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


The Leaving

I gave my notice through email because I had been waiting for a call back for days
So…I sent my resignation letter through email and didn’t like doing it that way one bit
But it was time.

Three days later, with no acknowledgment of having received it, I sent it again asking if it had been received
(Looking back, I should have sent it with a return receipt, I know)
The next day I got the following email with its one word answer

“Received”

And then they went silent for the next two weeks
No emails
No exit strategy discussions
No questions
Just silence from their corporate office half way across the US

And….I was confirmed
This is the company that I couldn’t quite figure out for the six months I was there
Why don’t people answer my questions or emails?
Why are all the processes set up as if to make things more difficult then they need to be?

The job turned out to be totally different then what they told me when I took it
But it was exactly what I needed to make the change

And so…. I left corporate America
I think for good

I plan to take a year off
Really think about what I’d like to do
No more management
No more trying to tell people who have an MD or a PHD behind their name what to do

And here is the blessing and really what made this choice even optional….
We’ve been preparing for this for months
Years really
And didn’t even know it
Well, not specifically anyway

We became debt free earlier this year and since then we have been saving 90% of my paycheck and donating the other 10%
So we already know how to live on the Cowboys salary

We downsized our living space and our ‘things’ and started living a minimalistic lifestyle almost a year ago
There will not be big adjustments to make there either

I don’t know a lot of people my age, 51, who get an opportunity like this
I feel so blessed and excited and hopeful

Not everyday has been blissful while making this decision
One day I was so overcome by fear as my inner voice started to wonder what the hell I was doing…that I had to pull my car over

“If there is a recession, you’ll never work again”
“You’re too old, you’ll never be hired again”
“You’re going to ruin all your retirement plans”
“All you know is the medical field, you’ll never get into something else”
“You’re so selfish, broken, unable ……..”

I realized it was fear talking to me
None of those things were real, none of those things were true
And once I acknowledged that fear, and where it was coming from, I found a beautiful peace wash over me
A feeling I’ve gone back to whenever I start to feel anxious since then

And, so I jumped.
I left the job one week ago
Its was really hard to not be able to pass off the tasks in a professional way
To at least talk someone through where different projects are at or things to be watchful for
Actually, talk to anyone at all
I did not do the transition like I’d have liked to
But that wasn’t my choice
I wish them well

This week I have started a list of things I want to do with this time
I want to look back at it and know I shook this gift for all it was worth
I want to get fit and healthy again, read daily, mediate, worship, incorporate yoga into my weekly workouts, send notes weekly to those I love, journal, walk, swim, create
I have so many plans
and I’m so excited for this adventure.

One last note….
I know there is something I can’t even imagine coming
I’ve felt it for a while now and for the first time in my life I’m totally ok waiting to see what that is….
I’m not looking yet
I’m not trying to figure out what it might be or how it will work
I am not going to create it
I’m just going to work on me and wait to see what God has waiting for me
Because…its going to be great!

I plan to write more about leaving Corporate America too, but for now….I can hardly wait for this next Grand Adventure!

My “I Want” Exercise

I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and the presenter asked the question, “What do you want?” In this context he was asking the listener to actually list out on paper things they wanted. I thought about it while I drove and decided to take the challenge, so this week I wrote out a list of things I ‘want’.

I started every sentence with the words “I want…” and just wrote until I felt like there wasn’t much else to say.

This was one of those experiments where I decided not to think too hard about what I was writing, to not judge myself, to write whatever I thought and to not edit along the way. Just write. Much like Julia Cameron’s suggestion when doing “Morning Pages ” from her book The Artists Way.

Julia asks people to hand write their thoughts first thing in the morning each day. She suggests at least three pages of free flowing, non-edited conscious stream of thought on a page. I look forward to the time when I can start most days with this journaling habit. For now, I used this technique for my “I want…” list.

At the end of my 4-5 minutes of typing, it was almost surreal to reread what I had typed. My list lacked things like a new car, or the latest Coach cross-body bag. It didn’t have a trip listed or new clothes. There were no household items or dreams of meeting someone specific.

Instead my list consisted of a lot of non-tangibles. Things like peace, time with my grand babies, quiet mornings and big holiday meals with my family topped my wants. As I read down through what I had just let myself write, I saw that the things I want most in life aren’t things at all. They have to do with heart and love and people. And about who I want to become.

This would not always have been the case. There was definitely a time in my life where my list would have looked much different. I am a recovering purse addict, so Coach bags used to be my want all the time! (At one point in time I had over 50 purses!) And I’m not saying I’ll never want or buy something just for fun again. But my list fleshed out the things that are most important to me.

