There seems to be natural moments to reflect & celebrate the past and then plan the future. For some this could be the year-end, the change of seasons, or the new moons. For me there are now two concurrent anniversaries that are making me pause to reflect and celebrate: the 4-year anniversary of retirement from full-time work and the 3-year anniversary of this blog. Both are quite startling as in “it’s been that long?!?”
I can still recall the (sinking) feelings of leaving work. I had no plan. Work was central to how I saw myself; the loss of the ready-made connections (conversations, validation, feedback), structure, and accomplishments (even with the deadlines) created a huge void. What was my value if I was not contributing in the work force? I was a workaholic who had not ever devoted any mind-space to create hobbies; I didn’t even have an exercise program! Who would be my circle of support and friendship if I could not talk about work or regularly be with my work-based people? I didn’t want to be the “ghost in the halls” at work. I wanted a LIFE!
I’ve come to realize that these past few years have been the most growth-filled period of my life. Yes, it took a while to find out what I really liked to do. I had to articulate my real values, discover my own interests, and give myself permission to try new things. I had to find the real me inside, lessen the living others expectations, and begin living from a place of positivity (not cynicism). I still struggle with comparing myself to others, feeling I’m not good enough, and feeling despair that I’m not “keeping up”. But awareness of those moments is the beginning of change.
Three things that have made the most impact these past few years:
CREATING DAILY MOVEMENT
When I retired, I had absolutely no exercise program – no movement, no strength, no flexibility. For years, I knew all the reasons why I should have had one. But the knowing never made the doing any easier. Some of the things that (finally!) worked for me to create movement, strength, and body flexibility in my daily life:
- Having an accountability partner. A friend and I walk almost every Monday at lunchtime. It works for her calendar – she is still working so has it scheduled as a meeting! She’s very fit, so we usually do a 4 mile hike at the local park. And I can’t not show up – I need to text her a reasonable excuse if I’m missing.
- Buying class passes. I hate to waste money, so having a 5-class pass (or 10) makes me go to the class. This worked for both Zumba and Yoga. Now, I’m a regular and if I’m not there, the instructor worries that something is wrong. I need to let them know when I’m traveling (and they ask about the trip when I’m back)!
- Walk & Talks. I’ve turned lunch dates or coffee dates or happy hours into walks. This has worked with a couple of friends and they were actually thrilled… they could use the exercise as well. So now when I call/text/e-mail to set something up, it’s a talk about where to walk instead of where to eat/drink.
- Putting on workout clothes or walking shoes. A weird one, but then it’s a reminder to just do it! And I recently got a FitBit to see if that might also help with daily motivation.
So while I have not lost any significant weight (I like to eat too much), I am stronger and more flexible than I have ever been.
Creating connections was intentional work – regularly reaching out to plan activities, regularly commenting on blogs. It often felt like work as I set targets, created action plans (email this person on this day, comment on that blog today), and worked on follow-through. I hadn’t realized a new support network was in place until a couple of things happened.
- When I got my cancer diagnosis, I decided to be open about it. It actually surprised me how many folks I knew also had faced similar challenges. And were willing to share their experiences to help me deal with mine. But even more so was the outpouring of support (cards and notes) from both IRL and on-line folks.
- We had our official open house at our new home… it was delayed for months because I was dealing with cancer treatment. (I just needed my head to be in another place versus party planning for that time.) We had such an amazing turnout of people (40+) and yes, some arrived in the pouring rain. And then helped wipe off tables and chairs after the rain…. it was planned as an outdoor BBQ and we had a 30-minute downpour 15 minutes into the beginning of the party.
I have an abundance of great people in my life and for that I am so very grateful! Why my surprise? I’ve always felt that I wasn’t a good friend to people…so why would people send me notes or come to my party (and in the rain).
It’s time to change my core beliefs: I have filled my life with positive, supportive people, both online and IRL. The ones who say, “you go girl”, no matter what I’m trying! The ones who tell me I’m being too hard on myself (yeah, I am), who tell me I’m great just the way I am (trying to believe that), who surround me with positive energy and make me smile. Some of those folks are work-transitioned, some are old renewed friendships, and some are new to my life. I am grateful for them all!
I was a critical, glass-half-full, worst-case-scenario-planning worrier. I was the first to point out what was wrong, what could be improved, or why it wouldn’t work. I also had a huge Imposter Complex. I’ve explored many self-development tools in the last few years to encourage a positive outlook. For me having a positive outlook includes: be curious, practice gratitude, practice kindness, be more in the moment, and let go of what doesn’t really matter. The top tools I use to aid my practice of positivity:
- Daily Journaling – It’s completely stolen from Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. My morning journal is my daily touch-point on my emotional, physical, and spiritual health!
- Action Planning – I am a planner; I need structure. From a yearly vision board, to seasonal bucket lists, to 52 new things this year, to a weekly check-list… I am intentionally planning and then refining my life plan.
- My Blog as my Life Coach – This blog space and the connections I have made all around the world are a continual source of inspiration and motivation to live life fully, to thrive on this journey.
So I am celebrating my 4-year/ 3-year anniversaries. I am happy with how far I’ve come and looking forward to the next few years. As I’ve said in previous posts, my 21st Century Retirement is a Series of Transitions. I’m celebrating where I am, but I know there are more transitions to living life even more fully.
What moments do you use to reflect, celebrate, and plan?
Picture Credit: Pixabay