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Hamster wheels, Merry-go-Rounds and Sisyphus

Crashing Wave Like Overwhelm
Photo by Todd Turner on Unsplash

What do hamster wheels, merry-go-rounds and Sisyphus have to do with each other? Simply put, they provoke and exemplify stress and overwhelm.

So many successful, professional women spend their lives on a hamster wheel. It’s a constant push, always focused on getting things done and accomplishing things.

Or their lives are a merry-go-round. With that incessant music – someone else’s music – insinuating its way into our veins, taking over our natural rhythms.

We are like Sisyphus, pushing the rock up, struggling, paying for sins long forgotten. Perhaps just the sin of gender and the need to prove ourselves. The need to try harder.

Enter stress and overwhelm.

Sisyphus dared to fiddle with the plans of the gods. He was punished with a job that will never be done. Is that you?

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

(Opening lines from Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese)

Here’s the truth.

You are already good. You can stand tall in that. And you will go on being good: at what you do, at who you are, at what you stand for. Stop wasting your energy trying to prove it. Come out of the desert into the cool green glade of your essence.

What I know is that when we try so hard to be all and do all, when we struggle, all we see is the struggle. All we see is the rock teetering above us and we lose sight of why we’re pushing. And, at the same time, we teach others to let us do the heavy lifting.

When we struggle, we get exhausted and those pieces of ourselves that renew and restore get lost. We don’t have time to do the things that make us a multidimensional human. For me, well, who had time to meditate, journal, play with watercolors. The garden was on the list but at the bottom. If I were to invite a friend out for a walk…wait, what friend? Most of my friends were really acquaintances or work colleagues. Ten-hour work days plus a long commute left no energy to meet new people, volunteer, join an organization that aligned with who I am and who I want to be.

I had let go of who I was and tried to become what the world thought I should be. Is that you?

Here’s another truth.

You can climb the ladder of success without a boulder on the rung above you. You can let loose your creativity in your business, your home, your interactions with the bigger world. And it can be joyful and satisfying and meaningful. It can be a model for the women who are coming up behind you. Because you do not have to sacrifice your whole self to attain this. I am still learning this; unraveling years of habitual, reactive behavior.

You can stay moored in the depths and riches of who you are at your core. You can choose how to spend this precious commodity that is your time. You know there is so much more to you and your life. Are you willing to explore and flow with it?

Yes, you can be anchored and flowing.

Let the world get to know the real you. You don’t have to push. You do not have to walk on your knees. There is nothing to repent.

Wondering how to step off the merry-go-round? Contact me for a complimentary discovery call. I’ve been there and I can help.

My Wish for You in Your Second Half of Life

Hand Holding Dandelion
Photo by Coley Christine on Unsplash

From one woman to another, this is my wish for you in our second half of life.

My wish is that you feel like you’re moving toward something meaningful and exciting, not just toward the end.

My hope is that this can be a different type of building phase, unlike the building you did in your first half.

If I could wave a magic wand, this time would be inner driven.

Returning to the essential you

You’ve followed the outward driven path – family, career, the hopes and expectations of others. You’ve cared, cleaned, cooked; worked in and outside of the home. You’ve worked for wages; you’ve worked for causes. You always do what needs to be done.

Now it’s time to return to the essence of who you are and why you’re here. It’s time to uncover your creative spirit and unfurl your Multidimensional Life. And by a Multidimensional Life I mean uncovering the inner pieces of you that got buried in the day-to-day busyness and to-do lists.

And, yes, I know you’re a responsible, efficient woman and that uncovering your Multidimensional Life won’t be to the exclusion of family, friends and obligations. But wouldn’t it feel great to add in – even if only in small steps – those things that make your heart sing?

Where to start?

One small step to start you off could be pursuing an interest left behind in the busy first half of life.

Like the woman who knew she didn’t want to – couldn’t – continue the career she’d had for decades. One day she stepped outside her house, looked up at the sky and said, “So, tell me world, what do I do now!” The answer popped into her head to take out her camera and start taking pictures. She had gotten into this when she was in high school and college, even developing her own pictures. But she left it behind in the career and family hustle and while she took great photos of her kids and vacations, she never considered herself a “photographer”.

Now she began to experiment, take classes, play with images. Maybe she could put up a website and start by taking professional head shot photos for business people because she knew that world. In small steps she moved ahead, finding her likes and preferences in subjects and finding the best places to have prints made. She began to soften to the idea that maybe she was a “photographer”.

