Moving Brings Mental Challenges

Most people are aware that moving is a physical process; however moving also brings mental challenges.

As we prepared to move, we anticipated an amount of disruption to our lives.  We expected that the process of settling in to our new home would take several months.

What we did not predict was the effect of moving on almost every aspect of everyday life. We did not appreciate that habits, routines, thoughts, and feelings would change appreciably.

Suddenly things so basic as unlocking the front door and de-activating the alarm, involve a new, step-by-step thought process. It’s similar to our previous house, but the keypad is more complicated, there are automatic fobs, and chimes announce door openings.

When mundane routines are no longer familiar, daily tasks and decisions take extra time, extra thought, and extra effort. Actions previously taken for granted consume precious mental energy.

Until we moved, I did not appreciate the ease with which I performed most daily activities. Finding things in the house  — utensils, seasonal clothing, cleaning supplies, batteries, stationery, rain boots, or extra paper towels involved little or no thinking. I knew which file cabinet contained important files and where to locate reference materials in my desk. I knew which television channels carried my favourite shows.  Repetition taught me how to run appliances and how to set ‘smart’ devices in the house.  I knew where to get routine service  for my car. I had a spot for keeping my keys and could easily find extra keys for cars, for the cottage and for our son’s home.

I could find products and services in the neighbourhood.  Service people knew me as a loyal customer and responded quickly.  Twenty-five years of history with my doctor, dentist, and pharmacist made communication easy. I took for granted that I would get an emergency medical or dental appointment. Shopping for groceries, gifts, and clothing meant going to favourite stores and making quick choices.

There was no reason to  question my thought process or my memory.  I instinctively knew where, in the house, to find infrequently used items. I remembered facts such as telephone numbers, dates for lawn fertilizer service, and the names of people who lived down the street.

Mental Challenges since Moving

What happened as second nature before moving has now become a challenge.  Schedules and routines for eating, writing, and exercise have changed. Sometimes I feel as though I’m surrounded by a thick fog that slows every cognitive process.

Along with spending extraordinary amounts of time searching for things, I spend more time making decisions.  Regardless of whether it’s an inconsequential decision such as what to cook for dinner, or an important decision like choosing an investment, I over-think, perseverate,  and avoid deciding for as long as possible. Small annoyances frustrate, interrupt completion of routine tasks, and cause hours of wasted time. What I took for granted now involves several steps.

Finding Things

After taking most of the summer to unpack at a leisurely pace, remembering where to find things we need is a daily challenge.  This is especially true for infrequently used items.  Where is my favourite red scarf?  In which drawer is the small colander?  Did we unpack the vases that are large enough for fall sun flowers? Are there spare lightbulbs?

Today, for example, my husband scraped his knuckle while grating cheese.  You might guess that a first aid kit with band aids would be easily located. It took a full five minutes before a lucky peek in a large drawer in the basement bathroom proved successful. Variants of this example happen too often.

When unpacking I used logical organizing principles such as ‘like with like’. I put seasonal items on higher shelves or into basement storage boxes.  With an abrupt change from summer into fall, we need things we stowed away. While we laugh at the daily search for items like long-sleeved t-shirts, the transition to a new season tells me it’s time to find forever places for our possessions — and perhaps, to cut more of the excess!

Coping Strategies

While I recognize that unfamiliarity leads to a certain amount of stress, at this point, I’m ready for this phase to end.  Instead of spending time at the cottage enjoying the beautiful fall weather, we’ve purposefully stayed at home so that routines and habits of living here begin to feel a part of everyday life.

As I write this post, we’ve slept in the house for 21 consecutive nights! Both my husband and I have joined a nearby gym to get back into structuring our days with regular exercise. The place buzzes with older people so I’m optimistic about making new social contacts. I joined a writer’s group to force routines for writing back into my life.

Rather than chastise myself about losing my memory, I’m keeping lists, lists, and more lists. What supplies need replenishing? What pesky tasks need attention? What phone numbers might be needed quickly? On which days are service or personal appointments scheduled?

Our couple relationship is stronger as we depend on each other to stay positive and get through this adjustment.  With fewer social contacts, we are re-connecting with each other in new ways as we discover the charms of this community. Finding restaurants that we will visit more than once is the current quest.

Leaving the home where we lived for more than 25 years is a mentally challenging experience. Although I never expected to plunge into a new life, the mental challenges of adjustment are real.

