Years of rushing made me sick; now I go slower, more often. But, it's not without it's costs. What makes it worth it to me still?

11 Jun

I don't remember exactly when 'the rush' started.  It may have been in response to a former, Type A life partner.  Or maybe it was when I was 18 and found myself out on my own.  Or perhaps 'the rush' hit most in the work world.  I believe it began rather surreptitiously during a job I worked in the mid-1990's.  It was one of my first jobs as a manager and I was given the task of squeezing more work out of my charges and, in the end, laying off some of them anyway.

Then, I went on to work for a healthcare company in the late 1990's that offered the best money I'd seen as a social worker, in exchange for the crazy task of helping launch the first of it's type state program.  It was a real 'front lines' effort.  We used to laugh about being stuck in our cubicles and needing our chair to just be a toilet.

Either way, I came up to a time, in my early 50's I call 'hitting the wall'.  Prior to then, I had amazing energy and ability to keep going.  But at this point I was 52 and all of the sudden - not characteristic for me - I started having very painful headaches.  I can tell you a funny (though not at the time) story of dealing with emergency rooms and hospitals, but that's not my main point, although don't assume you can't end up there too.

The headaches came to be diagnosed as stress/migrainous, not a tumor or some other physical malady.  Luckily.  I thought perhaps they were related to present levels of stress.  However, with perspective I now realize the headaches were a symptom of something much deeper: they were my body's way of saying 'whoa girl'.  I now see that time was the beginning of my transition into the 'third chapter' as some call it; life post 50.  A chapter which requires me to pay better attention to the needs of my body.  Whether I or the world likes it or not, I am needing to march to a different drummer.

However, here has been my dilemma: how does one survive, much less thrive amongst the rapidly increasing pace and pressures of today's world?  Especially when that pace is seen as normal.  As some badge of honor.  At least for those of us who must 'work for a living'.

So bottom line for me is that I'm still trying to find my way through.  The third chapter is supposedly the ages 50-75, so at 58 I am already about a third of the way through.  In fact, I think that third chapter thingee could be 50-80 in today's world! It's actually taken me at least half a dozen years to really start to live the slower pace.  One practice that really helped me get this new chapter off to a great start was accepting some therapy - suggested by my neurologist - right after the diagnosis of the headaches.

My therapist was a kind African American man in Ocala, Florida (just north of my home).  His wife was his receptionist. Through a variety of exercises he shared with me, he did imprint in my brain the simple word (said deeply and slowly) 'relax'.  I hear his voice still, quite often!  

So I wanted to check in and let you know how this 'slow living' thing I'm doing is going.  What have been the learning lessons so far and why do I continue on this path?

First off, learning not to rush is a 'work in progress'.  I still catch myself rushing, even when I don't have to.  But I am getting better at it because again, I am respecting me more.  For example, I've made a commitment to stop driving as much.  I hate the snarling levels of traffic in my town.  So I am strategic about my time on the roads.  First of all, I rarely drive long distances anymore unless I absolutely must or if it is something I really want to do.  For example,  the absolute most I will drive to attend pickleball tournaments and events is 60-90 minutes.  I work from home as much as I can.  I try to set my hours on the road around rush hours.  The benefits?  Much less mental stress and strain and more time.  The costs?  here are certain events and opportunities I've had to miss.

Secondly, self employment has it's risks and rewards.  Right now, as I rebuild my business, I'm in the 'I have more time than money' mode!  As I've joked at various times in my life: why is it that I've either got time or money, but not both?  

Thirdly, my new pace of living has allowed me to take better care of my body.  Physically, I am eating better, more often. I'm finding that anything 'green' does make me feel really good.  But vegan isn't me.  I still find good, animal protein makes me feel my best.  Leaner the best and good fats.  That's what I'm learning.

I also exercise more than I have in years.  No I am not an intense athlete, but I do have more times for those longer dog walks and I play pickleball as often as I can.  There is a limit: due to arthritis and former injuries, when I play I am in quite a bit of pain and stiffness that night and the next day, but it's one of those 'good pains' in the working of the muscle and aging joints.  I've found here and there to take off a week which is helpful too.

Work is a 'work in progress too'.  I've reached out and taken on some work that is more 'cutting edge' than most are doing in my field.  Some is working well, some is less flow-y.  I am experiencing what Andrew Yang, democratic presidential candidate says: that today's managers continue to do more and more to squeeze more out of you, put you more in a box OR replace you with AI, an algorithm or whatever.

So keeping my sense of humor is paramount right now as I build this chapter!  I feel lucky to be almost 60 and leaving the work world sooner than later.  I am concerned for today's younger workers and the environment they are in but, at least they are in their prime in dealing with it.

You and I - workers over 50 - are entering a new and different chapter of our working lives.  We may not have the energy we had, but we have the experience, wisdom and knowledge and that is OUR calling card for the rest of our working lives.

I was talking with someone yesterday and they said they'd work till 70 when they can get their highest social security amount. I assume that could be me too.  How about you?

I hope you'll join us as we create ways of living and working for the next phase of our lives that is 'smart not hard' and where you continue to live with balance.

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