Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reflections from the Neutral Zone



We've been in our new town (having moved to California's central coast) for ten months now. It's been long enough I can now have some perspective about the changes I've experienced over the past months.

Being that this is a much smaller community than I've ever lived in, there have been some adjustments. I've realized that when you leave a place that's been familiar for 34 years, you don't assimilate to your new "digs" overnight. I felt like a fish out of water for quite awhile.

Most of the population of my new community is well over 65. We have to drive about 40 minutes to get to movie theaters or Home Depot. Dress is very casual. If you dress up, people stare. I know this because at times I still like to don a nice outfit with jewelry, etc. I now live amongst farmers, vintners, retirees, old hippies, song writers, surfers and coastal environmentalists. And the place to connect with people is the Post Office. The hustle and bustle of Southern California is gone and has been replaced by people who don't wear watches, ever.

William Bridges, in his book, *Transitions, Making Sense of Life's Changes, talks about the "Neutral Zone"...a place between what "used to be" and supposedly arriving at your destination of being fully acclimated. I'm definitely in the Neutral Zone.

Bridges says we tend to look at transition like crossing the street. We leave one curb and make our way across the pavement with the goal of reaching the other curb as quickly as possible. Stopping in the middle and sitting down in the road is not acceptable. This viewpoint of leaving one place and arriving at another in a short amount of time really doesn't exist. The Neutral Zone is a non-negotiable passage in the land of transition.

In real life, transitions have an "in between" place where things seem to stop. We feel alone and empty. Nothing around us seems familiar and we long to get to the other side. Bridges refers to two traps that people fall into when they want "out" of the Neutral Zone...fast forward and reverse.

There is no way to advance through transition like the energizer bunny. And to turn around and go back....we can't do that either. You see, transition alters and transforms us. We are not the same people who began this journey days, weeks, months, or years earlier. We've had experiences along the way that have tweaked us and caused us to change.

To avoid the traps, "do keep moving," Bridges says. If we continue to seek our way, to discover, to take small steps, we will get to the other side.

There are now days I forget to put on a watch. I am adjusting to planning a day of errands in the next town, and I'm starting to run into people I know at the Post Office. I think I'm officially "tweaked."

*Transitions, Making Sense of Life's Changes, William Bridges, Da Capo Press, 2004.

Photo: Carlos Caetano | Dreamstime.com