Every passing day brings a new element of stability.  My favourite chair is in a sunny spot where I can watch children walking to school as I drink morning coffee and write in my journal.  My husband and  the cats join in for a quick check-in and visit.  A couple of weeks ago, our daughter-in-law helped with curating and hanging pictures. She re-arranged books and placed favourite pieces on the great room shelves. Such small changes had made such a big difference in how the house feels!

A year from now the mental challenges involved with moving will be forgotten. Meanwhile, I give myself a dose of kindness and self-forgiveness at the end of every day to reinforce my strength and determination to move back into equilibrium.

September — A month of New Beginnings

September is a month that signals new beginnings.  More than January, the dawn of September feels like the start of a new year for a variety of reasons.

Life settles into a routine. Vacations and lazy days of summer are over.Children and young people return to school. Days are shorter and nights are cooler. The arc of the sun changes making sunlight less intense.

From childhood, we are programmed to see September as a fresh start.  Childhood recollections trigger new energy when we remember new school clothes, new books, new teachers, and the challenges of meeting performance expectations in a higher grade.

Such deep emotional programming makes September an excellent time to focus on new projects, or to finish projects that stopped during the summer.

September is also an excellent time to take stock of the year.  A full quarter of 2016 remains to make progress on the goals and aspirations that were  important back in January.

With my birthday falling in mid-September, there is added reason to treat September as a month for new beginnings. Virgos like serious projects and routines that usually begin in the fall.

New beginnings 

After moving to a different community in June, September signals a time to re-engage in activities that I enjoy.  I’m ready to join the book club at my local library, a writing group, and an afternoon knitting group.  I’m considering whether to go to a nearby seniors centre that offers bridge games.  I’m looking for a gym with a salt water pool and aqua fit programs.  I’m also looking for a yoga studio with knowledgeable teachers.

Perhaps I’ll overfill the calendar with these activities but I’m ready for opportunities to meet like-minded people.  Finding a social life in a new community takes time and effort. To find new friends, I’ll have to initiate contact and seek out people who have interests similar to mine.  I’ll never replace the friendships I enjoyed in Markham and Toronto.  I am confident, however, that new people will come into my life — people who will have an impact on my happiness.

I’m also ready to re-kindle friendships with a network of former colleagues who live here.  We started our careers in a small children’s mental health centre as young, ambitious women and have maintained contact.  Reconnecting and reviving these friendships will be a lovely adventure in itself.

A Project to Finish 

September also means getting serious about settling in to our house and making it our home.  There’s art to hang on the walls; there are pictures to sort and curate. There’s ‘fun’ shopping to do so that rooms get dressed up — some new linens, a few green plants, a couple of area carpets, and storage solutions for my hobby room.

Its time to make another ‘push’ to finish unpacking and sorting the remaining boxes that await attention. Enjoying summer at the cottage was a good excuse to avoid dealing with the last 20% of stuff that needs organizing.

Now that the weather is cooler, we can clear boxes out of the garage to make space for our cars and not for items that need unpacking. We can install shelving for tools and outdoor paraphernalia.

Excitement of New Beginnings

New beginnings are exciting because they usually relate to things you want.  It may be a new skill, or a new habit, or finishing something important to you.  It may simply be returning to comfortable or ‘normal’ routines that give predictability to the days and weeks ahead.

Thinking of September as a time of new beginnings, brings a sense of anticipation.  It tweaks the happiness-producing energy of possibilities.  Everything feels fresh.  Seeing and appreciating the promise of a new beginning on that project, interest, or routine is like a re-boot or a new chapter of life. It’s an opportunity we don’t dare to waste!



Leaving a Legacy

The recent death of a dear friend who my husband and I knew for more than 50 years has turned my thoughts the meaning of leaving a  legacy. His sudden death left a big hole in our hearts but we remember him because of how he lived his life. His example was a positive influence for many.

We are left with warm memories of good times that we shared with our friend, his family, and his network will last for our lifetime. Our lives are richer because we knew this man.  Although he lived in New York City, we travelled regularly to each other’s homes. He loved coming to Canada and we loved going to New York. We laughed together, shared activities, celebrated special holidays, and dined at each other’s tables.

At his funeral a few days ago it was clear that his example as a husband, father, grandfather, friend, colleague, and volunteer affected many people. His career in electrical engineering was celebrated but he was remembered for much more. He loved many people and many people loved him in return.  He was generous with his time, talents, and yes, with his money. A big smile greeted everyone he met.

He was never discouraged by recent severe health issues that depleted his energy and restricted  his activities,  Just days before his death, he was planning his next trip to Canada. He realized that he was living on limited time, yet he chose to stay hopeful about the future.

My friend left a legacy.

