There is No Better Time

In February of this year I went to our vacation home in Arizona to spend some time in the sun. It was after the new grand baby arrived and prior to the COVID-10 virus arrival. I always love it there and although we lovingly refer to it as our baby house, the outdoor living that is affords due to the beautiful weather makes it feel like I have a whole park to live in.

One morning while there I was enjoying the morning sun in the back of our house, coffee in hand, wearing my jammies, palm trees gently sharing their ‘song’ as the breeze rustled their leaves. It was gorgeous. I was in a blissful and wonderful place, very aware of how blessed I was. While in Arizona I had been continuing my quest for personal growth by reading, working out and walking daily. I had found a place to volunteer a couple times a week and I also picked up a new craft, dot painting, that was really fulfilling my creative appetite and that morning I was reflecting on the journey and the path and feeling incredibly grateful for it all.

As I sat thinking on the day, one of my back neighbors got a visitor and my ears perked up as I heard the visitor say, “Good morning. How are you?” A typical greeting and one we all hear or even ask many times a day. In our little village in Arizona, I am probably greeted 50+ times a day by someone outside or on their patios. Every dog walker, biker and leisurely stroller greets each other with a wave, a smile and often a comment on the day or a question of how you are. It’s so common as a matter of fact, that when someone fails to do it, it is out of the ordinary and honestly uncomfortable. Anyway, on this particular morning it wasn’t the greeting or the question about the day that caught me off guard, it was the answer.

When asked, how are you today the answer was…”Well, things could always be better.”

Wait, what? Things could always be better? While I guess that answer is true, it is also bleak and unsatisfied and depressing. I looked around again. Was this person, just 100 yards from me, not seeing the same things I was seeing? Was he not feeling the warm sun at 10am? Was he not aware that none of us wore a coat, a sweater or even long pants? While much of the US was under snow we sat in 70+ degrees, sun shining at full blast, people out living life in a resort community where four pools, live music and any number of activities were are our disposal 24 hours a day. How could life be any better?

As I have contemplated that conversation over the last few weeks, and as the corona virus has taken hold of the US, I have been considering my own outlook on things including many of the changes to my daily routines. I know the half full vs half empty idea and I know everyone gets to see everything through their own whatever-they-choose colored glasses, but it reminded me again that I have control of how I perceive things. I can choose how I see things, circumstances, even how I interpret the actions of the people around me.

Like many of you, I’ve read many of the encouraging blogs the last few weeks about things to try at home while staying in. I’ve seen the cute videos of kids building forts, moms and kids baking treats, and dad’s doing push ups with kids on their backs. Everyone trying to make the best of where they are. Because they have a choice, just like I do to make this time at home something amazing or something I just get through.

While I think about my journey and my path of leaving corporate America a few months ago, I am aware that the slowing down can be difficult, and even more so for those who are unsure of a paycheck or when they will be back at it again. We work at such a frantic pace sometimes that when we have the opportunity to slow down, it can be very difficult to know what to do with ourselves, with our thoughts or even our emotions. It takes time for our minds to come off the treadmill that has been running at full speed for sometimes years. I know when I stopped working it took weeks for me to realize I didn’t need to be watching the clock, preparing for the next meeting or scanning my brain for the details that made up my day. And it was uncomfortable. I had the fortunate opportunity to know my work days were coming to an end and was able to make some plans for how to fill my days prior to being home. I know that has not been the case for everyone with this pandemic creating change by the hour and that can make this all the more unsettling.

But here is what I learned and am continuing to learn daily. Every day is an opportunity and it all depends on how I look at it as to how it will turn out. One option is to decide that ‘things could always be better’ and to sit and wait for things to improve while narrating in my mind all the possible negative outcomes this down time might create.

But another option is to decide that this is the best day ever and make the most of it. How many times while working, I wished for a quiet day with no responsibilities to just have time to read a book, sleep late or spend time with my kids. How many times I would have been so grateful to not set an alarm, make the morning commute, meet with an angry client or let some one go. A one or two or three day respite would have seemed like a dream come true and I had lists of things I would do if I ever got the time.