She’s not sure where this will lead and has let herself be okay with not knowing. She is getting comfortable with the unknown. She is living in the creative process of unfurling layers of her Multidimensional Life, a path that’s misty but full of adventure. At the same time, she continues to consult in her old industry. So, there’s the practical and efficient coexisting with a dream.

What happens when you start?

Returning to those old interests brings out “tribes” of fellow travelers that you didn’t know were there. They, in turn, enrich and expand your world. They are chosen, not thrust upon you.

What I wish for you is a MD life that expands you to the limit that is perfect for you and just a toe length more. Because as it expands, it increases its ability to expand.

If this is what you wish for yourself but feel like you have no time for it or that time spent on yourself is selfish, carve out 30 minutes and contact me for a chat. Put yourself to the top of your checklist.

The Work of Art That is You

Hands Messy With Paint
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

I recently put out a survey on the joys and challenges of the Second Half of Life. (If you’d like to take it, click here. It’s only 4 questions and takes less than 3 minutes.) The responses led me to contemplate, once again, how our lives are works of art.

We are alike and yet different

Out of 40+ responses, several common themes emerged. And, in spite of the commonalities, I loved seeing how the ways they showed up were unique to the individual.  For instance, where many responded that freedom was one of the joys they are experiencing, what they’re doing with that freedom differs. For some it was the freedom to set their own schedule, for others the freedom to change. There was freedom of choice and freedom to pursue hobbies. Does freedom resonate with you? It sure does with me. More than resonate, it starts the bells pealing in my belfry!

Frustrations and challenges

Frustrations included worry about money, the experience of no longer being seen, a shortening time horizon or the “loss of me along the way.” That last one particularly makes my heart ache. I understand it so well.

And then there are challenges. Procrastination showed up (although that isn’t unique just to midlife.) Health and fitness, need for structure, the difficulties of beginning to plan for the second half while still engaged in her career – what I call traveling the two-lane road. (Kudos to the respondent who was smart enough to take on that challenge!)

Perhaps I’m a little further along in my journey (that sounds so much nicer than “older”, doesn’t it?) but here’s what those extra miles have shown me: Life is a beautifully messy creative process and each of us will experience our own unique route.

Choosing how we move through our second half of life

When you choose to view your second half of life in this way it becomes an adventure. It gets easier. Injecting some playfulness can make it fun. It becomes a time of curiosity and anticipation instead of dreariness and dread.  And the hard parts, while certainly not pleasant, can also benefit from this approach when you use your awareness to focus on what’s working, sources of help, the need – and permission – for self-care, even if only in very small pockets of time.

What’s beautiful about this is that we gradually find that we don’t need to know how it’s all supposed to work out. We don’t need all the answers at once or a crystal-clear view of the future. It is very freeing. We only need to take our next small step and take our eyes off the rear-view mirror.

That rear-view mirror syndrome was prevalent in a lot of the survey responses. Along with the regret that usually accompanies it. I, too, find myself transfixed by that view. I wish I’d done some things differently; I re-enact a hurtful situation so I can come up the winner; I recreate old shames and embarrassments. Notice what’s missing here? I usually forget to revisit the wins and the joys. And the reality is that spending time looking back does me absolutely no good. Can I change the past? No. Can I learn from it? Probably, if I haven’t already. Do I need to hang out there? No. Just turn your gaze around.

Does any of this feel familiar?

Good. Awareness is the first step in any process of change or creation. It clears the mist and shows us our truth. We experience our moment. The good stuff and the not-so-good.

For instance, where are you feeling joy? What’s the essence of that feeling? Where else is it happening that you’re not noticing on a conscious level? What we focus on expands.

What would happen if you sat down with that frustration? Try bringing it to your journal page – without judgement? I find that when something feels defeating or like too much of a challenge and I look it in the eye, it begins to dissipate. Other solutions come up. I’m able to see it in a totally different light.

Your creative process

The creative process that produces paintings, symphonies, books, gardens and so much more also works in life. Reframing, thinking differently, adding play and self-care are part of the process. The decision to wean yourself from perfectionism and procrastination, to let it all be beautifully messy, to embrace Kaizen’s small steps and questions elevates it. All of this that conceives and manifests so much that is good and beautiful in the world – all of this is what makes a life of meaning and purpose, a legacy of being, a view at the end that has no regrets.

And midlife is the perfect time to dive right in and uncover this masterpiece, your Multidimensional Life!