Choosing your legacy

Many people dream of leaving a legacy,  The legacy might be a bequest to a charity or a gift of money to family members.  The legacy might be a memoir or a piece of art. Leaving such a legacy involves having financial means.

Finances may preclude a tangible legacy for many people but a legacy of beautiful memories is something to which everyone can aspire . We can live in a way that creates an example for others. We can love deeply. We can help others. We can share our money, our knowledge, and our time.

Most adults, and especially those of us living the third chapter of life, might consider how the actions and behaviours we demonstrate in our daily lives will influence our legacy. Do we show the generosity by which we want to be remembered?  Do we show and tell those who are close to us that we love them?  Are we respectful, truthful and kind?

How we conduct ourselves throughout a lifetime creates a powerful legacy. Thinking about what we will leave behind usually involves legal issues like wills or insurance  or property. Equally important is  every day living including the decisions, words, and actions that fill each hour. The little things do count!

Legacies don’t just happen nor should they be left to chance. A personal vision or mission statement might guide the choices and behaviours that produce a legacy. A legacy gets built by resolving to consciously create a legacy based on personal values and by living these values every day.

My friend left a legacy. He lived intentionally, made wise choices about relationships, work, time, and traditions. He focused on the big picture and left rich memories.

What about you?  Are you focused on your big picture?  What will be your legacy?

Shot of Happiness

What is a shot of happiness?  Other than a recipe for what seemed a very sweet drink with liqueurs and pineapple juice, I found no answers from a Google search. I found a couple of Facebook business pages, a blog with this title, but no definitions.

I believe in shots of happiness.  They serve as little pick-me-ups through the day so I wrote a definition.

A shot of happiness is an event, an activity, a thought, or a feeling that brings a smile, a state of contentment, a moment of pleasure, or a sense of satisfaction.  A shot of happiness is usually self-initiated but it may other-initiated. It results in feelings of well-being, serenity, and happiness.

 There is no single method for finding a shot of happiness. Each of us can engineer shots of happiness by understanding what things make us happy, what thoughts bring on a smile, and what activities bring mental sparks.

When we choose happiness, we know that it’s an attitude, a way of thinking, and an expectation of how to face the world.  I don’t think happiness is all-encompassing; rather happiness comes from little shots of happiness peppered through the day.

The First Shot of Happiness

Morning routines provide the first shot of happiness to shape the day.  Many bloggers have written excellent posts with ideas for morning routines.  Most involve getting an early start, exercising, meditating, and eating breakfast.  Happiness gurus like Gretchen Rubin recommend making your bed as an essential morning routine that increases happiness.

There’s no question that routines help to provide a shot of happiness that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. The happiness may come from an acknowledgement of gratitude — gratitude for waking up, for a good sleep, for the gift of another day.  It may come from movement — a deep stretch, a few ankle rotations, or a back bend.  It might come from a smile from your spouse/partner or a nuzzle from a beloved household pet. It might come from a caffeine jolt or a hot shower.

Getting up every day with  feelings of happiness about the prospects for the day is a gift each of us can give ourselves. Whatever works for you should be part of a morning routine that nurtures feelings of happiness.

My own morning habits include savouring a good cup of coffee, taking a walk, playing with my cats, doing some yoga stretches, and enjoying conversation with my husband. Re-connecting in the morning is a great relationship tool as it helps each of us to stay present in our relationship. This is a relaxed time for planning the day ahead and confirming individual and mutual priorities for the day.

Productivity gives a shot of happiness

Mark Twain wrote that eating the frog early — or getting the worst task completed first — means that nothing worse will happen.  A shot of happiness comes from feelings of  productivity once a difficult task is accomplished or, in Twain-speak, the frog is eaten for the day. Twain’s idea has encouraged many to tackle a daunting task and complete it when energy levels are high.

Staying productive is a challenge for many retired people. A change of perspective is necessary when feelings of accomplishment become illusive.  Making progress on something that is important to your life leads to a feelings of satisfaction or shots of happiness. Completing certain personal chores may lead to feelings of productivity for some; for others, it’s playing a hard game of tennis, spending time as a volunteer, visiting a sick friend, or mastering a new skill.

After every  exercise class a gym friends says, “It’s done and now I can feel self-righteous for the rest of the day”.  For him, the exercise class is the equivalent of eating a frog. The feeling of accomplishment from exercise gives him a shot of happiness.

Goofing off

Goof-off time is just as important as productivity. In retirement we no longer need to experience or measure success in terms of goal achievement, profitability or key performance measures. Instead, we can have some fun every day.

