I understand more and more as I age how time passes without any marker of accomplishment. Up through my mid-50’s this was not OK as my greatest satisfaction was setting a goal and finishing.
Deadlines have driven me to accomplish things I never imagined possible, such as becoming a yoga teacher at 48, running a marathon at 55 or launching Betterafter50.com that same year. In my late 50’s those kinds of goals feel more like a job and I’m no longer reaching for those huge markers.
In my late 50’s I’ve noticed a big shift. I seem to be craving more hang out – chill out and see what comes up stuff. I’m not saying I don’t want to win my tennis matches or improve my handicap at golf. I’m not throwing off my Fitbit. I’m just saying that I now approach any “personal best” with a gentler inner voice. I’m just not as tough on myself as I used to be. Maybe I’ve softened.
The other side of 55 looks a lot different than the first half. It really is softer over here, less intense, kinder and more forgiving and less critical. In fact, I’m beginning to lighten up about routines that I’d been quite rigid about.
For instance, writing and finishing my weekly blog for www.betterafter50.com in a “timely” allotted writing timeframe was a weekly personal challenge that created an intense adrenaline rush. Now there’s less adrenaline and more joy in the process and I no longer torture myself.
So what’s different? I actually believe the shift in the process of writing this blog each week is a concrete example of how my attitude has softened in my late 50’s. Specifically, I would vigilantly try to eliminate all distractions in order to write…creating a self-imposed exile.
Lately, interferences and distractions are welcome visitors to my writing space. With the door open this process has become a whole lot more playful and creative.
This week I decided to observe how the distractions during the writing of this piece entered my space.
- Taking A Seat: I sat down at my kitchen counter on my favorite stool and opened my MacBook Air.
- Computer Cleanse: A Sophos Anti-Virus alert came on and I had to take a moment to purge the Bots who had invaded my computer. This is a pleasure to do…like running a disposal full of smelly old food. Cleansing!
- Husband: My husband walked in a little early from his golf game and I got a delicious hug and a few minutes of chit chat.
- Hunger: Without fail every time I sit to down to write I get hungry. Since my friend sent me a new “detox” diet today – I am extra hungry thinking about what I cannot eat. I made myself some hot water with lemon and pretended that was filling.
- Refrigerator Distraction: When I went to look for the lemon in the fridge I noted the 2 cauliflowers I had bought a few days ago. They needed to be roasted or else…. The prep would just take a minute. So, I quickly cut them up, tossed with a bit of olive oil, my favorite Maldon salt and some cool spice I’d bought in Israel 2 years ago which still smelled like the Middle Eastern market. Bake 400 and sit back down to write for 45 minutes until done.
- First Words: I settled on a title for my unwritten piece and as I typed the words (which would be changed 5 times), I thought about my 88-year-old mother-in-law. I hadn’t called her this week and decided just one quick call would make a world of difference to her. It did. We had a lovely chat…I hope she remembers I called.
- First paragraph: Crafting an opening sentence is a gateway drug for me. Once I’ve got an opener my fingers usually fly over the keyboard…and that’s just what happened. However, mid-sentence, my phone rang on my laptop. . I now get phone calls on my computer. I have no idea how that happened. It was my sister calling and I was happy to hear from her. I told her I was starting to write about distractions. She promised me a good distraction and we laughed. We talked about our kids a bit and then said goodbye.
- Tapping away madly to finish before the cauliflower was done I was in full swing and then the computer rang again. It was my son Jake’s girlfriend. Yeah! I was delighted. We had a great chat and then Jake jumped on the call and we all Facetimed with my husband too. We talked about their next visit, which made my day. Twenty minutes later I was back to my writing.
- Typing, tapping, free flowing I was now on a roll until I smelled the cauliflower burning…perfect I love it crispy.
- A few minutes later I’d finished the first draft and felt pleased.
I had started this piece hoping to get a handle on how I’ve changed in my late-50’s. What I learned is I’m no longer mad at myself for being distracted. The reality is I’m now embracing life’s distractions and bringing them into my creative process… and there’s spillover into the rest of my life. Feeling less rigid and spontaneous is a relief and way fun. This stage of life brings me so much more joy.
What are your strategies for getting a task done…how have they changed over time?