By no means am I trying to say that this isn’t stressful. That not working doesn’t have a huge impact on families that are not only financial, but emotional as well. But, maybe, just maybe we could each use this time to do something we’ve been putting off for while. Maybe learning a new craft, reading a book that we’ve had on the shelf for years, creating a new dinner or calling a friend we haven’t heard from in a while. We don’t have control of many of the things going on in our world right now. We may not have control over when/where we work, what we can buy at the grocery store or who we can see daily, but we do have control over some other things. Our attitude. The thoughts we let ourselves listen to and believe. How we treat the ones we are housing with. How we spend the hours we are being given. We have the opportunity to really slow down and we get to decide exactly what to do with our time for a bit.

What if we used this time to come out on the other side better people? I have had the gift of being off for three months now, and have been thinking along these lines since late December. When I look back in a year, what do I want to know I did during that time? What new skills do I want to have? What things do I want to have given so much priority to that they stick when life transitions again?

As I started this year off, these are some of the questions I asked myself and continue to ask myself. I want to be a better me at the end of my time off and on a smaller scale I wonder if these same questions could be used during our ‘time off’ for COVID-19. Maybe its time to start a bedtime routine with our kids that we were always too tired for. Or maybe its learning that cooking is fun. Or maybe, its just time to rest for a while, to recoup from the high speed at which we notoriously run our lives.

Whatever it is or however we each choose to use this unique time, I for one want to look at every day not deciding it could be better but realizing I can make it the best day. What things are you doing that you’re excited to finally have time to try? Is there anything you have forgotten you’d like to add to your life but just couldn’t find the time? Today is our day! Lets agree to use this time in such a way that we look back on it and know we made the most of it.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. It has been an amazing 3 months and I know there is so much more yet to come. I look forward to the continued growth, the things I am continuing to understand about myself and the next grand adventure.

Until next time.

-rache

5 Things I’ve learned about Me in the first 60 Days

For 30 years I have been sure about my role. Who I was. I’ve not worked all of that time but even when I took time off to raise my babies or switched positions, I still knew who I was. I was her/his mom, his wife, their boss, the manager, Nana. I had not anticipated my identity being unclear. Who Am I without a title? Or a paycheck?

Maybe a better question and one I have been spending a considerable amount of time contemplating is…Who Do I Want To Be? What an amazing opportunity to be able to ask this question at this point in my life. I believe so many of us get on a path long before we know who we are or want to be, but more because the college placement test said we had an aptitude for, fill in the blank. Or like me, a physician sees something in a young women, working in a lumber yard, and hires her to run his private office. Fast forward 25 years and I’m running groups of surgeons, never really having thought too much about if I liked what I was doing; it was just what I did.

Now, two months into this new life of not working, I’m wondering what I want to do when I grow up, or more precisely, Who I want to be. And I’m learning some really valuable things about myself that I am not sure I would have learned until much later, if ever, without this time of healing and regrouping.

I need to be Creative
The first thing I am learning or maybe just becoming more aware of than ever before is that I need to create. It is part of my core. Without the ability to be creative I lose my ability to be creative. Its a circle for me. The more creative I am the more creative my brain can and wants to be and I have to feed that need. It is healthy and allows and provides great joy in my life. I did some travel recently and thought I could just not create during that time. That I would be ok not doing anything creative. Whether it be painting, paper crafting, knitting or macrame, I thought I could just go without for a bit. I was wrong. Without that creative stimuli I am not thinking creatively. I find myself blank as I try to consider new projects that I should be seeing options for. My brain is wired to create and not doing so alters what I can see as possibilities for everything. So this week, with a friend’s generous offer to borrow her craft box, I painted. And was reminded how much I love it! I found myself smiling as I filled water bowls and laid out paint and canvas. Creativity is part of who I am and I need to make sure it stays as one of my top priorities.

I need to Give Back
Another thing I’m learning is that while I am enjoying the opportunity to focus on me, getting healthy and strong again, I can’t do that for 8 hours a day…or more. I have found a quiet rhythm to my mornings that I am enjoying. It includes some quiet reading, yoga, a workout that varies based on how I feel on any given day, a study that is pointing me towards my purpose and meditation. It also includes meal planning, shopping and prep which I really enjoy and some other little household tasks. But as I approach the 8 week mark, I am understanding that I am not going to be ok living days on end focused only on myself.

