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.
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.’
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.
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.