Planning for RetirementRetirement Transition and Change

“The Moment of Reinvention” by Patricia Cavanaugh

By December 7, 2010 May 25th, 2023 3 Comments

Redefining Success: The Journey of Reinvention in the 3rd Act

I knew it was time to leave my clinic work when I woke up and felt I could not go to work one more day. Another sleepless night, and I was full of dread.  I had to make a change.  I had been serving the poor and addicted population of Oakland, California for close to 18 years.  I was burned out and I knew I needed help. I asked friends for a referral for a career counselor.  With her help, I developed a plan to make a change in two years when I turned 65.  I wanted to continue working but with a different group of people.  As we know when you make a decision, God responds.

Within weeks of formulating my two-year plan, my job at the clinic dramatically ended. The environment at the clinic had deteriorated.  I decided to resign while I still had my dignity and integrity.

When it was over, I was exhausted. I took naps in the morning and afternoon.  With everything and everyone I felt over stimulated. I needed to rest, rest, rest. I thought I would jump back into work within three months, but I had no idea of the depth of depletion of my mind, heart and body. Considering a schedule terrified me bringing back the memories of the rigid clinic scheduling demands and the constant state of clinical crises with each half hour client session.

My career counselor was a terrific support. I was scared that I would never get rested. I worried that I was just simply used up. She continued to hold the knowledge that I would rebound when I didn’t believe it.

She encouraged me to let myself wander and light on anything that I found interesting… lots of daily prayer and walks in nature with my dog. Thank God for my dog. He got me up off the couch at least four times a day.  I spent a month working in clay letting forms reveal themselves to me without any intellectual involvement on my part. My deeper self spoke to me in the language of clay and form.

With my counselor’s help, I began to focus on my areas of strength, passion and curiosity. I read about “retirement” and the second half of life when I could tolerate reading.  When I couldn’t, I listened to books on tape. A vague outline began to reveal itself to me. I allowed this new sense of calling to unfold rather than force something into being before I was ready.

It took over 18 months before I developed the idea for The 3rd Act, working with folks in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who want to create a life with passion and purpose. My work as a coach and workshop leader combines my wisdom and strengths, yet stretches me into the new worlds of social media and public speaking.  It was a challenging and fearful time, but with help and perseverance I discovered a new path.

Reflecting on that morning of dread when I knew I could no longer do my chosen work, it is clear that it was the moment of reinvention and the beginning of my 3rd Act. My focus has changed and I wake up with joy and anticipation for my day. My life is more balanced and filled with creativity, passion and purpose.

Do you have experience with reinvention? Let us know.


  • Karen Gleason says:

    Dear Theo, I really enjoyed reading your story of transformation. I can definitely relate to it. Although I loved my work in the lab, I just found something more compelling: a need to nurture and attend to what Gil and I had created together, the Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation, so I retired from lab work. I, too, have had to stretch myself quite a bit to do this work. Love, Karen

  • Catherine M says:

    Very nice newsletter and blogs, Bev. and Patricia. do keep up this wonderful work. I pass it on to others.

  • Marcia R. says:

    Patricia ~ Thanks for such an inspiring story of holding the faith, relying on other sentient beings to help, waiting, and allowing your deeper self to eventually intuit what’s next. After a full year, I am still in that exhausted cocooning stage now and it does feel endless! Yes, the health concerns are real and scary, yet I believe it’s all bound up with much larger life/system transitions. “Epic” is what my holistic M.D. said about this ongoing healing crisis. Indeed!!!

    Blessings to you and Bev ~ Marcia

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