Cheryl's Blog

The ups and downs of change

A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote about redefining retirement, I received a lot of mail from readers who could identify with the liminal stage of this big life transition – the place between “been there, done that” and “not sure what’s next.”

In Self Care for the Wisdom Years, I told the story of what happened that inspired me to begin questioning the direction of my life. It forced me to ask myself things like: Am I really happy or just going through the motions? Is the way I’m living designed to keep me comfortable, or does it promote growth and expansion? Am I ready to let go of what I’ve mastered and stretch myself by tackling something new? And, is my body happy with how I’m treating her – does my lifestyle support long-term health and longevity?

The answers to these questions weren’t pretty and they told me I needed a change. So, I found a mentor and embarked on a mission to define this new phase of my life. I’ve been at this for a while now and have gained a little perspective.

The first year felt like a wild ride. One day, I’d feel relief at not having to meet a writing deadline or respond to a box full of emails, and the next I’d feel aimless and disoriented, unsure of what to do with myself when faced with a day without appointments or expectations.

I had no idea how much responsibility and work had become the scaffolding that held my life together.

As months went by, the ups and downs spread out a bit and I began to consciously build a relationship with a different kind of life – the one on the inside. I started meditating and keeping a daily journal again. I took long walks in the neighborhood or hiked in the woods in an effort to befriend my mind and body. I hung out with pals and talked about growing older. And I completed long overdue projects around the house. I still felt unsettled and tempted to go back to some version of my former life, but this feeling was becoming a familiar friend, one I could live with as I went about making changes.

Four years into the adventure (big life shifts are a marathon, not a sprint), I’m starting to feel more comfortable in my skin and in my life. I have a better idea of what really matters – being present, leaving space in the calendar to live more spontaneously, taking good care of my health, and challenging myself with new activities that promote a much-desired feeling of excitement and aliveness.

I’m discovering who I am as ego desires soften and work takes a back seat. I’m a woman doing her best to stay keenly aware of her mortality so she notices the finer gifts of the day. I’m the gal who is now available to pick up the phone when someone I care about calls and needs support. And I’m a kid at heart who’s ready to shift priorities on the spot and drop work to swim in frigid water with a friend because I know it will leave a smile planted on my face for the remainder of the day.

That said, I’m also the woman who worries that she’s not doing enough, that she’s washed up and no longer significant or relevant. I’m still uneasy because I’ve been a know-it-all most of my life and I have no idea what the future holds and where I’ll end up. And I still feel awkward when someone asks what I’ve been up to and rather than launch into a tale about a new book or speaking event, I giggle as I talk about the oriole in the garden that looks like a navel orange with wings or the sound of a hummingbird who buzzes by my head with jet-engine precision.

Aging with open eyes and a youthful heart is the way to go but it’s still tricky business that leaves us with more questions than answers. And that’s okay. It’s a blessing to be awake at this stage in life. To that end, here’s the main headline so far:  I’ll take presence over productivity any day.


P.S. – Check out the audiobook/workshop called Self Care for the Wisdom Years available through Audible. You can learn more here.


Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash