Tag Archives: Mindfulness

How Much is Enough? 8 Things We’ve Learned

When we first found ourselves both unemployed seven years ago, my younger sister posed a very simple yet important question:

How much do you really need?

At first, it calmed our fears.  We had saved up plenty to survive while we decided our next steps.  But more importantly, it started us on a journey to sort of pseudo-minimalism.  We lightened our load, examined our stuff, started conversations about our values, and took a hard look at what is really important to us.  We started designing our lives on this Encore Voyage with much more intention.

Examining ‘Enough’

In the early days, hubs would spend sleepless nights trying to answer the question, “Am I doing the right things?”  “Am I taking the right jobs?”  Am I taking all the steps I need for us to be successful.”  At first, those were questions born of fear and uncertainty.

The same questions are true for anyone entering retirement.  Have we saved enough?  Are we prepared both financially and emotionally?  Do we need to do more? Are we ready to take the leap?

Well, it’s taken us a few years, but we have finally learned to stop and take some very deep breaths.  And we’ve learned some things about “Enough.”

  1. We do not need to fill every hour of every day.  Down time is now cherished! We are mindful about doing “enough.”
  2. We do not need to exist on the 8 to 5 schedule of the working world.  It’s OK for us to skip out in the middle of the afternoon or to work on a weekend. We get to decide what to make of the day, and no longer feel guilty for not doing “enough.”
  3. We don’t need to buy much more “stuff.”  We want the items we own to be useful, meaningful or beautiful.  Generally speaking, we own “enough.”
  4. Taking time in the middle of the afternoon to read a book or pursue a hobby is quite OK.  You can never have “enough” curiosity or interests.
  5. We travel lightly.  I’ve studied up on many travel blogs, and it really is quite possible to go anywhere in a 22 inch carry-on and a backpack. Just “enough” is waaayyyy better when traveling than too much!
  6. Keeping up with the Joneses is stupid.  They are broke!  Our “enough” is not for anyone else to judge.
  7. You can never have “enough” meaningful relationships.  They are far more important than the things you own!
  8. There will NEVER be “enough” time for us to love each other and be together.  We need to take advantage of every moment we’re given in this life.

So how about it…What’s “enough” for you?  Any important things I’ve left off the list?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

~ Lynn

 

 

Photo credit: Patrick Fore ~ Unsplash

Retirement: Using Time Intentionally

Lately, I have been thinking about the concept of Time.  It seems that when we started into this journey called retirement, the concept of time got tweaked a little bit.

Early on in the Encore Voyage, I found myself carefully examining how I wanted to spend my days.  Perhaps it was out of a fear that I would grow old in a rocking chair, sitting staring out the window, or, worse yet, at a TV screen.

What happened next is that we started examining what we really value and then we tried to align our values with our daily activities.  We poured some glasses of wine and discussed

What’s REALLY important to us?

Then we decided that we wanted to do those things.  On purpose. With Intention. All the time.

In reading other blogs, it seems that we’re not the only ones doing this type of activity in retirement.  I think maybe it’s because we’ve grown up a bit, and what used to be important to us has changed.   We no longer feel the need to have the coolest “stuff.” In fact, we really want less “stuff!”  And we no longer feel the need to impress anyone.  Climbing some perceived ladder – um, yeah… we’re done with that.

I wonder if it’s because we think time is more fleeting at this age, and that we’d better not waste even one minute – Good Lord, that made me sound old…but still –

The other thing that’s changed is the concept of being busy. When I was teaching, I could do about ten things at a time.  I could have a phone ringing on my desk, parents at my classroom door, a stack of papers to handle, students who were hungry, fighting or about to throw up – and that’s all before 8:10!  It seemed that “busyness” was the order of the day – Every.Single.Day.

Now, we actively seek strategies to reduce the busyness. – Opening up space in the day to breathe, think, rest, and meditate.  What’s that all about, huh?  Perhaps being more busy does not make you a more dynamic or important person.  It just makes you tired and stressed out.

So I hope today you’ll take some time to

Think about what’s important

Then do that!

One thing I’ve learned on the voyage is that time can control you, or you can control it.  You get to decide what to make of each day.  Make it a great one!

