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. 🌺

stepping back

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!

the wrap with Mary V

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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