Is Your Life the right size?

You may have recently read a series of posts from Janis at Retirementally Challenged who shared an original short story about an older woman who lived alone after the death of her husband. Her life was orderly, but very small. As the story unfolds, so does Eleanor. Feeling invisible behind a Covid mask Eleanor’s new-found freedom and curiosity take her on a journey toward a bigger, more satisfying life.

We don’t know exactly when Eleanor’s world began to shrink, but when we meet her, she seems content to go through the motions of a former life; even though it doesn’t seem to fit her anymore.

Janis’ beautiful short story started me thinking about how this could happen to anyone at any time, even myself. The reasons why we stop living and surrender to ‘existing’ are as individual as we are – job loss or retirement, declining health, a milestone birthday, death of a spouse, changes in your financial situation, a pandemic. It is quite possible that some of us might never have lived fully conscious and in the moment.

Taking Stock

During these past months of the pandemic, I have experienced some shrinking of my personal world (which I thought was pretty perfect) and most days, I didn’t mind the changes. Fewer demands on my time and energy have provided some much appreciated reflective time to sort through what is really important.

In the beginning, I fought to maintain a semblance of my former life. I was frustrated and self-doubt reared its ugly head. I got caught in the ‘comparison trap’ more than once, and felt that I was stagnating while others seemed to thrive. Then, I reminded myself that I am the architect of my life and that I needed to design a better building.

After a while, with focus and intention, I developed new routines, discovered new interests, eased into acceptance and set new priorities. I also gave myself permission to do less, without making excuses or feeling guilty.

Getting It Right

The quote below is from Kathy Gottberg who writes Smart Living 365. She and her husband Thom have devoted an entire blog and, a few books to their thoughts on the subject of ‘right sizing’. Their formula (my words, not theirs) can be applied to any situation, but it is up to the individual to honestly access what brings you joy and contentment, and that starts with knowing yourself. The link will take you to a post that I particularly enjoyed, where Kathy explains the difference between chasing and stretching. I hope you will check it out, along with several other posts on the subject of ‘right sizing.’

“rightsizing is the conscious choice to design a life that focuses on what really matters to you and then work to eliminate the rest” Kathy Gottberg

Small doesn’t necessarily translate to unsatisfying and big doesn’t mean better. I’d use the analogy of the fit and comfort of an old shoe, but I don’t want you to get the impression that I think life should always be comfortable. It isn’t. It is messy and confusing and constantly evolving. Having the mindfulness to sort through, evaluate, and make adjustments to all aspects of your life requires awareness and courage. It also requires ‘doing.’ You can make all the plans in the world, but putting one foot in front of the other is the only thing that will propel you forward.

This past year was an awakening of sorts; tangible and relentless reminders of how fragile life is. It was also a reminder that making the most of it is up to us. Maybe this is the year to re-evaluate the size of your life. What makes you happy, what contribution do you make to society, what feeds your mind, body and spirit? Living intentionally, making choices which support your vision and ruling out those things which do not, will ultimately determine your true size.

Goodbye 2020

This pictorial retrospective of 2020 was inspired by Terri Webster’s Sunday Stills photo challenge for 1.3.21. In spite of the challenges, revelations and adaptations of 2020, we managed to have a pretty good year.

January – ringing in the new year

February – kicking off 2020 with a staycation at Tops’l Beach and Bellingrath Gardens as we look forward to frequent travels throughout the year.

March – The reality of Covid19 set in and the new normal (stay at home) begins.

April – June brought more of the same, eating, drinking, binge watching TV shows and reading…basically sloth-like behaviors set in.

July through September brought about acceptance and the need to establish better habits and a new routine.

October and November ushered in cooler temperatures, Halloween, a return visit to Tops’l Beach, a continuation of good habits, me-time, we-time, gratitude and hope.

December was sweet and intentionally planned to be stress-free. It felt good to explore new traditions and accept that some things needed to be set aside.

Any year that we can experience the beauty of nature, the love of family and the companionship of good friends is a good year. We leave 2020 behind with gratitude in our hearts, and good wishes to everyone. Happy New Year.

Welcome 2021

47 Comments on “Is Your Life the right size?

  1. Hi, Suzanne – I also recently prepared a post for the upcoming Sunday Stills Linkup on Retrospection. My thinking has echoed yours. Not only have you quoted my favourite authors (Janis from Retirementally Challenged, Kathy Gottberg and Jo Tracey), our separate journeys have helped us reach a similar place, i.e. the need for new routines, gratitude, focus on family/friends/nature and health.
    I love that you began with Janis’s story about Elinor. If others haven’t read it, I highly encourage them to check it out on Janis’s site.
    Wishing you and your family a 2021 filled with love and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donna, coffee, and blog reading are a welcome part of my morning routine. I read a variety of blogs for different reasons, and each has a unique take-a-way value – inspiration, motivation, education, humor…all seem to have a central focus on living our best lives. Thanks for being among that group of talented individuals who have something to say. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Suzanne, I found 2020 to be quite an interesting year – it brought with it some much needed down time where I stopped everything and then chose intentionally what I wanted to take back and what I wanted to leave behind. I gained deeper insights into myself and what I want for the years ahead, and I learned new things, discovered what I wanted to keep in my life for me – rather than what I thought others expected of me. All in all, I’m very happy with the size of my life (although I do enjoy Kathy’s posts and her very sensible approach to a balanced life). I think 2021 won’t change things immediately – it will be a long process to get back to “normal” and I’m okay with that. I hope your year ahead brings with it some return to travel and the things you’ve been missing (without losing any of the things you’ve gained) Happy New Year xx

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    • Leanne, I honestly did not mind the ‘big pause’ all that much. In some ways it offered ‘permission’ to slow down and assess life moving forward. I am glad this year played perfectly into your goal of sifting and sorting through what works for your life. And, yes, I agree that it will be some time before ‘normal’ is achieved. Best wishes for a beautiful new year.

      Like

  3. Hi Suzanne, I greatly enjoyed reading the short story written by Janis. Parts of her story represented how many of us may be feeling in 2020. I also find how some of the transition and lessons are positive. The subject of routines came up recently with some blogging friends, and I found how incorporating the daily basics in my routine (exercise, eat healthy, gratitude, connections, quiet, reflective times) helped me stay centred and move forward. As you say, well, Suzanne “putting one foot in front of the other.” The photos are wonderful and make me smile. I extra love the family photos.

    I concur with Donna, how much I am enjoying Joanne Tracey’s books. I also agree with Leanne’s comment how 2021 will continue to be a process.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Suzanne and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erica, Janis’s story was beautifully written and stayed with me for a long time. I like having a routine, but when I get too comfortable it can lead to complacency. I have to remind myself to continually evaluate the ‘activities’ I perform within the categories you mentioned above. Sometimes those activities serve a purpose and sometimes not – for me, that is where mindfulness and intention come into play. Best wishes for a Happy New Year. I can’t wait to watch 2021 unfold for us all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan, thank you for sharing your reflections on this crazy year. Even though it’s been a tough year we did have some good things happen and I have much to be grated for. I enjoyed your wrap up of the year in photos. Wishing you a happy and safe New Year!

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  5. What a lovely surprise to see Eleanor’s story mentioned in your post! Most of us have felt our lives shrink over the past year but good things can be found too, especially if we are open to them.

    I have enjoyed so much support from fellow bloggers… friends, really… who have helped me maintain a grateful heart. Your blog, and Kathy’s, and Jo’s, and so many more, have made my world larger, even as the virus has restricted our ability to travel.

    Your year-end reflection through your lovely photos helps to illustrate the beauty around us and the importance of friends and family. Have a safe and happy New Year, Suzanne!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janis, I loved your short story and thought that Eleanor was a relatable character. I enjoyed watching her evolve and grow. Sometimes we become so comfortable we forget there might be more to life than just going through the motions. Thanks for the reminder that we often need to stretch. Best wishes to you for a year of your own design.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Even though it was not a normal year for any of us, I think the two of you made the most of it in your own way. Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year.

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  7. Suzanne,
    It seems to me that, after making a few adjustments, you have everything sized right, and can move forward with the ability to handle whatever 2021 throws your way. I love the pictures and the look back. All the best to you and Malcom for a blessed New Year however you celebrate it. Would love to pop a cork with you both some day. Joe

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  8. It surprised me how much and how quickly my world shrank after the stay-at-home order was given last summer. We were only under lockdown for about 2 months here. Having the time to myself and time with my daughter was great, but the uncertainty led to a lot of overthinking and mental aerobics. Communicating through text with everyone did not help, as there is so much room for misunderstanding. At times I ended up acting very clingy and actually very selfish, because I was so out of touch with the world outside my apartment.

    Now that life is slowly returning to normal, I have found that I am seeking out less time on my phone and more time in solitude, while it is great to be able to balance it out with time in social activities.

    Happy 2021!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Bethany, thank you for your comment. Your statement ‘overthinking and mental aerobics’ makes perfect sense, considering the circumstances. I think everyone could benefit from less phone time and more solitude. Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We’re accustomed to traveling fulltime, so this year was quite an adjustment in many ways. I’ve been writing a blog post about how I needed to institute New Year’s resolutions long before January 1st, LOL.

    As you said, making the most of life is completely up to us. And although 2020 was not AT ALL what we had planned, we found many moments of beauty and joy and had the time to explore interests that we don’t have time for when we’re busy traveling. Your year-end photo retrospective is lovely. Happy New Year!

    Like

  10. I loved the story about Eleanor and how you referred to it in your lead in. What a full and right sized year in spite of everything. Happy 2021!

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  11. I loved Eleanor’s story & your post is a timely one. Yes, 2020 was challenging, but I loved the creativity that came from making the most of situations – although I do say that fully aware that we were, perhaps, more fortunate than others in regards to restrictions. A great retrospective and here’s to a joyful and healthful 2021.

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    • Jo, even with the restrictions we have in place, I don’t feel like I missed much. This was the year that being an introvert and basic homebody came in handy. It’s the inability to travel that still gnaws at me. Hopefully, that will change soon. All the best.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow, how amazing to read this, Suzanne! I think I’m going to be busy tomorrow 🙃. I loved Kathy’s book about right-sizing, it is so perfect to describe life changes going forward. As you know, we sold our home in Sacramento and made the move to Spokane onto a larger property and bigger house. Some folks might read that as up-sizing, but in our reality, a bigger home is more efficient for our lifestyle. To be able to retire out of state (who can retire in California?) With little debt other than a small mortgage…well I never thought it could happen. Cheers to you as you step into 2021 with hope and faith. My post goes live at 7am Pacific time, so link up! And thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Terri, shifting the foot-print is so personal to each of us and our needs, isn’t it? Malcolm and I constantly evaluate the merits of downsizing. But, the big house has been a godsend this past year with the kids living with us. Being comfortable and not knowing exactly what we want next keeps us in a holding pattern. Maybe this will be the year that brings clarity. I know you must be relieved to have your big move almost finished. I hope it is everything you want it to be.

    I will definitely be linking up tomorrow. I am looking forward to reading what everyone has to say about 2020.

    Like

  14. Hi Suzanne. I am another one of Janis’ fans who loved her short story. And she just posted another new one on her blog today that is equally good. I LOVE it when we bloggers try new things just because we can! And all of your thoughts about rightsizing are spot on. I don’t think anyone is an authority on anyone else’s life except their own so all the talk about downsizing, minimalism or even simple living doesn’t work unless it fits our minds, hearts and lifestyles. Of course, getting ideas for each other and helping each other think things through is one of the big reasons I think we all blog. Good for you for recognizing that this year was good in some ways and maybe not in others…but I’m thinking that is life isn’t it? And thank you for sharing your year’s photos with us all in the way you did. I am going to check out Terri’s post tomorrow (Sunday) and see what she has in mind for this new challenge. I’ve never participated but who knows? Maybe 2021 is the time to start! ~Kathy

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    • Kathy, once again, your comment landed in my spam folder. Sorry for the late acknowledgment. I agree that we are not an authority on another’s life, but we sure can learn from the trial and error of those who blaze the trail. You and Thom seem to live what you profess and I enjoy your ‘life lessons.’

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  15. Suzanne, I really enjoyed this post and I will check out your book and short story recommendations. Sounds like it will be my kind of reading material. Our “personal world shrinking” in 2020 is an excellent metaphor and so true in so many ways, but the pandemic has also forced us to expand our personal world in ways that we had not experienced/tried before. We used technology to help us stay connected in ways that we had not experienced before. Like you have mentioned ” we all developed new routines, discovered new interests, eased into acceptance and set new priorities”…so many positives have come out of these past events. Life is indeed fragile and I think that when we finally come out of this crisis into a more “normal world”, we will appreciate our lives and freedoms even more than ever. Happy 2021 to you and your family.

    Like

    • Gilda, I agree wholeheartedly that 2020 was the year of shrinking, expanding, and hopefully learning. A few realizations for me is that busyness does not equate to happiness, that time is precious and should be used wisely, and that the people I hold dearest feel the same of me. I am not sure that our world will ever be ‘normal’ but I am certain that our approach to it will be different. Thanks for stopping by and all the best to you for 2021.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Love the photo gallery for the year and really enjoyed reading your post which was so well written. Yes I think that so many of us have been forced to slow down due to the pandemic and there are many that have thrived as a result but I think that mostly the elderly are the ones that have really taken the brunt as so many of them have become very isolated from the world. totally agree that we have had to recreate ourselves in different ways and basically adapt.

    In our case we got stuck outside of our home base country Viet Nam, when the borders closed behind us while we were on a short trip to a former home in Sri Lanka. We had to think fast as we knew that more countries would start closing and we had to choose a new home country and so we made the excellent choice (in retrospect) of Mexico. If we had not been able to pivot quickly we would have been stuck in Sri Lanka, as the airport closed the DAY after we left!! And so we re created a new life for ourselves.