Retirement means not having to make an excuse when doing nothing or when wasting time on frivolous pursuits.  With no deadlines to meet we can give ourselves a shot of happiness when we take time for playful activities, for napping, or for day-dreaming.

North Americans are notorious for treating rest and relaxation as a privilege and not a necessity. This may be a throw back to childhood when good behaviour meant getting a reward. We’ve absorbed a cultural norm that having fun or simply resting is a form of goofing off or wasting precious time. But, why should the need for fun or rest be earned?

Taking time for fun or day-dreaming or simply doing nothing can give a shot of happiness.

Bedtime Habits

At the end of the day, good habits and routines for bedtime set the stage for the next day’s happiness.

Morning shots of happiness are easier and more plentiful if I cultivate good habits before going to bed.  By spending a few minutes tidying up my workspace (usually my desk — sometimes the kitchen)  and setting priorities for the day ahead, I wake up knowing what should happen next. My husband sets up the coffee before bed so whoever gets up first just needs to push a button. Other routines include time to brush and floss while watching the late news followed by a few minutes of reading.

For some lucky people, restful sleep comes easily.  Others need to relax with a hot bath, meditation, stretching, or soft music.  Some people need a special pillow, absolute darkness, and carefully controlled temperatures.  Whatever the unique rituals you develop, winding down at the end of the day promotes healthy sleep thereby setting the stage for the next day.

Everyone deserves several shots of happiness in their day.  Shots of happiness may come from good habits, from exercise, from a sense of purpose for the day, from goofing off, or from something to anticipate. Developing effective routines for giving yourself shots of happiness takes some self-knowledge.

Shots of happiness won’t always come from the same things nor will  they come in familiar ways. When we learn to recognize fleeting moments of happiness we can savour these moments.  We can give ourselves a shot of happiness as we appreciate that simple pleasures  can delight us as much as those infrequent moments of ecstasy.

Retirement Happiness — Learning to Goof Off

For a happy retirement, some of us need to learn how to goof off. After a lifetime of measuring each day in terms of productivity are you sometimes too busy with things on the ‘to do’ list to lighten up and take some time to simply enjoy the day?

During our working lives we evaluated ourselves in terms of achievements.  We strived to attain educational goals and career goals.  We tended our relationships carefully to ensure that family life flourished.  We sacrificed leisure time to cut the grass, clean the house, or do errands. We saved money to assure financial independence in retirement. After retirement it’s difficult to shed habits related to measuring self-worth in terms of productivity.

If you, like me, were raised to regard idleness as slothful, you learned to feel guilty when goofing off.  Wasting time infuriated my single parent mother who lived by a strict work ethic. As a young widow, her need to work for income, raise two teenage children, cook, clean, and manage a household consumed all her time.  Goofing off was a luxury that she did not allow herself, nor my brother, nor me. Such modelling left its mark. I have difficulty with any type of idleness.

In the past few months, preparations to down-size, sell a house, move, and settle in a new home have created endless ‘to do’ lists, expectations, and deadlines. There’s been little time for contemplation,  socialization, or hobbies.  Such pursuits have been relegated to the category of indulgences. Getting things done on schedule took precedence over almost all activities.

Most of the immediate demands related to moving are over.  Yes, there is still unpacking to finish. There are pictures to hang, closets and cupboards to organize for efficiency. It’s also necessary to find new services for medical, dental and personal needs.

But, it’s also summer in Ontario. The last phase of moving can wait. It’s time for a summer break. This is the time to goof off without feeling guilty.

Why goof off?

When we simply can’t think of a solution, or when stimulation overloads the mind,  it’s time for a rest. Just as sleep restores physical energy, play can replenish mental energy. Our brains need rest just as our bodies need rest. Playful activities serve to refresh and nurture positive emotions. Day dreaming has a similar effect and requires no skill.

Relaxation is a benefit of play.  Play inspires creativity as well as enhancing problem solving skills. When our bodies and minds relax, creative thoughts and ideas flow naturally.  Energy and well-being increases. Stress is reduced.

Athletes are well aware of the euphoric effects of physical exercise. Fun activities that involve exercise promote more restful sleep, stimulate appetite, and enhance the right brain activity that influences creativity. Intensive workouts may be impossible for many older people but even low impact physical exercise such as walking offers similar benefits.

The expression, ‘if not now, when?’ frequently crosses my mind especially as I’ve recently watched my cottage neighbor go to hospital after a fall and never return home.  The ‘celebration’ of her life happened yesterday. It made me realize, again, that life is short. In the busyness of each day, we forget that life is fragile and take for granted that goofing off can happen in the future.

