Planning for RetirementRetirement Transition and Change

“Beginnings and Endings Coupled with a Paradox or Two” by Patricia Cavanaugh

By March 19, 2012 May 29th, 2023 2 Comments

Paradox of Plans: Change and New Beginnings in the 3rd Act

As spring approaches, I notice my heart feels some excitement about the newness in my life.  New shoots of possibilities in both my personal and professional worlds are peaking up between the cement cracks of what was supposed to be my planned and settled future. I had carefully plotted out the next 10 years.  I thought I would be alone with my dog, living near my children and working as psychotherapist and coach in a part time practice in southern California.  I loved this plan.  It felt rich with grand mothering opportunities and the feel of challenges that any geographic move offers.  My work in The 3rd Act felt clear and solid…something I could take with me to the “southland”.  I had business connections and contacts that I was looking forward to nurturing and developing.

All that has changed.  I am no longer alone.  I met someone at a business meeting 6 months ago and we have become a couple.  It is so remarkable after so many single years to be considering not just my own future but the concerns and desires of someone else for the next 10 years.  How might these blend?  Where do we both want to spend the majority of our time?  Shall we keep our own places or venture into sharing a home? He likes plain simple food and I am a bit of a foodie.   How will we include family and friends in to this new relationship?  I am more of an introvert and he is clearly and extrovert.  He likes jazz in the morning and I prefer silence. We both have lead full lives, how will we make the time for this new, hoped for but unexpected relationship ? (you might like to take a look at our new Couples Workbook)

Life just gets more and more deliciously complex.  And there in lies the paradox of the third act.  We can plan the culminating act of our life’s play with great intention but we need to be prepared for the unexpected.  In my case the “unexpected” was positive but it might have easily been a negative like health or financial problems.   Either way, we are presented with new challenges and perhaps even some “annoyance” that our plans have been disrupted.

Despite my comfort with my plans for my third act, everything is now excitingly up for grabs.  A new script is emerging for the next scene. I am happily exploring new opportunities and facing new adjustments.  Instead of winding down my private coaching and psychotherapy practice in Berkeley, I am envisioning it growing and developing.  Rather than renting a part time office in Orange County, I am planning on redecorating the space I presently occupy. Rather than trying the latest “in” place to eat, I save that for friends and search out restaurant faire that both my partner and I can enjoy. Rethinking my family time in So Cal offers all kinds of alternate possibilities for dividing my time between Los Angeles area and the Bay Area.  And our morning routine is a blend of quiet early on and soft jazz as the day progresses.  Surprisingly, I am enjoying the change.

In this act, our choices become rich with nuance.  Nothing seems to be quite straight ahead as we had assumed it would be.  The richness and variety of the dishes laid before us on the 3rd Act table, can give our lives a particular kind of sweet taste not experienced in our second act.  It reminds me that one of the hallmarks of this stage of life is the ways in which the themes of “The Play” are brought together and often resolved in a deep and satisfying conclusion as the curtain falls. A theme of your “Life Play” might be “how to balance time alone and time with others?” or  “how much should I work and how much play do I welcome into my life?” to name just two. It’s exciting to imagine what my own dénouement will be; how my own themes will resolve themselves…I am very curious.

How have your third act plans changed?


  • Just a note to say how fun it was to read your latest, and most exciting, contribution!

    Best wishes for a lovely future for you and your new partner!

    Berta and Warren

  • Meredith Stout says:

    Thank you to Patricia, Charles and Bev for this particularly moving and thought provoking issue of the 3rd Act Newsletter. Your articles are rich in delving deeply into what can happen to us in our lives, either by a stunning, split-second transformation or by slow accumulation of wise reflection. Congratulations on your work, Meredith

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