    Happy new year to you and yours.

    Just a note re our blog… the latest post did not get mailed out (some IT problems) but it is up and waiting to be read. New url

    http://www.greenglobaltrek.org

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peta, I recall very well the rapid pivots you and Ben were making just a few short months ago. You landed in a great place and seem to be thriving there. As always, I admire your grit! Thank you for sharing the link to your recent post. Best wishes for a wonderful new year and lots of adventures (of the best kind)!

      Like

  17. Great question. I’d say for me the answer is “yes” but I’m adaptable so if things change, so will I.

    [I found you via Dan at No Facilities, but see that many other bloggers who I follow have commented here, too. Nice to “meet” you.]

    Like

  18. Hi Ally, nice to meet you too. I’m glad you found me through Dan’s blog. Being adaptable certainly saves a gal a lot of angst, doesn’t it? I just read your bedroom chandelier post and smiled – something we already have in common. It just makes much more sense than a fan, and of course, the lightbulbs must face the ceiling! Now, just add a dimmer switch and you are all set. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi Suzanne, Happy New Year. I have visited after joining in Terri’s Sunday Stills for the first time. Pretty sure I have connected with you before when Sue and Leanne ran their link up called MidLife Share The Love. I am looking to gain some new connections with other bloggers beyond my shores of Australia and this has been a great start. I also have a Monday link up called Life This Week over at http://www.denysewhelan.com.au My blog is self-hosted and not on WP platform. Your year seemed somewhat familiar by the way…we got used to what life was, and for me, I began cooking treats and baking for our hard working local doctors’ practice. It was one way to give back. Sadly for us here in Australia we now have visitor limits in our area of New South Wales who can come to our homes which means our Golden Wedding Anniversary lunch for 11 (our kids and grandkids) is now being held over 2 days!! Denyse

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  20. Hi Denyse, I do recall visiting your blog back when Sue and Leanne hosted the link-up party. I miss that forum and especially miss finding new blogger connections all in one place. I still haven’t forgiven either of them for stepping back 🙂 Thank you for sharing your Monday link up with me. I don’t have a regular posting schedule but will try to link something there when it seems appropriate. Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year.

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  21. Happy New Year, Suzanne! I thought I left a comment on this post when it was published but don’t see it. Thank you for linking with me at my debut Weekend Coffee Share blog party. At closing time, there were 25 participants from 5 continents. It exceeded my expectations. I look forward to continuing our blogging connections in 2021. Have a wonderful week ahead! #Weekendcoffeeshare

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  22. 2020 was a thought provoking year that is for sure. Life as we knew it was turned upside down, and each person had to figure out how to put the pieces back together. As many commented, it also provided a lot of time for reflection, and there definitely wasn’t a one plan fits all because of so many issues like family, location, weather, residence, finances, interests, and on and on. I think as 2021 unfolds, we will continue to piece life back together not as it was before but as we now see it. Love your photos, and it looks like although challenging you had a mighty good year. Take care.

    Like

  23. Judy, I agree that most of us will put things back together from a slightly different point of view, and carry on. We are among the lucky ones, for sure. I am actually looking forward to seeing what that means in our situation. Still sorting…Stay warm.

    Like

  24. Suzanne, I regularly read Janis’s and Kathy’s blogs. I love the way you synthesized the ideas from both of them in your reflection on the past year. Two wise statements stood out for me in what you wrote: the pandemic has been a reminder that life is fragile, and, life is what we make of it (we are the architects of our own lives).

    Jude

    Like

    • Jude, thank you for your kind comment. These are extraordinary times for sure, and it is nice to have this incredible blogging community to rely on for information and encouragement. Take care and have a wonderful week.

      Like

  25. Hi Suzanne, I love your words: ;You are the architect of your life….design a better building’. I’ve been struggling since my MIL passed last October to regain my momentum in life. I’m not sure why I’m feeling lost or confused as to my direction in life. Perhaps it is still part of the grieving process or perhaps it is how to adjust to the new found freedom from responsibility that her passing has given my husband and I. This new freedom feels strange and we are both not sure where it will lead us. I’m so pleased to have discovered this post as it has certainly resonated with me and has given me something to think about – do I need to design a better building? Thanks for the insight. x

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  26. Sue, you are a bright, resourceful lady and I have no doubt that you will evolve with this new challenge – in your own time. Be patient, but diligent as you sort through what makes you happy. The answers will present themselves. Sorry for the late reply. For some reason, WordPress ALWAYS sends your comments to Spam!! So annoying.

    Like

  27. Pingback: Boomerang Kids – Picture Retirement

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