Let’s Go Deeper and Wider

Go Deeper And Wider

“These times.” Everyone is writing and talking about “these times”.  For the most part that’s a good thing. As a writing workshop leader and as a coach I know that writing and talking about it enables us to process it, make sense of it – if there’s sense to be made, and to integrate it into our consciousness in ways that help us cope.  It helps us dip below the surface of the everyday and go deeper and wider into our truth. I saw that in our April Writers Circle as the women said that they didn’t want to just write about Covid-19 and yet it still snuck into the writing. Not as the main event, more of a bit player. And that was okay.

And as we talk, read and write about “these times”, we’ve woken up, become more conscious of how we spend our time and aware of the habits that have been disrupted. Many people are questioning their old status quo, rethinking careers, wondering what life will be like and who we’ll be when we emerge from “these times.”

In the midst of all this, I want to remind you that you are so much more than your habits and status quo, so much more than what you do every day. You have depths unplumbed.

Even in normal times

I get to remind women of this while I work with them in their second half of life as they get curious about what else life has to offer. They often feel stuck, having a hard time seeing outside the rut that a busy life has created. When they finally pick up their heads, they’re not always thrilled with what they see. Even in normal times.

I hear them express dissatisfaction with their personal status quo. They tell me how unhappy they are in their job. They wish there was a different career they could transition into. It’s often difficult to see past what they’ve done for the last 25-30 years. They sigh and say “I wish there were something else I knew I could do.”

Wishing and sighing. A true sign of stuckness. But I promise you it is possible to get un-stuck.

Adding life to retirement planning

A few months ago, at a party, I was chatting with a few people from my old world of financial services. They asked what I was up to and when I told them of my mission to help women uncover a Multidimensional Life in their second half, they nodded. “That is so needed these days,” they said. They, the financial advisors, reflected on how retirement planning should be about more than the money.

I smiled because I’d already discovered that. Now, I’m not minimizing the importance of financial planning. Not at all. However, the question of who you are, where you are and whether that still fits goes much deeper and is just as critical.

Deeper and wider

The question for you to consider is whether you want to uncover a life that is deep and wide or do you want to stay on the surface and coast. The choice is yours to make at any point of your life.

But do it sooner rather than later. Because there is so much more of you to uncover and offer to the world.

Where are you in this journey into midlife and beyond? How have “these times” shifted your thinking about your life and your possibilities in it? Are you one of the women who, after reading this, raises her hand and says “That’s me!”

If any of the above resonates with you, let’s start a conversation to explore how working together can propel you into a stage of life you haven’t imagined.

You don’t have to know your destination; you only have to take the first step toward it. You don’t have to turn your world upside down; you only need to change your view point. It doesn’t have to be hard and fraught with sweat and tears; it can be joyful and exciting.

This is what I do with my clients. We reframe the wistful and craft the small questions that get you started. We begin to unfurl the layers of your Multidimensional Life. We begin the journey of returning to the essence of who you are and why you’re here. Together. Because there’s power in plus one.

Contact me for a 30-minute discovery call and begin to see how much more there is to you than what you do every day. Even during “these days”.

Writing Unfurls Your Multidimensional Life

Original art by Donna Mills at Donna Mills Art

I love to read. My family tells me I was reading before kindergarten. Maybe. Or maybe I had memorized favorite stories and could recite them with the book in front of me. Regardless, I fell in love with story. Who knew how this would lead me to my Multidimensional Life!

I vividly remember getting my first library card. Graduating to the clean hands club at the library was a moment of pride. I played library with my friends. Oh, how I wanted a pencil with a date stamp on the eraser end!!

As I grew older, my school essays got me good grades. I wrote the memos and procedure manuals at work, a newsletter for a family business. But I didn’t call myself a “writer”.

From reading to writing

Then twenty something years ago I began doing morning pages a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. Stream of consciousness, free writing first thing in the morning. She prescribes three pages and I know the value of powering through to that third page. But if I can only do one page, that’s okay, too.

Doing this taught me that a writing practice was about more than just story. It showed me the connection between the hand and the page. It led me to places I know I wouldn’t have found without the writing.

It also led me to creative writing and to the desire to immerse myself deeper in the writing process.

But that’s my journey. That’s one of the layers of my Multidimensional Life. Reading to writing was my personal thread.