Lynn

Photo credit: Anna Dzuibinska ~ Unsplash

Yet Another List – Needs vs. Wants

Recently, Kathy Merlino over at Kathy’s Retirement Blog, wrote a post called What Is Your Relationship with Money?  It seems that some folks really took exception to Kathy’s use of the term ‘Blow Money’ for that money which has been earmarked for “discretionary spending.”  She and her hubs allot a certain amount each month to spend as they see fit – without questions!  I think it’s great – It’s not “Money Blown” as her next post suggests, but rather money which is spent making their lives wonderful!  Yep, actual money for LIVING!

Hubs and I use a similar but slightly different “strategy.”  We keep what we call the Needs and Wants List:

Our Needs-Wants List

On the Needs side, we list things that are going to REQUIRE upcoming expenditures:  A new roof.  Tires for the car.  On the Wants side, we list things that come up that we would like to purchase, but are not actual necessities:  New tile in the guest bath, refacing the kitchen cabinets, those diamond encrusted wine glasses (OK…. Not really…. surely you know me better than that by now!)

The point is that the list accomplishes two things for us:

  • First, by putting an item on the list, we are forced to analyze our motives.  Is this something we really need, or is it something we’d just like to have?
  • Second, putting items on one list or the other allows us to prioritize our spending, while slowing down impulse buying (at least on larger items.)  Have you ever stopped to think something through like this – “Which would be more important to us…a new toilet or new carpet in the family room?”

The list is generally for bigger ticket items.  We have always had a shared bank account, and because we both have similar financial values, we don’t get crazy on the day to day splurges.  (Yep, occasional quilt fabric counts as day to day spending.)  Neither of us is a compulsive shopper – I repeatedly remind him that he is a lucky man, because clothes shopping is just not in my wheelhouse!  Our Needs and Wants list helps us to think about the question, “What do we need to save for, and what should we “blow money” on?”  In either case,  we believe that as long as it’s thoughtful, deliberate, and within the retirement budget, none of that money is actually “blown.”

Your Prized Possessions – Do You Know What They Are?

I told you in an earlier post about Our Minimalist Epiphany, right?  In a moment of particular clarity, Hubs and I realized that we had way too much stuff, and that it was stealing our joy.  Now, we are not what you would call “hard-core” minimalists, getting rid of all but the bare necessities.  Rather, we trying to be more intentional about what we own.  Borrowing a phrase I saw on the blog Simple Living

Minimalism is living with what you NEED,
and what you LOVE…That’s it
.

I’ve thumbed through Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, where she speaks of the items that you own “sparking joy.” You should handle each and every item in your home, and decide if that thing gives you joy.  If it does not, thank it for its service, and get rid of it (in a nutshell).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not going around my house touching all my stuff or talking to it.  I am, however, looking at our possessions with a different eye.  Have you ever just stood in a room in your home, looked around, and thought:

“Is this something I really love, or is it just junk.”

Or

“Is this something that is regularly used, or is it just taking up space?”

I’ve been doing just that lately.  I ran across a blog called The Burning House.  The premise of this photographic blog – If your house were on fire, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s valuable, practical and sentimental.  This exercise has caused two things:

I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff that doesn’t really matter, and as a result, our home feels like it’s filled with the items that truly reflect our personalities.

I’ve settled on some Non-negotiable, You’ll have to pry them out of my cold, dead, hands, Prized Possessions:

  • My mother in law’s little tin knife: Back when we were dating, I would sit in the kitchen watching her cut up vegetables with so much love.
  • My little glass chicken – given to me by the best man at our wedding (there’s a story there.)
  • A hundred plus year old Dresden plate quilt, hand pieced and quilted by his grandma.
  • My original Dick, Jane and Sally print
  • My mom’s cross

Prized Posessions

These are the things that are the first to be saved in the event of a fire.  Oh, of course I’ll try to grab the file box with all of our records in it, and it would be nice to grab some photos, but in reality most of those have been safely stored in the cloud. And yes, I would probably grab our portable hard drive on which we back up both of our computers.  But the reality of it is, in true minimalist fashion, much of the stuff in our house is just stuff!  The prized possessions have become crystal clear!

Lynn

Relationship Struggles? Fix It in 2 Words!

