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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Unfinished Business

I have been very fortunate in my professional life because I have always really loved my job…and had told myself that as long as I was having fun, I would keep working. This sounded like a really good formula to me and I went merrily on my way for a long time with this little arrangement I had made with myself.

Until…everything began to change around me.

The signs were on their way but I didn’t want to see them. My supervisor began talking about retiring, but I thought it was idle speculation. He also loved his job and I thought he wasn’t ready…obviously projecting my feelings onto him. Our secretary, whom we both adored, starting talking about retiring, too.

As the retirement talk began to heat up I started thinking seriously about what my work environment would be like without these two very important individuals. Then an announcement came from administration that there would be a buyout that year…I could take early retirement… I was eligible…which meant leaving with a financial reward. Opportunities for a buyout did not show up every year. Many variables had to fall into line to make this happen.

It felt like God was watching me and whispering to the angels, “Has she decided to go yet?”

It was very clear that many changes were occurring all around me and new philosophies were on their way in. The decision was fast becoming a scorching issue for me and decision deadlines were looming.

I got myself to the bookstore and began reading books about happy retirement. Then I set up lunch dates with three colleagues I knew who had retired and who each represented a personal quality of mine. I wanted to know how they had managed the transition and get their advice. All three shared a hopeful, optimistic outlook. I found this reassuring as I continued to venture into this unknown territory.

Long story short. I took early retirement.

The last day that I worked was very difficult for me. This was not something I had sought nor yearned for…and it was on my doorstep. My close friend told she had heard it would take a year to make a full adjustment. And she was right, at least for me.

At first I could not believe that no one was calling me with problems to solve. It seemed very strange and I felt alone. After awhile, it felt like the world had closed up around me and I had never been there. Of course, I knew this wasn’t true, but that is exactly what it felt like.

Since then I have found many wonderful things to do…like learning Italian, visiting my daughter during her sabbatical year in Florence (which the buyout paid for)… and eventually creating my bookmarks and this blog. There was a lot to learn about starting a business and that was a saving grace for me because my brain loved the challenge.

Even though I found myself doing well I found that I had recurring dreams in which I was at work in my office or giving a seminar and somehow I would receive the message that I had to leave (as in pack up and leave for good). And in the dreams I was never ready to go. I always felt anxiety and stress about this command.

During the last year a remark was made to me that because of the circumstances under which I left my job I had never really done the work of preparation and acceptance. It was not something I had chosen. It felt more like I had given my consent. In fact, I had left in the middle of all of the fun.

But the circumstances at that time had seemed to be pointing me very clearly out the door. And I did not want to be someone who could not read signs.

Ultimately, It was a good decision.

Even if I could go back to that position, I would not choose it because I have come to treasure the opportunity to design my own day.

However, because of the way the decision had come about it really did feel like I had some unfinished business that I needed to attend to.

So I decided to first CELEBRATE my work. I spent time talking about how I had applied for the job and was chosen for the position, the experiences of my work and varying responsibilities, the evolution of projects, the colleagues I had worked with, the seminars and conferences I had attended and the challenges and difficulties I had faced. I laughed and cried and enjoyed myself in this narration. I felt proud of my work. I basked in my feelings. And, ultimately, I talked about how it had all ended and how it had felt so abrupt to me. I gave myself compassion for the difficulty of deciding to retire under the pressure of circumstances I could not control and felt great gratitude for the many wonderful working years I had experienced and the special opportunity to leave with a buyout.

I looked at the whole picture in an unhurried way and let myself feel my feelings...all of them. And then a wonderful thing happened.

The recurring dreams stopped…and they have not returned.

Which leads me to the point I am trying to make here.

If we have UNFINISHED BUSINESS and we don’t pay conscious attention to it, it won’t leave of its own accord...it will find a new home...in our subconscious...and, perhaps, in our dreams.

And so I wish you the motivation and determination and energy to confront any uncompleted issues and finish what needs finishing and clear your body's energy field so that new and even more wonderful things can come into the space of your life.


  1. We all have episodes or times in our lives that have been left opened ended. If we can process those segments of our lives by reliving the thoughts and emotions, there would be more room for new experiences to flow into our lives. Dedicated quiet time might just help us relive those experiences. Once again, you have suggested a concept well worth the effort!

  2. Great advice! I am going to spend some time thinking about what might be unfinished in my life. Beautifully written.