courage

third trimester

Finding My Stride In The Third Trimester Of Life

Umm…what the heck does she mean by “my third trimester“? 🤔

This: I intend to live into my 90s (or die trying 😜) so I’m simply dividing my life story into thirds. And last month, I officially stepped into my final third when I turned 60! 🎂 🔥 🚿🚒 

(Humor me ▶️ )

WooHoo….Didja dance with me?? 💃🏻

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OK, now I have to say, this new perspective on my remaining years  feels quite ingenious. Recently, I’d been fretting about how to Have Purpose, Keep Learning, and Remain Productive. I shared those concerns here, if you missed it. And all because I was still stuck in high-gear-career mode.

30+ year habits take time to shift! 🙄

Yet ironically, once I hit publish with that post, I felt my angst begin to dissolve! To be clear, I still had no epiphany as to exactly what I would do in my last trimester.

However, once I no longer viewed “retirement” as the great divide…the beginning of the end… an inevitable descent into old age and irrelevancy…I was able to exhale. To relax. To anticipate genuine glimmers of great possibilities ahead! 🌟

In other words, it was time to treat this third life chapter as an exciting, vibrant transition rather than a sad, downhill decline! 🤯 

Got your mug refilled? ☕️ Read on for how I’m defining life’s phases as I shift into the culmination of a life well-lived (’cause it’s not over yet!) 🌱☀️

1st Trimester: Finding Our Footing

Who am I
anastasiya gepp | pexels

Our first 30 years are really about figuring out who we are and how we fit into the world.

There is no singularly perfect timeline for this. Some may readily identify where they want to go and their path appears smooth and uninterrupted. (emphasis on “appears”—no one is without doubt and angst!)

Others take the “scenic route” which has detours and delays and even occasional dead-ends. Yet who’s to say this isn’t the best path for them?

In either case, we are developing self-awareness and seeking what lights us up, as we find a place in this world. It’s a trimester of tremendous growth, hope, and discovery.

And with focused intention, we can continue to hone who we are in the next two trimesters, as well!

2nd Trimester: Manifesting Dreams 'n' Goals

busyness
sarah chai | pexels

Next, our second trimester (ages 30-60) is about creating and building the life we want. 

Like most, I juggled family and work duties. Yet homemaking was not my first goal. In fact, I recall deliberately passing on typing class in high school as I was determined to be more than a secretary (OK, a wee bit short-sighted, per my permanently wonky keyboard skills! 😜) 

I had eagerly responded to the societal call in the 80s: “Go be anything you want to be—you can!”. My career path was made possible by the many, many tenacious women before me who demanded the power and right to choose a path outside the home. I found it thrilling. 

Yet that phrase, “work-life balance”? The reality was incredibly exhausting, since something always has to give. 🙇🏻‍♀️

3rd Trimester: Releasing Our Inner Child

third trimester
image by anderson guerra from pexels

This is the final trimester which brings us full circle!

Once again we’re back to figuring out who we are and how we fit into the world.

However, all the angst we felt in our 1st trimester with worrying what others think? Who cares! Time to let that go and pursue what we want. It’s our life!

And still basing our value on what we do for a living, how high we climbed the corporate ladder, how much stuff we amassed, and how much we earned? Time to let all of this go, as well! 

We are uniquely and intrinsically worthy just as we are! 🌟

It’s not an overnight process to release longstanding beliefs or ideas about what gives us purpose and validation.

We are essentially finding our footing again. But when we are patient with ourselves and the retirement process, we can start savoring the joy to be uncovered.

Now our inner child can relish the freedom of choosing how to write the script for our third trimester. 

It’s almost dizzying to consider all the possibilities before us! So yes, it will take time as we explore and try out new routines and activities.

Which is why starting with the basic pleasure of Simply Being is ever-so important.

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Bonus: Don’t miss the humorous yet wise retirement revelations from Dr. Riley Moynes ▶️ I tracked with everything he said (except for the cinnamon buns 🥧 ’cause I’m a keto eater!).

The Wrap

third trimester

Achieving the 60-year milestone does not have to mean the beginning of the end.

To the contrary, this can signal the start of a very fruitful, satisfying period of our lives. It’s all a matter of perspective.

When I reflect on the last year, I recognize that I grappled with tunnel vision when it came to defining myself. I was also hard on myself with needing to figure things out Right Now

This can happen to anyone, especially when performance in the corporate world is constantly measured and subjected to someone else’s deadlines.

And even though I knew I’m in charge of my pace and direction from hereon, I still had difficulty with releasing old stories and writing a new one. I didn’t want to be judged by others. Yet I was judging myself all along! Not fun.