Play is fun.  Too frequently adults just don’ t indulge in pure fun.  I’m reminded of this each time I watch my grand-daughter finger paint or play a game of ‘pretend’. She is totally absorbed.  She sings.  She performs dance steps. Her activities engage and delight everyone  who is around her. Such pure fun happens  infrequently for adults.  We worry about how we look to others. Perhaps all of us need the sensory  experience of smearing paint colours on paper and admiring  the result. We need to goof off, sing, dance, and lighten up.

Goofing off is a privilege; therefore, give yourself a pinch and goof off just because you can. 90% of people in this world can’t abandon themselves to pure pleasure. Doing nothing, taking a walk without purpose, meditating, or playing a game are pleasures that are often taken for granted  in Western society as it takes little effort to meet our basic needs. Most of the world doesn’t enjoy our privileges.

It’s hard to let go of the ‘measurement’ head space and to realize that self-worth is more than accomplishments. Ending achievement addiction is an accomplishment in retirement.  Summer is a perfect time to start by enjoying the easy living of long days, warm weather, and late sunsets. Whether you call it goofing off, enjoying yourself, wasting time, or day-dreaming, it’s time for you.

If you like this post, you may also like an earlier post on this topic.  Wasting time? Spending time?  I’m interested in reader’s experiences with learning how to goof off without feeling guilty.  Please send your comments.

Retirement Happiness — Life Intermissions

Intermissions in life usually accompany a major life change. The life change might be a marriage, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, or achievement of a milestone such as running a marathon. The life change may also result from the death of a loved one, a health crisis, a financial set back, a divorce, or the loss of a friendship.

Regardless of whether a life change is positive or negative, an internal transition occurs.  It may result in unexpected emotions ranging from joy, giddiness, euphoria,  and anticipation to grief, loss, and sadness.

You can anticipate many life changes such as graduation, moving, or retirement, and plan for the change by visualizing  the results. Nonetheless, living through any change can be intense and difficult.

Major Change as Intermission

Over the years I’ve learned to consider the transition that accompanies a major change as an intermission. It’s a time to pause, a time to consider options, and a time to rest.

There is often a feeling of hollowness and emptiness.  It seems that life is on hold. Days drift past.  Everything seems in a state of flux.  What provided stability and predictability seems lost. Unexpected bouts of tiredness, anxiety, and pessimism about the future occur.

Encountering a traffic intersection when taking a drive provides a good comparison.  At an intersection, it’s natural to slow down, review the route, and consider whether to make a turn. A life intermission is also a time to take stock, review possibilities, and consider new options.

In his book, Managing Transitions:  Making the Most of Change, William Bridges describes three steps for adapting to a new situation.  Bridges describes the loss and sadness associated with an ending.  Then comes a messy ‘neutral’ phase; and finally, the capacity to embrace a new beginning.

Bridges contemplates the neutral zone as a time of limbo when fears and ambiguities need processing before a successful transition to a new situation.  In the neutral phase there is distress and loss as a person struggles to find a new identity. I like to think of this time as a life intermission or a timeout for psychological growth and renewal.

Managing a Life Intermission

Here are seven considerations to help you successfully manage a life intermission.

  1. Take time for self-reflection.  A life transition is an opportunity to rest and think.   Journal writing and meditation are outlets that allow you to express emotions and let go of the past.  Writing prepares you  for the personal growth that comes from successfully dealing with a life transition.
  2. Allow time wasters. When you let go of productivity aspirations and take time to relax, you give your mind the flexibility to restore itself.  There is no point in grinding away when your brain needs to run on idle.
  3. Focus on self-care.  A life intermission  is a time when you can focus on wellness and being kind to yourself. By keeping exercise routines, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and enjoying soothing rituals you nurture your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for the energy needed to make a new beginning.
  4. Experience the range of emotions that go with a life transition.  Transitions, even those that come from positive changes, are stressful.  Frightening feelings including feelings of loss, sadness, anger, fear, regret, exuberance, anticipation, and happiness are normal reactions.
  5. Remember earlier life changes. How did you manage yourself during other transitions? Coping skills learned when navigating previous transitions will carryover to help you move from vulnerability to a new normal.
  6. Make plans for the future especially when feeling lost or alone. Life transitions are times when new routines and habits are easily formed. With planning and a positive attitude new experiences that promote personal growth and learning will occur.
  7. Allow time to incorporate the effects of the change into your life. At the theatre, intermission is prescribed.  It happens in 20 or 25 minutes — enough time for a stretch and a biology break.  When dealing with a major disruption, it’s difficult to forecast the time needed to shape a new identity. The time required will be unique to each of us and unique for the type of change. It will not happen in an orderly linear progression but in multi-dimensional fits and starts.

