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Transitions can cause discomfort


The hardest part of a transition is right before you actually make one. To get from A to B, from here to there, from the known to the unknown, you have to go through that place of great discomfort, the “bottleneck.”

Fritz Perls, the innovative psychotherapist who developed Gestalt therapy, so described his patients when they were unable either to let go of their old outdated situations and move on into the new, scary and unknown or to sink back into the safe, old tried and true albeit, unsatisfactory, place: that uncomfortable, frustrating bottleneck. Better to sit dithering on the fence. Remember to “look before you leap.” On the other hand, maybe it’s better to close your eyes and jump — take a chance, have a little faith.

In my life, as in most, there have been serious crossroads to negotiate: Leave the marriage? Stay? Remain where you are relatively comfortable or toss it all out the window and head for greener pastures (to mix a few metaphors)?

Some lucky people never seem to have to face such choices, or perhaps they choose not to. “Better the devil you know than to face the devil unknown.” We fear the unknown and not without reason. Often we wait until pushed to the limit before taking the leap. Like fledglings falling out of the nest to learn to fly, eventually we grow out of our comfortable nests and are forced to move on.

Like it or not, life is a series of transitions, large and small, and they occur willy nilly. What we choose to do about it is what matters.

My latest bottleneck has been the decision to move from California to Oregon to be closer to my daughter and grandchildren, not to mention a clutch of nieces and cousins. I gave myself a year to decide and moved up “temporarily.” I did not want to burn my bridges all at once, so I rented a house here in Lake Oswego as a temporary measure and leased my home in California.

To uproot myself from 50 years of continuity in the Bay Area, where I led a rich and diverse life in a beautiful place, filled with many dear friends, where I enjoyed a thriving practice in Feldenkrais, not to mention decades of dance, teaching and performing, and finally, to abandon what is probably my most significant achievement, the founding and development of Dymaxion, my dance company, to leave all this would take time to accomplish.

But even despite all that, I had been feeling the need for a change, a new self-definition, a chance to turn to a more inward, quieter time for myself in my remaining years. These needs finally outweighed all the rest. By the end of the year, when my California tenant offered to buy my house, I was ready and I let it go.

Indeed, I have found much of what I was seeking here in this beautiful and so different environment. In six plus years, my whole relationship to time is changing. Time, both the feeling of not having enough of it and the sense of “should” “ought” or “have to,” has radically modified. I am letting go of the compulsions I used to put on myself. Accomplish, as in “what did I accomplish today?” is a word I’m banishing from my current vocabulary. I don’t need it. I’m 87 for heavens sake, time to be through with external and internal pressures like that. I’m retired.

Without meaning to be presumptuous or pretentious, I’m looking for peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart. For me, peace does not imply withdrawal or giving up involvement with my fellow beings and the world. No, it’s more like being centered and being able to do or not to do, to have or not to have — the middle way. I would like to be able to act without a pressing sense of urgency and to perform as well as possible but not necessarily as fast as possible.

My most important teacher and mentor, Moshe Feldenkrais, described the perfect physical action as one in which the doer uses just exactly the amount of effort needed to complete the action, not too much (e.g., taking a sledgehammer to a tack) nor insufficient to perform it — just the perfect balance. All truly great athletes and dancers do this naturally, without having to think about it, which is one reason they are so wonderful to watch.

Meanwhile, I continue my search for peace and perhaps in time, I will learn to truly let go of the old ways and find what I’m looking for and learn to just be.

Chloe Scott is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.