But now? I’m ready! 🙌🏼

I’m choosing to make it a positively soul-satisfying adventure that only I design and direct as much as possible—how about you?

What do you think?

  • Are you also between life stories?
  • How is the transition with writing a new one going for you?
  • What’s your biggest challenge?
  • What are some of your own “a-ha!” realizations?

Feel free to drop me a line at: maryv@shiftyourstories.com 📬

...and thanks for stopping by! 🤗

step

Stepping Back Can Be A Step In The Right Direction

#CoffeeBreakStory: Taking Stock When Stepping Back

Happy September! 🍁 Like our ever-so-cultured European friends, I was on hiatus most of August. Actually, I started stepping back in mid-July, when we packed the RV and headed North on a road trip to Colorado. We were seeking cooler temps and different scenery. Turns out, I was also ISO a mindset reset. 🤪

My mini retreat was overdue. Per usual, I was focused on lofty goals at full bore, until they felt elusive and too much to pursue. The thrill was gone. As my discomfort increased, I worked my way into a rut without realizing it until I got stuck.

So stepping back meant no writing and (almost) no social media. I amassed endless travel photos and videos out of habit but few made an appearance on IG. I just didn’t have the energy to post on the “TikTok Wannabe” platform. Infinite reels made my eyes cross and I resented the excess time needed to find familiar, friendly faces. I was likely hidden, as well, so why bother? 🤷🏻‍♀️ 

Time off was incredibly healing on a number of levels. Now I’m easing my way back in, even though what lies ahead remains somewhat undefined. However, just getting back into motion can be instrumental for landing on what’s next. And if nothing else, I’ve also sussed out some of what it’s not going to be, which is equally useful.

Today I’m musing about what prompted a pause. I’ll be sharing more in future stories about the revelations uncovered along the way. This story is a little longer than others but clarity of purpose is a big topic. That’s why I’m breaking it into a short series, to keep the #coffeebreakstory somewhere between a Short and a Venti ☕️. So freshen yours up and here we go!

stepping back

¿ Midlife Crisis Maybe ?

To be honest, it felt like a second “identity crisis” was unfolding this year. (Yes, overachiever that I am, one wasn’t enough 😅)

If you’re new, here’s a quick 1-2-3 recap: my first one descended at age 53 when an unexpected corporate restructuring set me loose in 2016. Ambition was engraved in my work DNA genes, so it was a rude awakening to figure out my next move.  “Lady of Leisure” was not the new role I sought.

First, I grappled with the realization that relocating for this consuming career had left me fairly friendless in my new city, as I shared over here.

Second, I eagerly accepted an invitation for a road trip (I sense a 🚘 theme here, you?) with my former interior designer. She wanted a companion for a consultation with a new client in Ojai, California.

We bonded famously with our dry wit, passion for home design, and taste for aged tequila. When we returned, we built a small business. Our downsizing service was a time and labor intensive model but it filled a serious gap in the older adult community.

Third, I ultimately shuttered those doors permanently on the heels of Covid-19. It was time to use just my words, from the comfort of my own home. Which meant I pivoted to virtual coaching. And then once more to publishing my first book! 📕

Phew–that was a busy time! 😤 

stepping back

Stepping Back Clues

While I learned a lot about myself along the way, my energy and enthusiasm started waning in 2022.

For me, the tell-tale signs for stepping back included:

  1. An infrequent sense of anxiety (Remember that feeling when you didn’t study for an exam?! 😨) 
  2. General irritability with both myself and others (Inner Perfectionist rearing her nit-picky head! 😈)
  3. Discontent with my until-now perfectly lovely routine (I need a new project! 😞)
  4. Uncertainty with what to do next (Imma stuck … 😣)

It’s so unpleasant to find myself at these crisis crossroads again. Just when I thought I had my life figured out —surprise, not yet! 🤡   

Sigh—back to the drawing board!

time to grow

Here I Grow Again !

A friend recently suggested my angst is perhaps because I’m turning 60 this month. Hmmm…🤔…don’t think so…

The decade that I dreaded most (so far) was turning 40. It just seemed to define “The Official Start of Old Age” 🤣. Little did I know at 39 that I would still feel vibrant and remain active 20 years later.

I’m actually thrilled that my younger self was wrong about 60. To be sure, I’m oldish and well past my halfway point but I don’t feel old. I mostly feel wiser. More comfortable in my own skin.

And I’m in good company, with all the “50 is the new 40” declarations which started circulating several years ago. For good reason, I might add: We have a “third act” waiting to unfold!  