With that in mind, I have volunteered to help out locally. I need to give something back. I don’t need to own anything and I don’t want to manage any one, I just want to interact with people, have a purpose and feel like I’m doing something good. I’ll find a niche, but for now a few hours each week volunteering is just fun and really fulfilling.

You really can wash your Hair every other day
Ok, this one may sound a little silly but I’ve just always been afraid to try not washing my hair daily. Even when it was long, it got washed and blow dried every day. I was always worried that if I tried it and it looked awful, I’d still have to go to work and well..have a bad hair day. So, with the encouragement of my stylist and no ‘work’ to show up looking bad for, I tried it. And what do you know…its really can work! I might be the last person on the planet to get it, but I’d say BIG life lesson learned. More so in broader terms though, of being willing to try new things or things I’ve been too afraid to try before.

I need a balance of Alone Time and Together time
I’m discovering that I am not very comfortable doing things alone. I grew up in a large family, so alone time was a rarity and as an adult I have worked in places surrounded by people. In all my jobs I usually had a lunch buddy and then had my family when I got home. For years I had close friends who I planned most outings with ensuring I rarely did activities alone. And if given a choice, I’ll usually pass on an activity even if I really wanted to do it, if I have to do it by myself. As I look back, I can even see one promising job that left me alone for hours on end every day. I was so discouraged by the atmosphere I left after only 8 weeks.

So, part of my experience of growth that is becoming clear is learning to be bold and brave enough to do more things by myself. And for me, that is not a understatement. Sometimes I have to literally tell myself, out loud, to be brave. Not for things like going to the grocery store, but to know that for a majority of days I need to actively seek out and find activities to fill my time and much of that time might mean doing things alone since my husband is still working.

I’m learning though. I have found multiple activities that I have now marked on my calendar to do weekly that I enjoy immensely. One is listening to a musical group that get together for a jam session weekly. I stumbled onto it one day and have made it part of my routine to go listen. I’m engaging with a new group of friends who have a similar schedule as mine and I’m looking for new things to try including a jewelry making day. Ironically, I am also learning that while I enjoying doing activities with others I also enjoy some down or quiet time. I used to have it on my commute to and from work. An hour or so to just listen to music, pray, and be with my own thoughts. Finding the perfect balance is the key and I’m enjoying the process and finding new activities and friends along the way.

I really Enjoy Yoga
Yoga has always been a bit intimidating to me. All those crazy poses, held by lithe, long haired beauties all smiling while toning and being fit. I imagined them easily sliding between each pose never needing to pause or give themselves space to just be still. But, with the encouragement of my daughter and with my decision to do what it takes to get healthy, I committed to 30 days of at home Yoga. And while I have not turned into that lithe and toned 30 year old yet, I feel so much better. I enjoy that time in the morning allowing my body to stretch and learn itself and its boundaries. I’ve enjoyed seeing the progress I’ve made in a short time and I know I feel better on the days I do it. I’ve even started using Yoga for specific needs if I wake up with hip or back pain. I’d say the practice of Yoga will be one of those things I do for the rest of my life. What a cool age to try something new and love it!

I still wake up every day amazed that I get to be here doing what I am doing, or not doing. And while I never want to be patronizing, this whole learning yourself at 51 is hard work. Learning who I am and more importantly, who I want to be is an amazing, sometimes tear-filled and often surprising journey.

If you’re like me, we sometimes look forward to retirement thinking how nice it will be to have nothing to do. And I get it. With the schedule and race so many of us run it can be an amazing thought. And can even be something we choose to do, nothing that is, for a while. But the last thing I’m learning quickly, mostly because this life transition happened without a lot of heads up, is how important it is that we discover who we are and the things that bring us meaning, joy and purpose because day after day of nothing to do can be as taxing on ones soul as being overwhelmed. We are made to have purpose and live our best life. I am enjoying the journey of self discovery, even if its sometimes uncomfortable, to know a better me, the person I really want and am supposed to be.

While this is not a complete list of what I’ve learned so far, it is the top few things that were most surprising to this point. I have a hunch this list will continue to grow as I live out this adventure. What are you learning about yourself that is surprising you? I’d be interested to know if you’ve discovered things about yourself that you didn’t realize before and how you’re incorporating those things into your life.

Until next time…

-rache