In his blog, Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker writes “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.”

We have definitely minimized our life by downsizing, being intentional about purchases and how we spend our time and it was evident to me that my want list is full of the things I really do want most… people that I love, things that I enjoy doing and time focused on becoming the me I was destined to be.

It was a fun assignment to participate in. I would highly recommend it. Just remember, let yourself write whatever comes to mind. There are no wrong answers. Don’t edit and don’t judge yourself. Just let yourself be free to write.

Once you have your list, chase those things. Create the story of your life that highlights all the things you love most. That’s what I plan to do with my list. Chase and work for all the things that I want.

Everyone’s list is going to look different. That is a beautiful part of this exercise. Just like minimalism or any thing in life, each of us will have our own interpretation of how this will look. There is no right and there is no wrong. There is just you and what is important to you.

Try it and let me know what you learn about yourself. Until then, choose things that make you happy!

~rache

Pecked to Death…by a Duck

Do not let yourself be surrounded by people who will peck you to death like a duck. If you allow yourself to be around people and they show you who they are and you refuse to believe it, they will each time they enter into your space, take a little piece of your soul. By the end of your encounter with them you are less then who you were meant to be. -Maya Angelo

I used to find myself in these types of ‘relationships’. People in my life, that after spending any amount of time with them, always left me drained, sometimes angry and all too often frustrated at the time I had given to a relationship that somehow left me… less.

Sometimes those people were my closest friends, or a family member, making saying no to their invite of time together incredibly hard. And yet, each time I was with them, I came away with a little less of my soul.

I would find myself replaying the conversation, wondering if I had somehow fed into how I felt. Maybe I had helped create the storm. But as I have aged, and hopefully gotten a little wiser, I have begun to realize that there were some people in my life, that took much more from me then they ever gave back, sometimes at the cost of who I was meant to be.

No one else could be blamed for me feeling that way. There was no person “making” me feel those feelings. As Maya stated, they had shown me who they were over and over and yet I continued to give them space in my life and my heart.

Minimalism doesn’t just have to do with the clutter of stuff. It can be about things, people, time, energy and head space. And sometimes the hardest things to ‘downsize’ are the cluttered relationships we find ourselves in. We know they aren’t healthy for us. We know the person can’t be trusted so we spend our time with them guarding our words and our stories. We leave feeling diminished, sad and hurt, having hoped this time would be different. We have memories of how things used to be and a dream that person might return.

Evaluating all the aspects of your life can be challenging. Much more difficult then deciding to minimize your closet or your kitchen gadgets, minimizing time spent with a long time friend because they are not good for your soul, can take effort and can be heart wrenching. “Unfriending” a family member can create lasting ripples. Saying no to the invite for coffee can be sad and create anger in others.

So, here is what I have learned about minimalism as it pertains to the clutter in some relationships. The people I want to have in my life build me up. They hold my hand when I cry or when I’m scared or on a roller coaster ride! When I see their name come up on my cell, I smile as I answer and I feel blessed and loved when they choose to spend their precious time with me. I leave time with them feeling as if I have learned, grown and given equally back to the friendship I have received.

We all have limited hours. I want mine to be filled with the people and the things I love. Not things that just fill space or have little meaning. And I definitely don’t want things or people in my life who in the end, make me less that I was destined to be.

I am so grateful to have my best friend as my husband, grown children that I adore as adults, friends that make time for me on a rainy Saturday afternoon and family that has stood by me and made me feel more loved than I ever dreamed possible. These are those that at the end of the day, always feed my soul. Sadly, I have lost some people along the way. And while I sometimes remember the good times and wish things had been different, I want to be all I was intended to be. My whole soul intact, living my best life every day.

Let me know what you think about minimalism as it pertains to relationships or share a story of one that you enjoy and helps you be who you were destined to be.

Thanks for reading.

~rache

Grateful

When the dust starts to settle the view becomes crystal clear. I’m not going to fib …the last few months have been a whirl wind.

A new job, a sold house, a move, downsizing and the wonder filled news of a new grand baby. Whew… that was quite a run.

The ironic part is, I don’t think its quite over. We’ll see, but for now things have settled a bit and it feels like it would be a good time to just sit back quietly for a minute and be grateful.

