There’s a lot to learn when you’re in transition. If you’re like me you don’t want to spend too much time actually learning it though, because well, you know, you’re in transition. And that alone is plenty awkward on plenty of days. I find that taking the stance of a dispassionate, objective observer of my own experience during this particular experience is particularly difficult. There are moments of insight, however, and this is one of them:
I’m learning what it feels like to become invisible. And, not in a superhero kinda way. It feels a little naive to say that I didn’t expect to disappear, at least a little bit, after making this change but I guess I wasn’t aware of just how much the sloughing off of an old skin can leave you unrecognizable to yourself.
I know this feeling of disappearance isn’t a permanent condition but if I wanted it to be, here’s how I would go about it:
1. Be someone else’s brand. I was walking through the airport the other day when I realized with some embarrassment that nearly everything I was wearing and holding – luggage, briefcase, shoes and attire – was branded by my former employer. It took me a lot of years to acquire all of that stuff and there’s really no good reason, in my situation, to get rid of it. What once felt like loyalty and commitment now just feels awkward and obsessive. Here were the vestiges of an old life coming together to remind me how penetrating that life was and how much it is no longer. I suppose our identities are a bigger product of our affiliations than I care to admit.
2. Spend more time listening to other voices than you do to your own. Through the generosity of friendship – caring, supportive and thoughtful – many, many people have offered the help of insight, ideas and perspective. It’s humbling. And, it’s useful. It’s also a place to get lost. To lose your own voice. It reminds me a bit of the title of Truman Capote’s book, “Other Voices, Other Rooms.” There’s always another voice in another room available to “talk it over” and “hash it out” and “think it through.” And, there’s a point at which that becomes a seductive exercise that feels productive and creative but ultimately can become a holding pattern; a clever form of procrastination. “Maybe this next conversation will be the one that breaks the logjam of ideas and possibilities?” Probably not. Because at some point you just have to sit down and do the work. (See “The War of Art“)
3. Give in to your vices. Let’s face it, transition brings up all kinds of vulnerability and uncertainty. It’s exactly the time to comfort ourselves with, well, comfort. Another drink, a little more dessert, another movie, another show, sleeping late. None of this is bad stuff. It’s just bad stuff when it becomes the rule, instead of the exception. Transition is incredibly useful as a time to form new disciplines of physical and emotional renewal. It’s just a hell of a time to get them in place and make them stick. It’s so easy to think that “with all this free time I be able to do all this great stuff I’ve been wanting to do.” Like reading, meditating, exercise, etc. In my experience it’s much, much easier to do that when bound by the parameters of a working day which forces the creative use of time and energy.
4. Be hard on yourself. Beat yourself up for your need to maintain a connection to your old company, that old brand., because it reminds you of your contribution and your value. Criticize yourself for your need to talk to everyone you know to seek input, understanding and ideas about what’s next because doing so deepens your own thinking and opens you to new insights. Allow the voices of guilt to be the loudest when you indulge your desire for a little more of the good stuff, relaxing into the truth that you do have this day in which to be however you want and need to be.
If you want to become and stay invisible this is exactly what you should do.