Monday, December 28, 2015

All the world's a stage...

I think the first formalized stages I’d ever heard described were Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief after the death of a loved one or similar bad news.

Recently, I heard of the six stages of retirement described by gerontologist Robert Atchley:

And now, I’ve discovered the Nine Emotional Stages of Holiday Travel:

1   Nostalgia 4   Frustration 7   Annoyance
2   Anxiety 5   Calm 8   Excitement
3   Productivity 6   Happiness 9   Relief

So I guess if we were just looking at the complexity of the process, it takes more steps to do holiday travel than it does to retire, and it takes more steps to retire than to get over a loved one’s dying. Okay, I’m being facetious.

Kübler-Ross’ stages don’t begin with looking forward to something – hers are all about reacting to horrible news – so she’s missing those steps of positive anticipation. But it seems to me that the other two processes are basically the same thing: looking forward to something, making plans, confronting the reality of that which you wished for, feeling bummed, and then recovering. (The travel one has more steps because it’s a round-trip: you get to visit family – with both positive and negative anticipation … and then you get to come home.)

This is called a PGIO. I learned this in college:

After hearing this, I bet you’ll see PGIOs everywhere, too. These same five steps apply to everything:
For instance, a First Third, college example: (1) I really wanted to go to that party, (2) I called up friends to go with me, (3) place was full of drunk assholes. (4) What a waste of an evening! (5) So let’s all talk about it and hoot and laugh over at the coffee house.

Now a Third Third example:
  1. My job ends in April; I can hardly wait for all that free time

  2. I’m going to take an art class, finish binding those books, finish the quilt, travel

  3. I seem to be drifting, not getting any of it done, and I’m not a very good artist anyway

  4. Yikes, what have I done! Am I going to be this worthless and unemployed for the next 30 years?!

  5. Oh, I get it: I’m making my own future. Who knew it would involve blogging, some contracts, teaching, ice skating? But I need to impose some structure for this to work.
The thing is, I have a hard time seeing these steps as describing a period of my Third Third (or any third). It makes it sound like once you move through the steps, your caterpillar has turned into the butterfly. Well, even the grief folks say that’s not true; you can keep repeating the cycle as new realizations or situations hit.

I think there are two versions of this cycle: the daily one and the Big Picture one. I had the daily one just yesterday, with the quest for the calendars: (1) Today I’ll buy my new calendars, (2) Off I go to the store, (3) They’re all out, (4) It’s taking forever to find the calendars I want; 2016 is a mess already, and (5) Wow! I found a way to get the calendars after all.

But the Big Picture one: can we only see it in hindsight? Do we only see the stages of our lives as we move out of them?

[to be continued due to the existential crisis of the author who found herself in a paroxysm of re-evaluation, self-examination, and relentless rumination]

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