The hubs and I are really magnificent together.  No, really.  We have a BUNCH of friends who have said, “I want us to be like Lynn and Jeremy!”  Apparently, especially in the 24/7 togetherness of the Encore Voyage, spending a lot of time together seems to grate on people’s nerves.  Lately, we’ve been talking with some of our couple friends who are struggling in their relationships.  Remember my post about Retirement Togetherness?  It seems I need to spend a little time on Item Number 10.  As I listen to my friends (and I do hear both sides of the story), there is something which is obviously missing in their day to day dealings with each other.  First is an understanding taken from John Gray’s Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. (Gray, 1992).

Men Want to Be Appreciated

Women Want to Feel Cherished

So here’s what I want you to take away from that:

Guys –

You don’t have to do a whole lot of mushy stuff.  There is nothing to be fixed here.  It does not take a great deal of planning big events.  We know you are action oriented creatures, but this is much simpler than that!  Women want to feel loved. You need to:

  • Hold her hand
  • Tell her she’s beautiful
  • Wrap your arms around her from behind while she’s doing the dishes
  • Touch her cheek
  • Look in her eyes and tell her you love her.
  • Look in her eyes and listen to her – even if you think it’s rambling drivel!
  • Rub her shoulders
  • Make sure she knows, by telling her, that she’s the most important thing in your world!

Get it??? Cherished!  You can add to the list in a jillion little ways!  The common theme here is that these are not huge “do something” types of things – they are gestures that come from your heart!  Simple, No???

Ladies –

What you need to take away from Mars/Venus is that men are Doers!  They are genetically predetermined to be the hunters!  It is their job to fix things and take care of things.  They are action oriented.  To them, going to work or taking care of you, or even mowing the lawn is a big f*ing deal!  Now…it also helps if you understand that mens’ egos are pretty much wrapped around the above concept.  If you tell them HOW to do something, or criticize what they’ve done, you are effectively saying to them, “I don’t trust you to be able to take care of me!”  Understand that to men, this is a slap!  So ladies, bite your tongues when you want to elaborate on how things should be done.

And now for both you Guys and Gals out there:

Here is the simplest easiest way to accomplish all of the above with two simple words:

Thank You

Here’s what it looks like in real life:

Gals – 

  • Thanks for mowing the lawn, it looks great!
  • Thank you for gassing up my car today!
  • Thank you so much for stopping at the store on your way home!
  • Thanks for wiping up the water around the sink!

Ladies, all you need to do is NOTICE the things your guy is doing every day, and thank him for it.  Routinely.  Frequently.  See, he is instantly and easily appreciated!

Guys – 

  • That was a delicious dinner, honey, thank you!
  • Thank you for doing all that laundry today!
  • The house looks wonderful – thanks for all your hard work!

(Now before you go getting all bat-shit crazy about my very noticeable sexist categorization of tasks, just know that I recognize it and am just trying to make a point! – insert your own world here!)

When I’ve listened to my friends tell of their relationship woes, what I usually hear that each side is looking for the WIN.  The guys want whatever they have done to be right, enough, appreciated.  The gals are somehow feeling not loved enough, not cherished. Both sides want the other side to change something.

But how about this for a thought:

For cryin’ out loud, people, just say “Thank you” to each other!

It’s a focus not on winning or losing.  It doesn’t require either side to “give in” or lose anything.  You don’t even need particularly to change what you’re doing!  You just need to be kind and acknowledge the other person.  I’m not talking about gaggy, sickeningly sweet, nauseating sort of stuff here…I’m talking about every day respect and consideration.

That’s how WE do it.  I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a meal where hubs didn’t say, “That was delicious.  Thank you.”  Both my dad and his dad did the same.  It is a chivalry and gentility to be emulated.  And I can almost guarantee in any marriage, if both sides would put those two words in the front of their minds, and would actively look for opportunities to use them, Martians and Venusians would get along much better.

So what say you?  I am going to be anxiously awaiting to hear in the comments whether or not you think I’m crazy, or even better, if you put these words to work!

Lynn

Photo Credit: Unsplash – Mayur Gala

Adventures from the Camino

I recently posted this over on Encore Wanderings, but as I read through it again, felt how strongly it applies to the Encore Voyage and retirement in general…or, well, meaningful living in general!