The power of words

The act of setting words to the page is a powerful tool whether creating story or crafting your own Multidimensional Life. You don’t have to think of yourself as a “writer” if that puts pressure on you. Just know that whatever reason you have for putting pen to page it will be a tool of discovery.

When you begin to write using this approach, life’s chaff falls away. Personal threads become visible. The shoulds reveals themselves as what they are, desire floats up from the depths. Writing does this. At the same time, insight emerges and your inner voice will start suggesting arguments pro and con for what is emerging. And that’s okay.

I can tell you that even as I write this, I hear my angels and demons bickering. But I forge ahead because when I do, my truth – the one that is simple and quiet – stands firm in the skirmish. I can see her and move toward her.

What does all that mean in less lofty terms?

It means that while the act of writing illuminates your truth, it will also bring up an array of emotions. (In story as well as self-discovery.) That’s part of its power. For instance, you might hear “I really want to move away” and that evokes a “but…” When you see the “but” in black and white you can consider it. It could be relevant or it could be the ego trying to protect you from new adventures. You know that gremlin, don’t you? The one decked out with big lights and sirens. Fear?

Write it all down anyway.

Get started

Buy a 50-cent notebook and start free writing. If one or three pages is too much, start small with a few lines. Keep going if you have time. Jot down small questions that come up and listen for the answers that follow. Don’t force anything; stay open. Keep writing it all down and let it move you forward.

Does “I want to move away” dissolve into an unhappiness with work or a lack of fulfilling relationships so that the greener pasture beckons?

That could lead to questions like: What’s working for me where I am now? What else might work? What do I love about my home, neighborhood, town, city? What would I be giving up by leaving? What would I gain?

It’s a process of refining the question, sifting through the answers, formulating more questions, weighing choices. Because there are always choices. It’s editing!

Writing helps you make the choice rather than do nothing. Doing nothing is also a choice. But it’s a passive choice and not very satisfying.

I have experienced this myself many times and expect that I will continue to do so.  It fueled my decision to continue my coaching practice, to reach out to others to create a new group of friends. It helped me get realistic about what I can and can’t/will and won’t do in my garden – big dreams vs. real resources and energy. Decisions big and small. Dinner choices as I journal before breakfast; considering where I’ll have time for movement in my day and what might I do? The decision to embark on writing a novel. Big and small, the questions and answers that show up on my page all go toward the feeding and tending of my Multidimensional Life.

An Invitation:

Join me in a writing circle and  we’ll write together. Whether you want to try your hand at creative writing, explore your personal voice, reflect on life in memoir or take your first steps into your Multidimensional Life, it will be the path to a richer, fuller version of you. Discover the vein of gold inside you!

You are More Than What You Do

original art by June Shatken at juneshatken.com

“So, what do you do?” someone asks when they meet you.

That’s certainly easier than asking “Who are you?” Less threatening, less intrusive. And this is how we pigeon hole each other. An unconscious categorization. We get assigned a Dewey Decimal System number and get filed into the card catalog. We create categories for our work, profession, industry, the things we do for a living. Oh, okay, so now I know who you are.

What are you missing out on?

We often do the same thing with ourselves. But, when we identify ourselves as what we do, we begin to believe that that’s all there is to us. We lose sight of the layers of wonder that are just below the surface. Our essential, multidimensional selves cry to come out. We miss out on a whole lot of awesome

I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself. My Dewey Decimal System number fell in the category of fiction because what I did was truly not who I was.

This knowledge, this truth, led me to create a Multidimensional Life I could never have imaged had I continued with the fictional version of myself.

Oh, and another caveat: You may not always do this thing that has defined you for so long. What will happen then? You will feel lost.

You are so much more than what you do every day.

So, who are you beyond what you do?

But this little loaded question is everywhere.

One example: turn on Jeopardy and you will be introduced to the contestants with “Jane, a blah, blah, blah from anywhere, USA.

Now it’s not that I don’t’ care how Jane spends her time, but I know that she, too, is so much more than that. I wonder who she is.

So, who are you?

Questions to ponder

  • What makes you laugh so hard you snort diet coke out your nose?
  • Who makes you do that?
  • What makes your eyes well up?
  • What color are those eyes? Who had them before you?
  • What is a mannerism that is so you? Or do you see someone else in it?
  • Who do you love? What is it about them that you love the most?
  • What do you love? Why?
  • What brings you delight? What does that delight feel like?
  • What do you dread? Why?
  • What do you avoid? Why?
  • What route do you take each day to get home? Why?
  • What do you have for breakfast each day? Why?
  • What is a favorite book/move from childhood?
  • If you could time-travel, where would you go?

