Me, Otis and Transition

So…you’re having an Otis Redding moment: big changes, new home, loneliness at your heels (dock – optional). Balancing these priorities can be immense. What do you do if funds don’t stretch to a coach or counsellor (or a dock)?

Well, I was landlocked and distant from any consoling waters, so I dipped instead into The Way of Transition by William Bridges. Prompted by an untimely illness and family bereavement earlier this year, I finally picked up this read on recommendation from my coaching supervisor, and regretted not doing so before I had needed it that badly. Bridges’ book works because it is itself clearly the product of transition when his wife died after a long illness. No need for case studies; he was it.   I found it comforting, almost exciting, to consider that the ending of the ‘old life/values/attitudes’ might herald a neutral zone. Me: my life as liminal as cracked tarmac, punctuated by ruptures that jolt, but in between the cracks germinate the creative traces of a new outlook. A new sense of self, and life on track.

It is in the neutral zone that life’s menu of possibilities make themselves known, and Bridges spends much of the book pleading with transitioners not to speed out of it. You must have heard people say, especially for dealing with grief: ‘no big decisions for 6 months, at least’.  It’s tempting to crash on, particularly if you watch others step into their new lives achieving and enjoying.  You may want to find out their secrets. The bad news is that their techniques will not work for you; they merely went through the ending, neutral zone and beginning in the way they needed to. Bridges argues that just as you can’t mimic others’ transition, you can’t force it either.

Now I’m recovered and coming to terms with my loss, and I’m okay with this neutral place. I can see that the very fact that something disappeared, and that I’ve been bumped off my route, now mean that something else is now beginning. It’s the way of the neutral zone and I can’t cut this short or I might miss the new beginning. Bridges compares the neutral zone to being the bit where you watch your new life coming sharper and sharper into focus, like a ship on the horizon; all the while being unsure, and not knowing how, or why, or what’s next.

Have this book to hand for when you are charting your own transitions. It’ll help you understand the need for sitting and waiting, if nothing else.  And Otis, I love your classic, but you got it wrong. Yeah, I’m here contemplating urban tides of transition as they roll away. But nothing seems to stay the same. The new is coming.

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