A while ago, I had lunch with a good friend who recently returned from completing the nearly 500-mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.  In the course of the afternoon she shared her many experiences from the Camino.  She told of blisters and pouring rain, of sleeping in rooms filled with snoring strangers, of not speaking the language yet learning how to order a beer.  She told us about carrying stones from home, representing her burdens, and her opportunity to lay down those burdens at a cross along the way.  She shared the struggle of a middle aged woman walking 8-12 miles per day, up and down hills, over the Pyrenees Mountains.  She shared photos of centuries old churches, of stunning scenery and of quaint villages.
My friend was walking on behalf of those with autoimmune diseases, and carried with her a list of prayers which she burned at Finisterre (The ‘End of the World’). She started out with a true purpose in her heart – that she would walk the entire Way of St. James as a spiritual pilgrimage.
But what she learned along the way, and shared with the rest of us, struck a particularly meaningful chord:

  1.  The Camino will provide– This saying is frequently heard on the Camino de Santiago. Along the trail, pilgrims find they always have enough. The true blessing is in discovering how little is really needed.  When you carry everything you own on your back for six weeks, you quickly figure out what’s important.  It’s not all of the “stuff” we accumulate in our normal daily lives. So how much “stuff” are we carrying that we truly don’t need?
  2.  The relationships are the important thing – Along the Camino, my friend met travelers from all around the world.  They shared meals and wine, stories and hardships.  What she learned is that we are all the same – people everywhere work hard, play hard, have health issues, daily struggles, and families they love…and she will forever treasure those relationships formed in their commonality. Perhaps we should all pay more attention to investing in those soul-enhancing relationships!
  3. The sense of accomplishment –Once you have walked nearly 500 miles in all types of weather and terrain, there is very little you can’t do!  I found myself thinking about the things in my life that give me that sense of accomplishment.  Maybe the message is that we should all have something to strive for, something that challenges us in some way.  It doesn’t have to be a trek through a foreign country.  But the world is full of new things to create, do and try and we owe it to ourselves to stretch our potential!
  4. The strength of the human body –I asked my friend how she felt walking up the steps at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.  She told me that she felt complete joy, and was amazed with what her body could do!  She started the first day of her journey gasping for air as she climbed steep hills.  She finished the Camino feeling more fit than ever before. The human body and spirit have incredible resiliency when tested.
  5.  “One Day, One Adventure” –As she neared the end of her journey, a fellow pilgrim shared this motto with my friend.  It could mean that we should live in the present, not wishing for the future or pining for the past.  It could be the acknowledgment that we have limited time on this earth, and that we should make every moment count.

Camino 4

As our afternoon drew to a close, I found that I was deeply touched by how my friend’s insights from the Camino apply to our Encore Voyage.  Our longings for a minimalist way of life were proven valid by the few items she carried in her pack.  Her accomplishment of that 500-mile journey, with its resulting fitness and friendships, confirms for me the things that are truly important in our retirement.  One Day…One Adventure for me means living

Retiring with Intention – 12 Ways

Live less out of habit and more out of

This morning I decided to write at the counter, while enjoying my morning coffee and the sunrise as it peeked in my kitchen window.  It occurred to me that before the Encore Voyage, I rarely took the time to just be observant about sights and sounds around me.  The Encore Voyage is changing us…Jeremy and I are choosing to live our lives more intentionally.  We get to decide what to make of each day.  The other night, while enjoying a glass of wine, we made a list of those things in our lives we really value.  Here’s our list:

 

1. Our marriage – We both agreed that this is number one on our list.  Our number one priority is each other.  Jeremy once participated in a leadership training seminar where the speaker instructed the participants to take a sheet of paper, fold it in quarters, then write the things they valued most in each of the four quadrants.  After that was done, participants were instructed to tear off the least valuable thing and throw it away.  This was followed by the next least valuable, and the next, until each person was left holding only one quadrant.  The eye-opening part of the exercise is that people in the room threw their kids, God, their wives in crumpled wads onto the floor…because they thought they should value “becoming a vice president….” 

 

So often we hear that “marriage is hard.”  Call me crazy, but I’ve never found this to be the case.  There is nothing hard about being kind, being thoughtful, putting the other person first – it’s just that over the years we grow complacent, and forget the person we married in the first place.

