Throwing plans out the window

We must let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us” – Joseph Campbell

Recently, I have come to the realization that I have been hanging onto a fierce longing for everything in my life to return to “normal”. I am also working towards accepting that aspects of my life may be permanently altered. And, I am trying to be okay with that.

Going through a journal I found last year that dates back to my university days, I had typically started all of the entries I wrote with a quote and so happened upon some of the wisdom from Joseph Campbell. Managing expectations and building in flexibility to my skill set was something I thought that I had achieved quite awhile ago.

Apparently, these are skills that must be worked on in an ongoing fashion in order to be available when you actually need to draw upon them. As my emotional responses to the events that are shaping the world right now become more rigid and as I struggle to not apply inappropriate expectations on goals and plans I had for my life at this stage, I realize I need a refresher course.

Understanding the areas of my life that define my purpose and give shape to the meaning I attach to activities and people that I value had started to fade into the background. Taking time out for reflective thought rather than simply staying “busy” for the sake of just being busy has actually grounded me in ways that I had been losing touch with.

My journaling practice had fallen by the wayside and I was struggling with my writing practice as my headspace was full of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” types of thoughts. This crept up on me just like your shoulders begin to reach towards your earlobes when you are stressed.

Recognizing that I am in transition once again and that I need to accept where this is taking me to at this time is hard work. I have always had to apply focus to relax my expectations of myself. So I am doing everything in my power to let this self-knowledge be my guide during these challenging times.

What do you do to get through times when your plans are thrown off kilter, activities of daily living change, and your relationships become altered?

Stay healthy, safe and keep moving through this wild journey we call life!

4 Powerful Life Habits that are never too late to fully embrace

As I move along in my journey of reinvention, I have been in a process of continual evaluation of what works in my life and what doesn’t. There are many strategies and tools we can all use to live healthier lives. But often we feel too busy, too overwhelmed, or too stressed to focus on our own needs.

Through this process of self-reflection, I have landed on four life habits that I intend to focus on as I move forward on this journey.

  1. Embrace relationships and adopt an anti-age segregation approach – Over the past thirty years I have often found myself intending to call friends or family members only to place that thought on hold because I told myself that life just gets in the way. Friendships require time, attention, and nurturing and family members may be far away both geographically and emotionally. As you age, the scope of your relationships can become very narrow and your risks of loneliness and all of the subsequent health impacts increase unless you are proactive. Developing relationships with people of all ages exposes us to more interests, opportunities, and a deeper understanding about our lives as well as those of others.
  2. Engage in work or activities that sustain passion and provide your life with meaning – Full time work is not the only activity that we can do as we age that provides opportunity to fulfill our passions and life purpose. Finding any activity that both energizes us, aligns with our values, and stretches our ability to learn and grow is important. What seems to be key is that we have to both embrace and enjoy whatever it is that we choose to do.
  3. Adopt a life long learning habit – Although this may sound like a cliched concept, research from the field of neuroscience suggests that to enhance the brains ability to create new neural pathways, it is critical that we not stop learning new things. The current craze of crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, etc., while not harmful, may not stem the tide of dementias as promised. This knowledge is now surpassed by understanding that our brains actually benefit from learning new things and being challenged by the process. Learning new things may be uncomfortable at first, but if we persevere, the gains can be significant.
  4. Adopt healthy habits as soon as possible – (Or it is never too late). Most of us are aware (sometimes painfully so) that our health habits related to proper nutrition, exercise and movement throughout the day can help us achieve our longevity goals. By reducing and eventually avoiding harmful practices such as smoking or vaping cigarettes, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or abusing other substances, or eating junk or unhealthy amounts of food, we have the ability to turn our health status around no matter what our age. Perhaps most critically is the manner in which we internally talk to ourselves about some of our less desirable habits. Having the ability to counter some of our own negative self-talk and be compassionate towards ourselves can take us forward in a positive way.

These are the healthy habits I am trying to commit to building more mindfully into my life. What are your strategies for living a healthier life? I would love to hear what you and others around you are doing. We only have one life to live and it is a work in progress for all of us.

Retired: But Currently Working…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked on several occasions why I am still working (part-time) when I am “supposed to be retired”. In a teasing type of manner, I have replied that I’m not dead yet and still think I have things to share and contribute to the world around me. And the responses that I have received back have been eerily similar.

Each person who asked me this question, told me that they thought that retirement was to be a time of rest and relaxation. And I had a strange sense that they thought I was doing something wrong by working. Perhaps they thought that it would interfere with my new retired lifestyle.

Many folks who leave full time work continue to work part-time, or try out other types of full time work that differ from their previous careers. It seems unrealistic to imagine a life where for, perhaps, as long as thirty or more years, one stops contributing in some way to the world in which they live. And, there are so many ways to continue to have purpose, provide value, and to feel like a valued member of our communities. Working is only one such strategy.

I often feel as though I am in a situation where I haven’t yet decided what to do with my life. I have been setting some goals, learning new skills, pursuing my passion for writing but I still have a strong sense that my next chapter has not yet to become fully formed in my mind’s eye. Working part-time, gives me the flexibility to earn some income while the vision for the next steps takes shape.

There are differences in my approach to working life now. I have the good fortune to choose when and if I will take on some work and can structure work to fit within my new lifestyle. I can work more at some times than others. I truly feel as though I am no longer a part of the long working hours culture and am able to achieve a level of happiness from my occasional work opportunities.

The badge of “busyness” that many of us ascribe to does not have the meaning it once did, nor do I have the desire or inclination to just be “busy”. Learning to meet other needs such as focusing attention on my health, spending more time with family and friends, choosing to take classes that teach me new skills and further my current interests are now my priority. I am able to pursue what really interests me and I find that just being able to do that, in and of itself, can be a joyful surprise.

But, I still like to work some of the time, and will continue to pursue professional development opportunities that I ironically I actually used to be too busy for. Many of the skills that I have developed over my career are easily transferrable and have allowed me to move forward to new opportunities. This transition has proven to be dynamic and multifaceted in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

When I was ready to retire a couple of years ago, I had already begun a process of disengagement. Following a period of creative reflection to explore what I want to be in this part of my life experience, has led me to re-engage with the work world on my own terms. I appreciate that I am now able to take the time I need to re-develop my identity during this period of transition. When I pause to think about some of the conversations that I have had recently, I realize that I am quite content to consider myself, Retired but currently working.