginning coming forth (allowing Rebirthing) 5) The ability to go into the pain and sorrow of your loss and work it through whatever that process needs to be for you. (Grief work)
Buddist monk and writer, Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart, talks about the importance of compassion when we are facing difficult places in our lives. She says, “In each of us there’s alot of softness, alot of heart. Touching that softness has to be the starting place. When we stop blaming long enough to give ourselves an open space in which to feel our soft spot, it’s as if we’re reaching down to touch a large wound that lies right underneath the protective shell that blaming builds. It’s so easy to blame either ourselves or others, so that we don’t have to feel anything deeper. Self-Compassion is when we get in touch with what’s happening with some kind of kindness and our protective shells can melt and we can see where and who we are in that moment.
A healthy transition is about moving through change with yourself intact, listening to all of your parts and leading them all to the next step with compassion and care. IFS, or Internal Family Systems Therapy has helped me and many others to learn this process of being “Self-Led” or listening to all the voices inside of me and navigating a course based on hearing all the voices.
It is about bringing in kindness to yourself instead of criticism and blame about your choices or decisions that led to this transition, no matter how challenging the transition feels like. You can create a transformation with positive energy and attitude. Having an attitude that allows for growth instead of negative spiraling is what allows for transformation and resilience. My toolbox can offer you this. See www.women-in-transformation.com.
My Women’s Mindfulness Retreat coming up this November 14 -17 is all about learning how to face and turn toward the present moment and the change events that are happening in your life. The tools of mindfulness and self-compassion are crucial to giving you some relief from the struggles, the pain of the challenges, the difficulty in accepting what is happening to you. The only way to really move your life forward is to learn how to stop denying and blaming (yourself and others) and find a way to face and accept the reality of what is happening in the present moment. This allows growth and transformation if you can accept the reality of the present moment and see it in a new way. This transition can be your greatest teacher.