A couple years ago, I envisioned my third act would be as an author. I’ve always enjoyed writing. Once I started, it felt quite natural. Even when it’s work to find the right words and the edits are endless, I love it. And out of all the people who say they want to write a book some day—I did it! 🌟 Go, me!

I’m thrilled that my book has enjoyed moderate success. 2021 was a whirlwind of sharing it on podcasts, in local newspapers, with book clubs and in little free libraries. It’s available in both E-book and paperback with major retailers. 

But for wider commercial reach, the self-promotion can’t ever stop. The show must go on. And on. Ohh, I hates that I do! 😖 So cringey for me. I got burned out. I stopped. Can’t I just write? (apparently not)

Also, maybe I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed with decluttering after all. Maybe it was all just a metaphor for clearing space in my own life. Making room for more changes. For something new. Maybe I’ll write another book about something completely different. Or not…whoa! 🤯 

And just like that, I knew it was time for a pause. Time to start pruning old branches for new growth to occur. 🌺

trimester

Prepping for What's Next

When one chapter is ending and another is waiting to begin, stepping back is how I re-discover relevancy.

Simply going about my ordinary household routine, I’m giving my overworked brain a rest. Repetitive tasks like laundry or meal prepping are mindlessly comforting. So is lightly decluttering closets and drawers (it never ends). Or puttering in my garden. Or playing my favorite daily NYT games and puzzles.

In fact, my right shoulder had been aching for some time, too. Sitting at my desk, hunched over my keyboard for hours was partly to blame. I also don’t discount the mental overload manifesting as pain in my body, as well. Which is why bingeing on streaming services felt entirely justified. Afternoon matinees 🎥 on the couch with my dogs dozing next to me? Glorious!

In other words, I leaned in and savored present day real life moments and tiny pleasures. I dialed down the incessant noise of social media. Sure, I continued to keep up with current affairs. But anything that urged me to Be Big, Be Busy or Be Known? Hard pass! 🚫 

I’m not saying I’ll never resume engagement with social media. But I’m not falling deep down that rabbit hole again. It’s too easy to succumb to its infinite demands on my time, energy, and attention. I’ve made peace with saying, “No, thank you—that’s not for me. I’ll pop on and off when it works for me!” 

Instead, I’m focused on how I want to show up in my third act. 🧐 Breaking the twitch with a corporate identity is quite an adjustment. It seems I’m a “leetle” hard-wired for productivity. 

Friends my age confide that they would love being home full-time if they didn’t rely on their current gig or paycheck. I’m blessed that I’m not tethered to that.

But I do need to be creating or building something. I’m not a “Lady Who Lunches” kinda gal. Which is why I feel restless. Redundant. I need more to justify my presence. 

And so I’m pondering how to wield my skills once again. It’s not about making money, It’s about making a difference. Being useful outside my household.  Connecting with others to encourage and lift each other up. This could translate into so many different things but you get the idea.

More to come!

clearing space

The Wrap on Stepping Back

I’m not yearning for retirement years filled only with leisure. I’m sure that’s ideal for some but I’m just not there yet.

Shifting into a new life chapter is not always an easy transition. It can take some kicking, resisting, and soul searching. Throw in some sleepless nights and general angst, too. It all makes sense, when you consider that there’s a change in one’s identity occurring, too.

But the older I get, the better I am with recognizing when it’s time for something else. And so far, it’s been my experience that a new life chapter is always worth the effort it takes to turn the page and start writing a new script!

Does any of this resonate with you? I’d love to hear…and thanks for stopping by!

Other Resources for your enjoyment

***A sublime meditative poem for your listening pleasure!

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mixing up midlife podcast

***Terri and Melissa, of Mixing Up Midlife are back from their own summer break! Head here to catch up!

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should

“Should” Activities Should Be Up To Us, Don’t You Think?

#CoffeeBreakStory: Anyone else weary of "should" and "could" demands?

I was clipping along briskly with stuff—doesn’t matter what—just things I thought I should and could do. Things leading to goals I had in mind. And I was urged to keep going after those things.

The World (and Me 😉 ): Don’t stop, keep going, do more!
Also Me: I got this! Look out, coming through, outta my way! 🏃‍♀️ 

All in and all hands on deck! And all was fine, until it wasn’t….when I started feeling the weight of some of those things. I didn’t even realize what a burden they were becoming because I had been carrying them for a while.

Now I noticed my daily demeanor was tense. An occasional cloud of anxiety hovered overhead. The days felt full of duty and bereft of play.

I had touched on some goals but others continued to elude. I knew my path would frequently feel vertical but where was the fun to balance that out?

should
image by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

Cast Away Unwanted "Should" Stuff!

