*The end of the familiar,
*The neutral zone. The bridge stage between the end of the familiar and the new beginning; characterized by desiring the old and dreaming of (imagining, imaging) the new. (No surprise that the Exodus story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt, that neutral, interim preparatory period of pilgrimage, contains the 10 Commandments and other laws to govern the people’s conduct in their coming new life in the Promised Land), and
*The new beginning. The stage of acceptance of change, openness to learning, and commitment to engage (to shape and to be shaped by) the new environment, which will become the next familiar.
I’m at the beginning of the end of my familiar. In 37½ years of parish ministry, despite the cultural and racial, time and place differences among the congregations I’ve served, my role and responsibilities generally were similar.
Now, it’s done. But it’s not been done long enough (only since last Sunday) for me to have a daily sense of its done-ness. Intellectually, I know I’m retired, but existentially, regarding what I think and how I feel, I might well be on a vacation week looking to return to work next Sunday (though to the surprise, doubtless the shock of the people of St. Mark’s!).
Nevertheless, as I continue to traverse this stage of the end of my familiar, with its inevitable increases in the introductions of change, with its accompanying uncertainties, what I think I can anticipate is my emotional discomfort and resistance.
I like to think of myself as an adaptable person, able and willing to adjust to change. Still, as human, I’m subject to what I term the “pleasure principle” of finding comfort in the familiarity of no surprises and few unknowns. Moreover, I confess that I’m somewhat of a negativist. I tend to expect the worst (a life’s lesson learned at my mother’s knee). I look at the world rarely as a glass half empty and almost never half full (but, truth to tell, in search of the glass!). Hence, I predict (although remaining mindful that what I envisage may become a self-fulfilling prophecy) that I’ll experience some anxiety, perhaps a bit of denial of change with a desire to clutch tightly the known, and maybe a bit of frustration, even fear and anger. Over the past several weeks, so many kindly well-intentioned folk have said, “Paul, you must be excited!” “Yes,” I’ve replied, “and I’ve come to understand that excitement, like so many of life’s realities, exists on a continuum. Elation on one end, terror on the other, with gradations between.” So, as the final days and hours counted down to this moment in time, I found myself thinking about feeling delight and dread, and visualizing the varying degrees on the scale.
All this said, day by day, as I enter more deeply into the end of my familiar, I pledge:
*To acknowledge all of my thoughts and feelings, whether hopeful or unhappy, cheery or dyspeptic;
*To accept my resistance (for, as a wise soul once said, “Resistance is energy, which beats apathy any day and can be turned toward good ends!”); and
*To allow time and opportunity to express what I think and feel to myself and with others, especially those I perceive to be thoughtful and empathetic listeners and particularly those who, as successful retirees enjoying retirement, can advise me that though one world has come to an end, as long as I have breath and strength, another has dawned, awaiting my presence and participation.
As for the neutral zone and the new beginning, I plan to write about those stages of change and transition when I get there!