Gratitude. Taking a moment or many moments in a row to just reflect on life and all the things that have gone so well. From the deck of our new place, as the sun starts to peek over the foothills my heart fills with love and peace and gratitude for so many things.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary recently and I was reminded of how grateful I am that he is in my life and even more so that we are sharing this life together. All the cliche’s seem…well cliche’ but what a gift to be married to someone you respect, someone who challenges you and the one who will forever be the best friend. We laugh together and still talk for hours every week. We share idea’s and thoughts and this journey to who knows where! And, there is no one else on the planet I’d rather do that with.

I’m grateful for change and for the beautiful places I get to enjoy living. I never dreamed this would be my life. Just a girl from a very small town in Oregon, living a dream she didn’t even know she had. Oh the adventure we’re on.

I could list the things my heart is grateful for today and none of it would be a surprise:

Kids and their kids. I’m so proud of all of them and how hard they work and how well they love. Its a great blessing to like your adult children.

Hope for the future and a contentment that I have rarely known in my life. Being loved and loving. People in my life who pour in to me simply because they love me.

Sunrises and sunsets. Breakfast with new friends and lunch with old ones. Giggles of the young and deep sighs of contentment as those around me age. And the knowledge that this life is a grand adventure that I am blessed to be on.

Oh what a life. I am incredibly grateful.

What have you noticed lately that you’re grateful for? I look forward to hearing your gratitude’s.

~rache

Kayaks

Since the very first time I met him I have known that MP enjoys the outdoors, specifically camping, hiking and kayaking.
One of our first over-nighters was a run to Stanley where we spent both mornings on the water and both evenings near the camp fire.

We’ve kayaked all the local ponds and many of the lakes and he once went to Glacier park with a friend and spent a couple days on the icy water there. We’ve had lots of good talks in them, one pretty good argument and lots of memories of the stillness of mornings as the sun started over snow capped mountains.

Once, on a cold May morning I dumped my kayak in a icy cold lake in northern Idaho and MP still gives me grief about that now and again. Man was I cold.

We’ve taken great adventures and made great memories in those kayaks.

Part of downsizing has been having to make choices about what we are keeping and what we are parting with. MP has blogged about our journey at MiddleAgeMark.com too, but all along we have both had to make decisions about what is important to us.

We decided the kayaks needed to be sold about a month ago. They were taking up a lot of room in the storage unit which we had agreed to get rid of by months end and last weekend we spent most of a day cleaning it out and making decisions about the rest of what was in it. The kayaks were bulky and took up too much room and we hadn’t used them in two seasons.

With plans to spend as much time as possible in our baby house in Mesa and lots of our future summers in Florida on a catamaran, it seemed like time to let the kayaks go. So MP posted them and they sold within days.

Just another of our adventures in downsizing and minimizing. MP said the guy who bought them had plans for he and his wife to use them locally. Kayaks should be used, often. I’m glad they will be in the water again soon, and I’m also glad we aren’t storing them any longer. Sometimes the hardest part is just making a decision. After that, acting on it comes easily.

Next weekend we will finish cleaning out the storage unit and cancel it. That is going to feel amazing and also mean that that part of the journey is finished. It means the process of moving is officially over.

Bring on the next adventure.

~rache

Old Photo’s and Echoing Dreams

On occasion I write more along the lines of poetic journaling then as an informational blog post. Below is one of my experiences in downsizing our home and the emotional balancing act of choosing what to keep and why.

The large 16×20 photo looks like something out of a 1970’s Home and Gardens magazine. Each child posed perfectly by the unseen photographer. Her in a pale-yellow dress, long hair down her back and a large matching bow atop her head.

His dark hair a contrast to everything light about her. His eyes ebony and his smile a little unsure. These two children loved each other deeply already. Him just 10 months and her almost 5 they had been together for all but the first 4 days of his life.

“How would you like to get a brother today?” the lady on the other end of the phone asked. I’ll never forget that call. So much hope. So many adventures. Such unforeseen heartache.

The photo had been in the garage atop a pile of other things for two weeks. What to do with a photo like that?

Keep it? For what? Who else would want it? No one. Throw it away? Oh Lord, what would our mother say?

I saw it each time I came home from work and each morning as I left. It made my heart hurt a little every time. What am I supposed to do with that big, outdated photo of two kids who haven’t spoken in years?

“You are no longer those children” my heart realized one afternoon. “And that is why you ache at the thought of throwing it away”.

How nice it would be to be those two kids again, loving each other. Playing together. Each liking who the other was.

But that time is past now. And while the memory is sweet, the photo is faded and the two children portrayed no longer exist.

The ache remains after having thrown the photo away. But it had never really been about the picture. It was always about the loss of each to the other and the shattered dreams of the people they had hoped they would be.