 

2. Developing soul – enhancing relationships – OK, I must admit that I have stolen this lovely expression from Erika over at All Things E, because she is spot on.  At first, we thought the important thing was our family members…but then we realized that while we will always try to support “family members,” the label of ‘family’ is not what counts.  We have many people in our lives who are closer than family (gal pals, you know who you are).  More importantly, there are people whose relationships we wish to nurture because they add such a fulfilling quality to our lives.  So whether it be relationships with God, with siblings, with family members or with acquaintances, it seems important to intentionally decide how and with whom we spend our time. Thanks Erika, for putting that little tidbit into our brains.

 

3.  Learning new things – One of the best parts of the Voyage has been the opportunity for us to take on new challenges.  When I was teaching, I used to tell my students that they needed to learn something new every day, or they might as well have stayed in bed!  We delight in the notion that there is an entire unexplored world out there and we can learn about anything we can imagine!

 

4. Building and creating – High on our list is the notion that we value our creative yearnings. Anyone who has seen my craft closet knows that I can never be tied down to one thing.  I have stacks of PhD’s (projects half done!)  The opportunity to try our hand at new creative ventures makes us both thrive.

 

5.  Exploring new places – It could be travel, it could be places in our own town. It could be a picnic in the local countryside.  It doesn’t need to cost money.  There is so much in this world to see and experience.  We value our wanderlust!

 

6.  Reading Forever – Borrowed that phrase from Nook at B&N.  So many books, so little time.  Nuf said!

 

7.  Appreciating and making music – Music has been important to both of us since we were very young.  From playing my piano, to learning to play the sax, to enjoying the fruits of our local symphony, to good old rock and roll…we want our lives to have a sound track.  Which brings us to number 8…

 

8. Supporting the arts –  Shakespeare, local theater, dance groups and galleries, just to name a few – Life is about collecting experiences, and the arts provide us with some of the richest.

 

9. Health, physical activity and self-acceptance – We have been giving a lot of thought lately to our pursuit of good health.  We eat a lot healthier lately, and I have logged hundreds of hours at the gym in the last two years, cycling and treadmilling to nowhere and challenging my muscles with weights.  It has occurred to me that all those hours at the gym may not be the best use of time.  What if, perhaps, we actually took a walk or went for a run or swim?  What if we climbed a trail instead of the Stair Master? How about walking the golf course, climbing real stairs, parking at the far side of the parking lot?  It seems to me that an intentional life would value more authentic types of activity.  

 

With that in mind, I’ve also decided that I’m tired of searching for a different me.  Yep, I’m a little heavier than I’d like to be – I’ll keep working on it.  But it does me no good to wish for the body of that college girl 30 years ago.  And it is self-defeating to keep saying, “Six months from now I’ll wear a smaller dress size.”  So I’m committed to doing the best I can to keep this body healthy and strong, and to be OK with the woman in the mirror.

 

10.  Good Food – Exploration for our senses! – Keeping in mind number 9 above, we decided that exploring good, real food is something we both value.  We want to experience the flavors and combinations of different cultures and cuisines – from fresh tomatoes and lettuce that we grow in our garden to cheeses, wines and dishes from other countries.  That’s not an excuse to eat an entire cake in one sitting (again, see number 9.)  It is, however, a statement that protein powders and tofu are just not going to cut it for us…we crave real, whole delicious foods creatively prepared!

 

11.  Taking time for rest, relaxation and meditation – I used to go through life like a freight train.  Now we have realized the value in taking some time to just be…time to think, to recharge, to de-stress and to let go.  Oh, I wish so much that we had learned this value while we were working for others.  Because we now take time for ourselves, the quality of our lives has improved ten-fold.  You should learn. from. our. mistakes!

 

12.  Gratitude and giving back – These days we pay more attention to how blessed we feel to be able to travel this voyage.  We are thankful that we have ‘enough.’  In fact, we have more than we could possibly need.  We’ve come to realize the importance of giving back and have found that greater selflessness is life enriching.  And face it – It’s not hard to look around and find a need to be filled.  

 

When I look at our list, it’s clear to me that none of this is about accumulating “stuff.”  A successful life isn’t about money or possessions.  Every item on this list is about how we act…those behaviors which enrich and give fullness to our lives.  Yes, I realize that people, including us, still need to work for a living.  For us, intentional living is about trying to make our actions fall in line with what we value. It’s about paying attention to what we do, and determining if those actions fit in with our list.

 

So how about it…what do you value in creating an intentional life?  Leave a comment – I’d love to hear!

Lynn