A challenge:

  1. Buy a notebook – the wide ruled, not the college ruled. The college ruled is too tight and a little intimidating.
  2. Put these questions in the notebook. Add more of your own as they come to you.
  3. Put the notebook in your cabinet with the coffee or tea. Or with your cereal or in the fruit bowl. Put it anywhere you will be guaranteed to visit each morning.
  4. Each morning (or most mornings), pick a question. Jot a few answers to a question, maybe just a few words. That’s all. If you’re inspired to go further, that’s fine. But you only need a few lines to get the thinking engine started.

Leave a comment below and let me know how you do with this challenge. Or contact me to explore taking this process further.

What you’re doing is beginning a blueprint of the multidimensional person you are.

Because, you are so very much more than what you do each day.

Ideas, Dreams and Threads (Pamela)

Ideas Dreams Threads

She was fresh out of college, full of ideas and dreams. Pamela didn’t have a specific career in mind. She had majored in Liberal Arts, studied Spanish and comparative literature and later taken English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

While in school she had the opportunity to spend a summer in Spain and France. She got to immerse herself in the local culture and observed how she really enjoyed the mundane everyday bits of life, like going to the market. She found it and liked the challenge. It took her beyond being a tourist and allowed her to be a local, to sop up real life.

Her someday dream was to live overseas. But, in the meantime, like most of us, she needed a day job.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” *

Pamela started at one of the Bell companies in sales. They had an international presence and she thought that might be an avenue to get overseas. This was part of her  “someday” dream.

She also got married and had a daughter. The young family had a five-year plan, but, as so often happens, life took over.

And, as women are wont to do, she made compromises. She adapted.

A successful woman

In retrospect, Pam readily acknowledges that she had a great career. She is a smart and savvy woman. Not surprisingly, her favorite role was one in which she needed to become an expert in import/export regulations and procedures. It gave her the opportunity to learn international law. She had to deal with international trade across multiple countries. And, yes, she got to travel.

But, the more successful she became, the less freedom she had. It gradually ebbed away and she became a workaholic. There was a time when she was able to work from home and that helped bring some balance into life. But that didn’t last. It became increasingly apparent that work was beginning to interfere with life.

Sometimes that realization comes as a gradual awakening; other times it’s a whack on the side of the head. Either way, it gets our attention. If we are awake and paying attention, solutions present themselves.

Now what??

Like many large companies and retirement eligibility, Pam’s had certain formulas in place that took into consideration age and length of service. At the same time, a favorable interest rate environment presented Pam with an attractive pension opportunity. The decision to retire was a quick one. She grabbed it.

However, she was not mentally prepared. After all, “how does one go from a 24/7 work environment, fast paced, “married to my job”, high energy to retirement”? Now what, she wondered.

Old ways of being are carved deep on our souls and Pam was faced with a new challenge. Learning how to learn to relax battled against the habit of being busy. She grappled with the shock of going from an intense work/social environment to nothing. She certainly knew how to fill her time – three book clubs, the YMCA three days a week, some classes. Loading her calendar was a familiar – and comfortable – pattern.

Listening to her heart

It took a long time to find a level of satisfaction. Eventually, Pam was able to articulate what she wanted:

  • A good ongoing volunteer opportunity
  • Someone to play with
  • Places that contributed to health, relaxation, exercise and socialization

Oh, remember back to Pam’s college days? ESL? And about solutions presenting themselves when we’re paying attention? One day a friend suggested she look into Literary Volunteers of Morris County. It piqued her interest and she went a little further.

She followed her intuition; heeded her natural creative process. She volunteered and organized a conversation class. She got to select news articles and themes to discuss. She researched and presented cultural and historical subjects. Election day inspired a class on the American election process. She used other current events and “mundane” everyday things to stimulate conversation. There was a group that met for lunch, sharing the cuisine of their native country.

In the process, Pam got to enhance her own learning, have cross cultural exchanges, play and socialize while immersing herself in international flavors and staying close to home.

The Thread

And there was the thread that connected to her young dreams.

In the beginning, Pam never envisioned a corporate career. Her interests were language, literature, intellectual stimulation, cross cultural experiences.

In the end, she found fulfillment and enrichment and intellectual stimulation through LVMC students in and outside the classroom, socializing at lunch, developing close familial connections, all the pieces of everyday cross-cultural, mundane life that had intrigued her.