Treating a life transition like an intermission can lead to re-invention.  In the aftermath of moving, I’m acutely aware of the mix of reactions and feelings I experience every week.  Sometimes I have bursts of energy; on other days, I can’t focus, can’t remember important information, and can’t concentrate on complex tasks.

I’m using this time to re-assess where my life is going.  It’s an excellent time to take stock and to re-create in preparation for a new beginning. This life intermission is a time to re-engineer, to understand the reality of living in a changed environment, and to prepare for another chapter of retirement. I’m in no hurry to move to the next phase. In fact, I plan to luxuriate in the limbo of this life intermission and let the world go by — at least for a little while as I need some time to replenish my energy bank!

Moving — A Recipe for Upheaval

Moving from one house to another is a recipe for weeks of upheaval. The disruption, confusion, and life-changing chaos that comes with moving from a beloved house, from a group of friends, and from a community with an established network of services is unbelievable.

This post contains a potpourri of reflections about moving from one house to another.

Regular postworksavvy readers know that my husband and I have purged, organized, and packed our belongings in preparation for a move after deciding, about a year ago, to sell our too-big house and down-size.  We also decided to move to a smaller South Western Ontario city that is near to family and near to our cottage at Lake Huron. We wanted a smaller house, smaller yard, and less commuting as a way to ensuring an independent lifestyle as we grow older.

We anticipated a certain amount of disruption in our lives but experiencing it has been another matter!  Moving at a later stage of life is a recipe for upheaval.  Neither of us expected to spend so much time with lawyers, realtors, painters, carpenters, movers, and decorators. Who could imagine that making an address change would take over one hour of phone time? Some of these encounters were easy; many have been an exercise in frustration.

Panicked Preparations

As moving day approached, I greeted friends and neighbours who came to pick up furniture, beds, bookcases, couches, and appliances. Some were excess  belongings; others we decided to replace and not take with us. As Marie Kondo advises in her book, The Life-Saving Magic of Tidying Up, I said a silent thank you and a good-bye as each of these things left my life.

Because moving costs double if the moving company packs the contents of a house, we chose to pack for ourselves. For two weeks before moving day, we packed.  Thank goodness for U Tube videos that show proper packing procedures for dishes, lamps, clothes, tools, computers, and stereo equipment.

I learned new terminology about 2, 4, and 6 foot cubic boxes, mirror/picture boxes, and wardrobe boxes. Whoever manufactures moving boxes must be extremely wealthy as the cost to purchase standard boxes ranged from $4 to $26 dollars per box not to mention the exorbitant cost of $60 for flat screen TV packing cases! Although I was tempted to use boxes from the grocery store or liquor store, I was dissuaded from this due to possible vermin contaminants, especially in boxes previously used for food items. Our moving company helped us by giving us some boxes and also by allowing us to buy clean used boxes that were surplus from office relocations.

Other packing accoutrements included tape and tape holders to properly seal each box, reams of white packing paper, rolls of bubble wrap, and labels. Fighting with rolls of tape that seemed to stick to itself as much as sticking to the boxes caused aching hands and swollen fingers. Fatigue in under-used arm and back muscles meant early bed times.

Project Management Approach

I used a project management/room-by-room approach.  Guest bedrooms and extra bathrooms were first on the list.  Once packed, boxes stayed in assigned rooms.

Items from one room were not mixed with items from other rooms as I didn’t want bedroom linens mixed with books or kitchen towels.

When  packing  sundry items from the basement and the garage took twice the allotted time that I had scheduled, panic reigned. My project management approach had not included time for packing many odd-sized articles. U Tube did not mention angst about packing sundry items like watering cans, hoses, measuring sticks, or long brooms and mops.

Although we had purged most areas of the house, the ‘donation’ and garbage piles grew quickly. We made repeated runs to the re-cycling depot and the dump during the week before the move.

Moving Day 

June 17, our moving day, dawned sunny, bright, and hot. To contain and protect our skittish cats from the mayhem, my husband crated them in their cages and left for the cottage.  I was ‘on deck’ to manage the moving process.

There was no air conditioning as every door was open for the team of 5 sturdy people who arrived precisely at 8 am. The house heated up as furniture was wrapped in 5 foot rolls of padded bubble wrap and quilted padding. My apprehension subsided as load after load of movers dollies heaped with 3 or 4 large packing boxes moved into the humongous truck. Wardrobe boxes filled with heavy clothing were heaved onto shoulders and backs — then carried sherpa-style into the truck Three men effortlessly maneuvered our piano down a ramp and belted it to the wall of the truck.

