5/14 Talking at cross-purposes

Slight swell - Eddystone 2006

This is the fifth in a series of reflective posts. They started with some uncertainty about how to deal with a common situation – a major life-change. As I have persevered, the posts are beginning to take a definite shape.

~~~

There’s been no shortage of advice on finishing the day-job.

The most popular one is “You’ll be so busy, you won’t know where you found the time before.”

That maybe so but the time between finishing the day-job and “being so busy” is an important one – not to be wasted as you ride the wave between one life and the next.

The process is running something like this:

  • Last month you were in a career, this month you’re not;
  • Last month you had spent over 45 years working within a special discipline, this month you are starting afresh;
  • Last month you were a member of a particular profession, this month you are an amateur in a wider world;
  • From being an older practitioner, you are now the new boy with a locker full of knowledge, skills and attitudes, wondering which ones which will be useful in the future, which ones you will leave behind.
  • People appear to be seeing a different person; you are certainly seeing people differently.

None of this is unexpected, and all of it is current.

What I particularly notice is that there is a change in the language that is being used. People are talking to me in “retirement language” while I am wanting to talk in “fresh-start language”. The difference may be subtle but the result is that we are talking at cross-purposes. This is not an uncommon occurrence. However, in times of change, we become very aware of it which is why it is worth pursuing.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Gentle swell - Off Plymouth 2008

4/14 Rite of Passage

Wave 5

I was a dentist for over forty years. I entered dental school as a naive fresher in 1966. Now, 47 years later, the time has come to let go of dentistry and make a fresh start. In many ways, I am still naive and because of this the lead up to the fresh start has been a real challenge.

You may not be interested in dentistry but you may be interested in what it is taking to bring a long career to a halt and to start afresh. If you sail, you may appreciate this way of looking at it. The analogy is an easy one – the language straightforward.

Most sailors will tell you that being at sea is the simplest, safest and best part of sailing, just as the daily running of a dental practice was the best part of it for me. At sea there are problems to face and solutions to be found – sometimes the weather is stormy, sometimes there is a problem with gear, sometimes the crew demands extra attention, but it’s all part of what you are good at – keeping the boat sailing and improving as you do so. This was what running my practice was like – over the years I grew more competent, the team became more skilled and worked more successfully together, we got to know our patients better. Working together, we developed a common language and we enjoyed it more and more.

And then came the time when it was sensible to stop and start afresh.

Continuing the nautical analogy: Starting afresh is similar to making a foreign landfall. You read the pilot books, look at the charts, listen to those who have been before you. You think you know what to expect but getting there suddenly becomes complicated – the language is different. This is your first time. You haven’t spoken this language in earnest before. In some ways, you are reduced to being a child again – able to communicate simple desires in simple phrases but unable to manage the more sophisticated interaction your position as skipper demands. It will take time to learn.

To overcome this lack of skill, you take on board a pilot to guide you through – someone who knows about the place you are headed and the languages they speak there but can only know your boat as one of many. In effect, you take the boat you built with your own hands and which carried you through calms and storms, the boat you know inside and out, and put it into someone else’s hands. In terms of a business or an organisation or, in my case, a dental practice, however careful you are in organising it, however aware you are of the processes involved, however skilled the ‘pilot/s’, this inevitably disrupts the routines and alters the relationships you have developed over the years.

Was it worth it. Not yet but it will be. At the moment it is so-so. I don’t have any further responsibility for the practice, but I still care very much what is happening there.

Yes of course I can let go, I am letting go as I write, “taking command of the boat again ready to sail in a new direction” – but there is still a part of me . . .

What I am describing is a rite of passage not a tale of woe. Many people have an easier transition, still others have a more difficult one and many more are not in a position to experience it at all. I am not describing a generic event just sharing in my naive way a major waypoint in my life and a change which resulted in my ceasing to write over the past year and, more importantly, kept me away from the boat.

~~~

Naive: Lacking worldly experience and understanding, simple and guileless; unsuspecting or credulous.

Paradoxically, in being simple and guileless, unsuspecting and credulous and in making mistakes, worldly experience and understanding develop. It comes with a warning: be(a)ware, this process can hurt.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.

Wave 7

2/14 A new tack

DSC05597

Let me ask you a question:

Let us say you have spent most of your life sailing down the same long estuary. Where you started, the head of the estuary was narrow, the product of a meandering stream which had grown into a river. This river joined other rivers, all flowing into the very same estuary. The further you sailed, the wider the estuary became. And as it widened, so you grew. The shoreline contained you but you always had enough sea-room. There were a few navigation problems but no more than on any voyage. Now finally you have reached the open ocean and the opportunity to steer a completely different course. You have a good feeling about this.

But at the last moment the weather turned. Instead of being free to ease the sheets and sail gently away as originally planned, you found yourself sailing into the wind – tacking back and forth across the estuary entrance, hanging on to each tack till the very last moment in the hope of making headway in one direction or another. This was immensely frustrating, each tack seeming longer than the previous one, pushing you ever closer to the shore. There was the  temptation to give up and head for the nearest port. However, as the man said, “ships are safe in port, but that’s not what ships are built for,” (Grace Hopper). There is more you want to do, so you kept going – one last tack should do it!

Finally, with one eye on the closing shore, you push the tiller away from you and bring your boat into wind for the last time – the sails flap and the boat slows as it plunges into the waves. You watch the bow, mind the sheets and feel the wind on your cheeks. In a short while you will come round and set off in a new direction – your other hand on the tiller, the wind on the other cheek. In slowing into the tack, there is a very brief pause, a watchful moment to reflect, to look around and see what you see.

Here is my question:

Do you keep what you see to yourself and merely enjoy the moment? Or do you record a note or two? This is a unique moment for you, Should you say something? But this is 2014. Even if you do speak out, you know that last year there were over thirteen and a half million new WordPress blogs on top of the ten million the year before. Isn’t your note going to be lost in the ocean of words you are sailing into? Your few square yards of sea are unique but the wind and the waves will sweep the ripples away the moment you sail on.

IMG_5552

Perhaps you should make a record. Others may judge of they want to.

Surely the significant point is that you still have the freedom to say anything at all.

~~~

Although it can be read as a single post, the above is part of a series that illustrates one of the author’s current interests, taken from a locker full of interests, at a major waypoint in his life. The series sets out as a comment on retirement before focusing around language. He wonders whether he himself has the language to cope as he steps out into the wider world popularly known as ‘retirement’ – an irreversible step into a world that he has previously only glimpsed out of the corner of his eye, a world in which he thinks the word ‘retirement’ to be a misnomer. He has used the medium of the blog to paint the picture. The irony is that, whereas writing about it does allow him to reflect, sitting alone at a computer actually distances him from the face-to-face interaction he is describing.