Friday, November 14, 2014

Crash and Learn

Written by Guest Blogger: Elizabeth Brinckerhoff

I had to crash the plane. It was just a dream but as real as life as I flew the plane down the four-lane highway, with traffic heading toward me. I flew just above the tree line, barely missing the trees. I knew I had to crash the plane, there was no runway in sight and I had no idea how to find one.

I landed the plane nose first. I was ok, bruised, the plane heavily damaged. When I woke from the dream, I knew that the whole incident was a metaphor for where I was in my life. I had been "failing" retirement for a decade. I’d read articles on retirement, tried over and over again to get myself into gear, feel productive, get in sync with a new lifestyle. And yet, I just couldn’t get my act together. Maybe that’s because it was an act.

I looked to others for direction, and then realized I had to find my own way. But what was my way? Just as in my dream, I needed to crash land and stop the repetitive pattern of standing in place. 

A friend and I walked in the park several days a week, great exercise for the body but all our conversations still left the unanswered question, what was I going to do now that my career, my work identity, the demanding but comforting schedule and responsibilities of the workplace were no longer part of my life. 

I became involved in various town activities and felt satisfaction at being able to help make things better for others. But what about me? What was I going to do with the rest of my life, with any time left that I would be lucky to have?

Not knowing what to do, I did what came naturally. I organized. Until now my home, my castle, was much the same as it was before I retired. By keeping my home intact, the home that had existed during the years I was working professionally, I was still anchored to the past. I needed my home to make room for my new stage of life.

It's true that when you live in an atmosphere of things around you that are annoying or leave you with a bland feeling, you internalize that feeling. You feel burdened, a quiet or sometimes not so quiet pressure. This is where you live, where you come home to, where you sleep, cook, enjoy, and play. When you leave your home to go out to the world, you carry the feelings you have created within you. Getting rid of things and creating space for new beginnings changes all this.

Lighten up, Open up 

Go through your home, room by room. Surround yourself with cognizance of what is meaningful to you. Save the basics and what creates happiness within you. If you love something, keep it. If you feel annoyed or ambivalent when you see it, pay attention to your feelings. As organizer Marie Kondo suggests, get rid of things that don't spark joy. Give it away, toss it, recycle it, or share it. You're smart enough to not cut back too far.

Throughout this process, keep the flow of energy alive. Think of the freedom you will feel when your surroundings are fresh and meaningful, you'll open up to new things in your life. Your creative mind will be activated, the pleasure centers stimulated. You will "enjoy" that walk, be more alert to learning. You will "be there", maybe for the first time in a while when you are not weighed down by things. 

That’s what I did. And now, I’m ready to read the articles, listen, and put my own life together.

Copyright Elizabeth Brinckerhoff 11/2014

Elizabeth Brinckerhoff is an organizational specialist who has discovered that "being organized" just for the sake of being organized isn’t the answer. 

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