Finding the thread of yearning in your life and figuring out how it can be fulfilled today is part of the work I do when I work with clients to create their Multidimensional lives. It could be a second (or third) career. It can be volunteer work or just rediscovering an old passion. It is recovering old dreams or finding new ones and living from the inside out.

* Various attributions – John Lennon, Allen Saunders, Earl Wilson. Regardless, it’s a great sentiment!

Refurbishing Our Minds

Refurbishing Our Minds

Have you ever considered that our minds can be refurbished? A little tune-up in midlife? When we do – when we take the time to do the work – the whole world sparkles with newness.

It was a line, toward the end of a newspaper article, that caught my eye.

“… a certain dullness of thought that gathers over time if we make no serious efforts to refurbish our minds.”

It pulled up a chair, made a home in my brain and started a conversation.

It was buried in a review in our local paper of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris that was called “Bacon: Books and Paintings”. The display consisted of the artist’s later works and, interestingly, the books that he notes as important influences on his life. The reviewer was so-so about the exhibit and I was quite sure I wouldn’t be attending but it was the idea of books influencing the painting that drew me into the article.

And then that statement.

Ruts and Routines

What a great description of a rut and of the hazards we can so easily fall into in middle age and beyond.

Think about it. By the time we’re in our 40’s and 50’s, we have become quite settled in our routines. Unless something dramatic happens, we do the same work every day. If we go out to do this work, we often take the same route or the same train. The 7:12 into Penn Station carries the same folks every day. We nod in recognition before we go back to our newspaper or smart phone. We gradually notice when they’re missing but don’t give it a lot of thought. We’re on auto-pilot.

We do the same on the reverse trip. On the weekends we dash to the same markets and see the same friends and go to the same handful of restaurants.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is comfort and a good dash of sanity in routine. My hand is raised in solidarity. But I have found that when the rut grows too deep, it blocks out the view of other possibilities and dulls our imagination. The windows of our soul cry out for a little Windex.

Refurbishing our minds

But, refurbishing our minds. I thought about how I had gone through a refurbishing process several times already in my life and what a good description of what I do with my clients.

Refurbishing doesn’t have to be a “tear down to the studs and rebuild” like my sister’s doing with her house. It can be a simple “paint the bathroom cabinets and get new hardware” like I’m planning to do.

Because, first and foremost, refurbishing is about waking up and seeing where we are. It’s about cleaning off the dull finish and tending to what is beneath the accumulated grime. It’s about small questions and small steps that build and take you where you need to go.

Take those cabinets in my bathroom. I’ve seen them every day until, eventually, I stopped seeing them. Until I looked at them with an eye to what I might have to do if I wanted to put my house on the market. The view cleared.

Take a close look

What would you see if you truly looked at your routine? At your state of mind? At your dreams and plans? Would it be satisfying? If so, great. Marinate in that feeling; consciously appreciate it. It will become even more satisfying.

Or, is it too painful to look? Full of remorse and lost dreams? Does it feel like a tear down and start from scratch? That’s overwhelming and for that I would suggest some talk therapy which can make worlds of difference.

Maybe you’re somewhere in between. That’s where most of us are.

Overwrite the old ruts

The good news is that that’s fixable. Minds can be refurbished. But it doesn’t happen overnight. You didn’t create that rut in a day and you won’t eliminate it that quickly either. In fact, you won’t eliminate it at all. You will overwrite it. You’ll choose a new path which might be poorly lit at first. There will be some trial and error.

It can start with very little effort – a different route home, trying a new restaurant, watching a movie or reading a book in a genre you’ve never tried. These beginning, conscious steps will lead to more. Ask a small question: what can I do today that’s out of my normal? Keep asking. When you take these initial small steps, you begin to realize that there’s so much more to life than your rut. You cease living in a one-dimensional life and uncover the multidimensional you.

Another thing about refurbishing is that it presumes you have something worthwhile to restore. You do. And when you do – when you take the time to tend to your Multidimensional Life – the world looks new. Even the poorly lit path holds excitement and a sense of adventure. You feel the shackles drop off you; bindings loosen. Where you felt like you had nothing to move toward, you see multiple possibilities.

I speak from experience.

There’s an adventure ahead

When you choose to carve a new path, it will be an expedition into the unknown riches that exist within you. The process is a reward in itself. This is just one aspect of a Multidimensional Life.

You may not hang in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, but oh, what a masterpiece you’ll be!

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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