Seven hours later, the truck filled with our worldly possessions rolled down the street for weekend storage in a Toronto warehouse. I said a silent prayer of thanks.

As my next door neighbour watched the truck disappear, she cried. There were no tears for me, just a feeling of emptiness accompanied with relief.  I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms, and washed the fridge interior in preparation for new owners.  I walked through every room, then stood in the foyer and thought, with gratitude, about the shelter this house provided to our family over the years, about many parties hosted in these walls, and about the safety we experienced inside each room when bad things happened. I locked the door for the last time, and drove away.

Aftermath and Unloading

During the weekend, as we waited for arrival of our belongings and unloading day, we relaxed. Sitting on the deck at the cottage was a welcome break from lack of sleep, stress, and heavy lifting, The quiet of woods around us, the sounds from the lake, and the fact that cottage possessions were not in a state of disruption brought calm to frayed nerves.

Unloading day was, in many ways, a reverse of the loading experience.  We marvelled as heavy crates and bulky items were lifted effortlessly and placed in our new home.  Thank goodness for labels on all boxes that allowed placement in proper rooms of the new house!

We are in no hurry to unpack as we are living at the cottage and commuting to the new house.  The painter has finished painting the rooms and the front doors. I’ve cleaned the kitchen cupboards and bathroom fixtures.  We have internet, phone, security, and cable service. We’ve hired landscapers to cut the grass and trim the shrubs.

Another phase of moving is over. In the fullness of time, we’ll unpack, and begin sleeping/living in our home.  Meanwhile, it’s summer.  We don’t want to miss precious days of cottage time.

Soon enough we will engage with a new community, meet neighbours, and face the day-to-day challenges of living.

Retirement Happiness — Good Endings

In the final days before moving I’m aware that good endings are important.  Good endings involve letting go of people, places and traditions.

Endings mean difficult good-byes. As we say good-bye, we worry that inevitable life changes will alter relationships. We know the future won’t be the same.

We resist good-byes because we don’t want to lose people or things that give meaning to our lives. The natural tendency is to hold on and deny the inevitable.

Moving is one of life’s big stressors.  In stress terms, it’s rated as equal to losing a job, retiring, death of a family member, or divorce. Handling a move effectively means ending relationships; it means saying many good-byes.

Dealing with such endings is  much like the grieving process. Periods of confusion, uncertainty, and fear cloud thinking. Anxiety and doubt creep into decision-making.

When everything about your life, your home, and your living arrangement changes rapidly, it’s difficult, yet important, to stay focused and to manage endings as well as possible.

During my career I learned to bring things to an ordered close before moving from one job to another.  As a manager I faced endings as people who made substantial contributions moved to new roles. I also faced endings when I left various positions for new opportunities.

Getting things in order for a smooth transition at work meant finishing projects, preparing reports for those who would replace me, and briefing team members who would carry on until a successor was named. A project management approach enabled the transition. The skills of project management can also be applied to achieving good endings before moving.

Good Endings with People

Relationships with people will change once gatherings become infrequent. I’ll miss the daily exchanges with neighbours, locker room conversations with gym buddies, weekly bridge games with friends, and animated  book club discussions.

I know that people maintain friendships despite distance as this has happened in past moves to various cities and provinces.  The friendships will change. Many friendships will have less closeness. Some friendships will dwindle to the point of no contact.

I’m grateful to friends and neighbours who have arranged lunches and dinners to offer opportunities to say good-bye.  During these events we’ve recounted the good times and the activities we shared. We thanked each other for the fellowship we enjoyed with each other.

I’m sad about missing good-byes to church friends as we have lived at our cottage on most weekends.  I regret not saying a personal good-bye to colleagues on the library board as I could not attend the last meeting due to illness. I  can’t say good-bye to some of my gym buddies as they are away on vacation.  Without good-byes, these endings feel incomplete.

Good Endings with Places

How does one effect a good ending with a place?

My favourite spots in our community include a couple of ethnic grocery shops, our local library, the walking trail in a nearby park, and the salt water pool at my gym. I’ll miss the services I receive from our pharmacy  and the car shop that keeps my car running. Most of all, I’ll miss my back garden, the herbs outside the side door, and the plentiful yield of organic veggies from my kitchen garden.

I know that I won’t visit most of these places again and, if I do, the feelings will be those of a visitor and not feelings of belonging to those places.

