It has been almost one year since I began this challenging journey of change. One thing I learned quite quickly was that it helped me immensely to break things down into short-term goals. By short-term I’m talking days, a week, a month at the most. Some days I felt so overwhelmed that my goal was simply to get through whatever I had to do that day without thinking ahead to tomorrow. This method of dealing with a major life change went a long way in reducing stress.
After the first of the year, about nine months into the move, my friends asked me to go with them on a trip to Vegas. I was already planning a trip to New Orleans with my daughters, and I wasn’t extremely excited about either trip. I had become such a driven work machine that the idea of vacationing seemed like more of a hassle that it was worth. The idea of vacationing somehow made me feel irresponsible. I usually traveled for work conferences or continuing education, or I traveled to spend time with my kids. A trip for leisure, for only me, seemed so wrong and selfish. I knew that if I said no to to this trip, I would be sending a negative message about the value I placed on my friendship with these women. I agreed to go, because I wanted to preserve our friendship. Thankfully, I wasn’t the planner of the trip. All I had to do was show up, yet I was reluctant to make a commitment of four days. I’ll always be grateful that I made the right decision about going, because I learned the value of taking time for relaxation, laughter, and friendship. Four days with real friends peeled away months of stress.
The trip to Vegas taught me the first steps in learning to make time for pleasure once again in my life, and it cleared a path for me to treasure the time with my daughters in New Orleans from the planning stages up to our return back home. I relaxed and didn’t think about work as much as I thought I would. Instead, I found myself breathing deeply and cherishing special moments with my daughters.
Up until the planning of these trips, my goals had always been related to things I needed to do or accomplish. Once I returned home from New Orleans, I found that I missed having a trip coming up in the future. It wasn’t that I had a desire for more travel. What I missed was the idea of something fun on the horizon, and I realized that leisure and enjoyment were things I needed to add to my list short-term goals. Like mile markers, or rest stops, I needed to know that something good was waiting for me down the road.
Without realizing it, T and I have embarked on Phase II as we enter into the second year of our big changes. Phase II, while I am reluctant to define it, will be different than Phase I in that there is less of the unknown and more learning about who we are now and what we want next. Our recent conversations have focused on, “How long will we stay here?” and “Where will we go next?”
Our lives have changed tremendously over the past few years. We are both working crazy hours at stressful jobs, but our weekends are our own. We no longer have four kids at home. We don’t live in a huge, old house that always took up our time. Our yard is smaller and more manageable. For the first time in our marriage, we have time on our hands. We have time for things like long drives, Sunday brunch, and watching movies. For two people who were always working, always doing something productive, it is taking some time for us to adjust to having leisure time.
We have come up with a list of short-term goals, and none of them are about work, working, or doing anything that is unpleasant. In less than three weeks, we will be homeowners again. We’re excited for the house to close and to feel settled into a place that is our own. While I’m sure we will immediately embark on home improvement projects, it will be nothing like projects from our past. These projects will be more decorating in nature than demolition and reconstruction. We’re buying the house we have been leasing, so we don’t even have to make another move. This is by no means our dream house, but we like it here. It will be a good investment and easy to sell when the time comes, and that time will come. This isn’t the end of the road for us, just a pit stop for a couple of years.
As soon as the house closes, we will be joining the YMCA down the road from us. We have let our exercise routines go by the wayside during the past year. I feel slobby and less energetic. We’ve already begun walking each day. I’m not sure why we’re putting off joining the Y until after the house closes. I think it’s simply because it’s number two on our imaginary timeline of short-term goals.
On Memorial Day weekend, we’re joining the swim club at our subdivision. I do know why we’re putting this goal off for a while. This goal is our workout incentive. Lola loves to swim, but she’ll need an adult to take her to the club. This means we have about six weeks to get our bodies as swimsuit-ready as possible.
Along with these things, we have other plans to look forward to and to celebrate. Our son, Luke, will graduate from college in May, and I’m looking forward with pride to celebrating with him. T and I are planning a trip in June to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We’re going to retrace our honeymoon trip to Michigan. (I hope I don’t cry each day like I did the first time!) Before our trip, T is going to try to teach me how to play golf. I’m wishing him luck with that!
It feels good to plan ahead with optimism. The past few years have been difficult and devoid of much that could be called fun. We are like people coming out of a cave squinting at the bright sun. We know the brightness and light is good, but we’re not quite sure if we can trust its warmth. We’re afraid of the return to darkness. Slowly, and sometimes painfully, we are taking the first tentative steps into brightness and warmth.