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It’s All About the Oars

The weeks leading into the recent holidays reminded me that every now and then I need to pull my paddles out of the water and drift into the wider stream of life. I have to ship my oars, take a pause and just be where I am: slow down and recover from illness; be part of a large extended family as we honor the passing of one of our elders and celebrate a life well lived; host a holiday and remember that this is all part of my rich Multidimensional Life.

Living a Multidimensional Life

Creating and living in a Multidimensional Life is the journey of my lifetime. It is ever evolving, expanding and twisting and one I’ll continue till my feet wear out and my eyes fade.

It wasn’t always this way. Where once I thought I had to be single minded in my pursuits (usually work) I now know that I want to flow among the various layers of my life that are important. The last 15-20 years of my life have been a time of gradual awakening.  I’ve been shedding elements of my old self that no longer fit. I’ve been unraveling the bindings that have held me in a state of discomfort.

It is a work in progress.

Managing the Oars

I also know that when I don’t actively and wakefully manage those oars, I can easily drift into the reeds or, even worse, into someone else’s stream. At the same time, I can’t just set a route and go on autopilot. Navigating involves monitoring conditions and adjusting my course. Otherwise, I’d be flung onto a strange shore and knocked back to sleep.

Does this sound familiar? Did you ever have a period in your life – days, weeks, sometimes longer – where life seems to have other plans? I’m guessing you have, just like me.

Take November for instance. I love that month. I love the crisp weather. I love the occasional bonus warm day that invites you to plant those last few bulbs, to cut back what needs cutting back in the garden and, if I’m really ambitious, to divide and move a few perennials. The garden is one of those layers of my life that is essential.

I also love Thanksgiving and have been hosting it for over 20 years. The ritual and routine of this holiday are a valued part of my life.

This past November began with a death in my extended family. A wake, a funeral, a repast. My large Irish family gathered in support, prayer and eating.

Shipping the Oars

And those few days throw me off my game a bit. There was little time for my normal routine; trying to fit writing in was a challenge and watching what I ate necessitated a little more vigilance and a lot more relaxation. But life is to be lived. Okay, lift the oars, adjust your course, slip into that stream of life.

And in the gathering and hugging, someone shared a lovely virus. It latched on to my husband and I and traveled home with us. We had a two-week stint of “hot potato” with sore throats, congestion and general malaise tossed back and forth. This lasted through all the pre-work and prep for Thanksgiving. By the end of the big day I had no voice and my left ankle had gone out on me. I was limping and croaking.

I chose to give myself permission to hit pause on my normal exercise routine (but, hey, window washing should count for something!) I let go of my target word count in my writing. I sneak in what I can.

The day after Thanksgiving, for better or worse, I attend our annual Poinsettia buying day, a tradition that we’ve shared with another family for over 30 years! This satisfies my desire for connection. (And a lunch that doesn’t involve turkey!)

On Saturday I purposefully dip my oars back in the water and navigate to the shore for a few days. I rest the oars on my lap.

I crash.

Not Fighting the Flow

I don’t fight the flow of life; I move with it while observing it. But I remain aware of my navigation tools. Those oars are just resting on my lap. They are there to engage when I’m ready and until then their presence reminds me that I have choices, that there are times to make things happen and there are times to let things happen. I get to choose.

The reality is that, as much as I take comfort in my own routines, I am not an island. I am part of a larger life. These times that necessitate a pause or a redirect are actually another layer of my multidimensional life. They are part of the ebb and flow of my life’s stream, not an eddy that spins me around and sucks me down an endless drain.

As long as I remember that I get to navigate, to dip and ship the oars, and that going off course is temporary and sometimes intentional, my Multidimensional Life flows on.

Dipping the Oars Again

Eventually, I put the oars back in the water and slowly find my way into back into my stream. I maneuver the paddles, adjust the rudder and choose the appropriate speed.

I am awake and still creating and living my Multidimensional Life. It beckons with all its beauty and riches. I am alive for the journey.

A Different Retirement Planning

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

What shapes our lives are the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never think to ask. ~ Sam Keen

Let’s turn retirement planning on its head. Or maybe just on its side. Let’s bring it down to reality and by reality I mean what is real for you. Traditionally, retirement planning has been about the money. It’s about a magic number to strive for. It brings up anxiety around whether it’s enough. And, if we think it’s not enough, we worry about how to get to that magic number. As a result, we often double down on our work, forgo personal time, grow a someday/maybe list, or put off for the things that are meaningful because they don’t contribute to that number. We experience stress and all the accompanying gifts that that brings.

Traditional Retirement Planning.

As I moved through my career, the retirement planning world came into prominence for the regular working person. IRA accounts, 401k allocations. New investors poured into mutual funds. As a result, the stock market boomed with these new investments. New careers were built around this segment of financial planning.

And this is all good.

Don’t get me wrong. Tending to your finances is important. It’s prudent. Because if you don’t sit down and look them square in the eye you may be in for some surprises.

However, as I approached my 50th birthday and saw the vague outline of retirement out on the horizon, I realized that it was not all about the money. Sure, I’d love to have a $1 million + retirement fund. Who wouldn’t?

Being called to a truer self

But I didn’t want to be a slave to this goal. There was something else that was important and needed serious attention.

That something was me.

A clock was ticking and the question it was beating into me was: when will you do what you say you want to do? When will you start living from the inside out instead of the other way around. My creativity was stifled and it was slowing killing me, from the inside out.

I was being called to be a truer version of myself.

Non-traditional Retirement Planning

I was being called to craft a multidimensional life in which the things that are urgent are woven into the things that were important, not the other way around. For me, the important things are writing, my garden, moving my body. It’s about exploring art, connecting more with nature and the people around me. It is also doing meaningful work as a coach and a writer to help others craft the life that brings them joy, meaning and fulfillment. Whatever that might be for them.

This is the kind of planning that needs to come first. Know who you want to be, how you want to live, what is important and what can be whittled away. Then absolutely look at the financial side.  Because now, you’re better informed as to what you need.

Start early

The first steps into retirement don’t happen after the gold watch and bye-bye luncheon. They begin now, wherever you are in your journey of life.

They begin with a question:

What is most important to me now and as I transition into the next stage of life.

Ask the question and then listen as ideas emerge. Capture the ideas. Let them settle in. Decide on a small step to get going. Then prepare for an exciting adventure.

Because retirement is not an ending. It’s not heading out to the pasture. It is the beginning of a vital, important stage of life that will cover decades. It is a rich Third Age.

I’ve told you what’s important to me. Now, it’s your turn. What would be a satisfying next stage of life for you? Let me know in the comments.

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