Good Endings with Traditions

Some endings are linked with traditions.  Leaving our home, our community, and our friends means that many routines and traditions will change. We’ll find new ways to carry on the traditions that are meaningful but until those changes become part of daily, weekly, and seasonal patterns, we’ll feel that something is missing.

Rituals help when going through scary changes. Rituals also bring order and strength to life.  In the past few weeks, the ritualized traditions around saying good-bye have helped us make good endings as we’ve thanked those who gave meaning to our lives during our time here.

Endings and beginnings aren’t always smooth; nor are they black or white.  I’m sure there will be a hiatus before I can embrace the learning and growth opportunities that will come from living in a different place.

It’s my strong belief that good endings pave the way to new beginnings.  Giving closure to the phase of life that is over helps build capacity for a new start.  Emotional readiness is a key factor for a successful new beginning. By expressing appreciation to people, places and traditions that held meaning the foundation for what comes next emerges.

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Retirement Happiness — Celebrations

It’s the May long weekend in Canada — sometimes called  May two-four, or Victoria Day weekend.  We’re at the cottage with our son, daughter-in-law and grand-daughter.

The weather forecasts call for sunny days; trees and plants have begun to show their summer finery; people are celebrating on the beach.

The challenges of preparing to move from our house have consumed most waking hours during the past few days leaving little time to write blog posts. Instead, I’m goofing off, taking much-needed time off.

Most Canadian readers are celebrating this weekend enjoying warm outdoor weather in their gardens, at festivals or at their cottages.  For readers from abroad, please enjoy this time vicariously.

To read posts written in earlier years about this celebration weekend, please click on these links:  How to Enjoy the May Two-Four Weekend

What are your essential May 2-4 traditions?

Letting Go of the Place Called Home

Our house sold a few weeks ago.  Now it’s time for another stage of letting go of the place called home.

Letting go of our home is a process just like letting go of work, or friends, or a pet.  Letting go began with the decision, many months ago, to down-size and move to a smaller house.

The next stage was de-cluttering and purging ‘stuff’ that had accumulated during 25 years of living here.  It involved a basement bootcamp that took weeks as we cleared bookshelves that contained a small library of text books, professional books, and best sellers. It involved sorting sports equipment, trophies, sports clothes, books, toys, and other memorabilia belonging to our son but never taken out of the house.  It involved looking through gifts, and mementos from family and friends that had been stored and forgotten.

Sorting photos as well as framed pictures of awards, degrees, certificates and other career highlights that both my husband and I saved took days.

There were moments of euphoria. There were moments of despair.  Almost every item we touched brought vivid memories — sometimes happy, sometimes sad. There was frustration. What should be kept? If this item is tossed, will it be missed? There were tears. It felt like excavating 25 years of life.

We felt less encumbered as stuff disappeared. Rooms were bigger. There was an emptiness in some of the space.  Once the SOLD sign was in the front yard, it also began to feel as though our house belonged to someone else.

Closure, sort of…..

Now that the house is sold, its time for beginning the final ‘letting go’. It’s not quite the final closure as we won’t ‘close’ the Agreement for Sale until June 20 but we have entered another phase of the letting go process.

We need rituals as we say good-bye to the feelings and emotions contained in our house, to remember key life  events including birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, career successes, and life passages. We need to find ways to honour rooms where we took refuge when grief, loss, and disappointment came our way. My husband and I have told the stories of these times as we begin packing the things that will move with us.

Since last fall, I’ve taken photos of favourite spaces in the house, our back garden and our street.  I need these digital memories — at least in the short-term.

letting go -- my spring garden
letting go — my spring garden

Now we need good-bye rituals as we prepare for the last departure.  Indigenous people often use tobacco or cleansing ceremonies when something new is acquired. Good-bye rituals are also common but these often involve death.

Perhaps some type of ceremony to mark this ending is needed, as emotionally, we will carry parts of this house with us in our memories. We haven’t decided how to say good-bye to our house.  It might be a final dinner with time for stories. It might be a walk-through of each empty room after the moving truck is loaded, holding hands, and looking around. It might just be a final lock-up of the 3 exit doors and the garage.

Leaving is a process. The ties to a place are strong.  A significant good-bye marking this separation with loving-kindness recognizes how much we loved the life that we lived here. We use deliberate, kind good-byes with people we love, why not with places we love?

Once we move to a another house and a different community, we’ll change.  Letting go to launch new opportunities and new adventures means giving a heart-felt farewell.  It hurts but honouring the memories allows the transition that awaits.


Inspirations for a Happier Retirement

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