Letting go of a self (and society) imposed “should” and “could” litany was a step in the right direction!

I felt a sense of relief when I gave myself permission to temporarily do less. The newly cleared space eased my ability to shift towards what is better for me now. Life is all about change so I need to be ready to change, too!

It was such an obvious yet elusive decision. Obvious because I was feeling out of sorts. Elusive because we are regularly urged to accomplish stuff—to be busy. Only at the breaking point are we given permission for self-care.

Well, thank goodness I’m doing better with catching myself…with noticing an off mood and taking time to suss out the origin. Our emotions are critical barometers for life recalculation when we take the time to listen and act accordingly.

And my emotions were signaling time to go deep with what I determine matters most now. I gave it my all.

should
image by Steve Johnson from Pexels

The Wrap On Designing Your Own Masterpiece

Following my intuition with what my next steps will be is proving to be my best move yet!

Do what gives you fulfillment and joy. Release the rest.

Trust the Universe will support you with co-creating your next masterpiece!

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For other related topics:

Check out 📖  these useful refreshers from the blog: one on the Perils Of Perfectionism and another on Dialing Back Anxiety.

Or listen 🎧  to one of these brilliant TedTalks: Head, Heart & Gut Decision-making backed By Science or The Courage To Trust Yourself—Listen To The Nudges

next

The Next Step Is … Actually, I’m Not Quite Sure–You?

Your Next #CoffeeBreakStory!

While you might think writers are generally writing for others, I think there are many times we are actually writing for ourselves. Unless it’s an appliance manual or some other dry instructional pamphlet … though someone’s gotta write those (just not me!)

But when we write from the heart, we write what we feel compelled to share. We write what flows from our souls and top-of-mind. And while our content may resonate, reassure or uplift someone else, most times, it’s often what we ourselves need to hear! That’s what makes writing so personal.

Yet sometimes, the impetus fades. Enthusiasm wanes. Clarity blurs. A pause is needed as we wonder, Now what?
… … …

Which is the prompt for today’s #CoffeeBreakStory. I find myself at this very crossroads again. It’s a mashup of discomfort, revelation and relief! Yet with a very definite overlay of “okay, fine–but what’s next?”

Don’t get me wrong: No one is coming to tell me what to do! I firmly believe our next move is entirely up to us. I’m just not quite sure what that is for me. I feel like the last couple years have been an exercise in figuring out what it isn’t going to be! Which is extremely valuable intel, no?

But after several occasions of thinking I found it … or I was found … Nope, not quite yet!

So for now, I’m on pause with writing on Medium, the platform I talked about in the kickoff to #CoffeeBreakStories over here. 

Although I’ve been known to slip out of social events when I’m not feeling the vibe, it felt properly adult to announce to my Medium followers that I’m taking a hiatus. 

Got your beverage of choice refilled? Here’s the story I shared there:

next
image by Bogdan R. Anton from Pexels

A Personal Journey Continues...

next
image by Dmitriy Ganin from Pexels

The Wrap On The Next Chapter

When things feel like a grind, it’s a good sign that it’s time to slow down and even pause for a bit. 

Whoever gets a map with a direct route from Point A, The Dream, to Point B, The Achievement? Anybody? 👎 Didn’t think so!

What brings us joy and fulfillment can and will evolve over time. Don’t be afraid to shift when your intuition nudges you to check out a different path.

I’m feeling that way with Medium (and perhaps with social media in general!) So a couple of upcoming trips will be the perfect time to figure things out. 

Meanwhile, I’ll still be here weekly— I hope you’ll join me, too! 😊

~~~~~

Oh, and when you have six extra minutes (a two-cup coffee break) , do listen 🎧  to this Ted Talk brilliantly delivered by (gulp) a 16-year old! Hey, I’m willing to consider wisdom from some surprising resources. Halle shares some very compelling reminders about life journeys. 

authenticity

Authenticity Means Making Mischief, Mayhem, and Mistakes—Wheee!

“The authentic self is soul made visible.” —Sarah Ban Breathnach

authenticity
Author feeling frisky at Praza do Obradoiro, in Santiago de Compostela, Spain

S.W.S.W.S.W.N.

Which means:

Some Will, Some Won't, So What? Next!

Mischief, mayhem, and mistakes: What could go wrong? How about what could go right!

authenticity
Mary V in her beloved Sonoran Desert, Carefree, Arizona

The Wrap On Authenticity

Browsing through my photos from a visit to the culmination of the Camino pilgrimage in Spain provided the prompt for this story. The combination of both sacred and playful moments on my journey was exhilarating!

For an approach I use to unleash courage and curiosity, try this.

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