Tuesday, September 12, 2006


The past few days have been pretty low-key. Another couple piles of papers rough-sorted into boxes. (I have five boxes into which I'm collecting papers, which I shall then sort further and file later: Academic; General Interest; Church-related; Personal Business; Personal/Keepsakes/Pictures/Recipes.) Some knitting. Paperwork. Watering the church grounds.

Late this afternoon I took the bus and walked to the church, stopping off along the way going and coming back at different stores to pick up needed items. Last week, I bought a bus pass for this month. I live very close to a major bus route and am realizing that one of the reasons I can get by without a car is that I am not dependent only on my bicycle. When I don't feel like riding (or getting sweaty) and my destination is close to a bus route, I just hop on the bus. I wouldn't have that advantage in a more rural setting.

I have also been reading a book (again) that was given to me when I moved to California over twelve years ago, Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes, by William Bridges. Bridges discusses adult developmental theory, as well as cultural and mythic traditions associated with life stages and changes.

It was reassuring then to read that a pivotal time for many people is as they approach 30, as I was. Now, on the other side of 40, I am recognizing some of the shifts Bridges describes that can occur around mid-life ("a growing concern for meaning and a loss of interest in simple performance" [p. 46; see also p. 76]).

Bridges emphasizes the importance of endings, a "neutral zone," and then new beginnings, following a fundamental pattern of nature. An important aspect of navigating the neutral zone is to spend time alone.
We need not feel defensive about this apparently unproductive time-out at turning points in our lives, for the neutral zone is meant to be a moratorium from the conventional activity of our everyday existence. [...] In the apparently aimless activity of our time alone, we are doing important inner business. Walking, watching, making coffee, counting the birds on the phone wire, studying the cracks in the plaster ceiling over the bed, dreaming, [waiting for the bus to arrive, knitting, sorting papers into piles, moving books from one shelf to another, jbb] waiting for God knows what to happen, we carry on the basic industry of the neutral zone, which is attentive inactivity and ritualized routine. (p. 114)
Bridges states that in some traditional societies initiation rituals included a person spending time alone in the wilderness in order to cultivate different levels of awareness and knowing. These days, the neutral zone is often experienced as a feeling of emptiness.
It is the phase of the transition process that the modern world pays least attention to. Treating ourselves like appliances that can be unplugged and plugged in again at will or cars that stop and start at the twist of a key, we have forgotten the importance of fallow time and winter and rests in music. We have abandoned a whole system of dealing with the neutral zone through ritual. (p. 130)
So I am dipping into Bridges' book again as a guide during another time of change.

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