So there I was, having one of my periodic, “Set the World to Rights” breakfasts with my friend Graham. As usual, I was playing my figurative violin when we first sat down. This is how I lull Graham into a false sense of security before his turn in the inquisatorial barrel begins.
Last week’s conference in New York was good but grueling! The law office is yammering for my attention because end of month, quarter, and fiscal year reporting Must Be Done. Book deadlines left, right and center! My recent travels have been appallingly nutritious, which means at least two hours a day on the tread desk and Not Much Fodder. Then there’s Darling Child, who has decided to move now of all times, and that means–
Graham quietly interrupted me–a skill at which he excels. “So what do you do to recharge?”
Erm. I swung my verbal cannons around, because I know to expect that sort of insight from this guy.
“Wallow in solitude, write, read my keepers, meditate, be patient, make lists and then DO them, make Got It Done lists, have breakfast with YOU…”
But his question prompted a realization: I’ve lost some of my bounce. Thirty years ago, I could miss a night of sleep, as was often required by the job, and recover with a weekend nap. Motherhood arrived in my late twenties, and I could get up and down five times during the night, and still be productive at work the next day. A few years of that, though–and of weekends no longer devoted to rest and unstructured time–and a missed night of sleep took a greater toll.
Now I’m in my fifties. If I have a truly awful night of sleep, I take days to recover. A week-long conference that requires me to be Publicly Charming for hours each day, and I’m not going to bounce back after a nap. I can meditate diligently (a contradiction in terms, I know), I can tackle those deadlines (I love to write!), I can sleep, hibernate, cuddle up with my keepers… and a week just won’t put me entirely to rights any more.
I don’t think this is burnout–I’m pretty happy, most of the time–I think it’s aging. Everything has slowed down, except maybe the impulses to love and laugh. My wits and my heart remain in good repair. I also notice a compensatory skill developing, and that’s a patience with myself and with life.
Well, no, I don’t spend a week in a conference hotel without suffering an energy sink afterward. I’m not the energizer bunny I used to be, but what a frantic, self-centered, noisy creature she was. Now, I’m more patient–with myself, with life. Now I live and let live to try again another day. Now, I’m better at realizing, “I’m bushed. This will all still be here tomorrow, and I can be more efficient if I’m rested.”
The trade is energy for wisdom. So far, I like that trade pretty well. Many romance novel characters get presented with opportunities to make trades–courage for loneliness, love for safety. Has life handed you any trades? Freedom in place of security? Privacy instead of popularity? Health instead of wealth?
To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Tremaine’s True Love, which hits the shelves on Tuesday!
I married a great (mostly) guy. Our life isn’t the one we planned 36 years ago. We’re happy together and even when we argue, we can see (mostly) the other person’s point of view.
Both of us are intelligent, educated and driven and from the outside, we look like we have the high-powered careers we planned. But we don’t.
Life has thrown us some curve-balls–our oldest child has autism and the youngest has a chronic illness he hates (and we still monitor because he’s been known not to take the meds keeping him alive because he hates them) and the middle guy is not living up to his potential. Our career choices and even where we live are because of our kids’ issues. All will be fine but it’s taken longer for them for some reason to *get it together* (and the kid with autism will always be how he is)than we would have liked.
So I guess my trade-off is this: our kids are stable and (mostly) happy but we don’t have the notoriety in our respective fields we perhaps should have had dealing with their problems. We’re okay with this but every once in a while we think “if only” but know we’ve made the right trade-off in the long run. And we are happy.
Hooboy. A triple whammy. You got the love, but. Hats off to you for making that choice. The game isn’t over, either, and yet, you are happy now.
Oh Grace, it just sounds like life. I too have traded energy for wisdom. Trouble is, now that I’m old enough (70) to know a thing or two, nobody wants my wisdom.
I’m always trying to give the kids some free advise, but we all know what “free” advise is worth (smile). They want to make their own mistakes. And you know what – I did too at their age.
The trouble with wisdom is it makes you wise–not smart, not popular, not secure. Just wise.
Seventy isn’t so old, but the closer your children come to that age, the smarter old Mom will look to them. I think it’s supposed to work that way, too.
I found the love of my life several states away from where my family lives, but gained a fulfilling life with him and our 2 kids as well as his family.
When I became a mother I quot my high stress, long hours, yet high paying job to be a full time mom. We may not be rich but our kids grew up knowing we love them and that we’ll be there for them. When dear daughter is ranting about problem in the world including poor parenting and she takes the time to say we did a pretty good job well, that is priceless.
I live alone and occasionally it gets a bit lonely, but oh, the freedom from arguments, someone telling me what to do, having to consider someone other than myself when it comes to my home and how I do things – it’s a trade that I’m pretty satisfied with as I’ve reached my 60’s and relish my independence.
Every blog you post hits home. But I’m just too fragile you respond to any of your questions the past several weeks. The stories are a little raw right now.
But I had to comment on “Not Quite A Lady” making your keepers list. I’ve gushed about Loretta Chase before, but something about this one is extra special. Thanks for the reminder – I pulled my copy out today. <3
I was underemployed for most of my mid-twenties and early thirties, working very boring positions for a steady paycheck while trying to get my post-graduate school career off the ground.
Ten years ago I found the career I have now, and it’s a good one, but in exchange for never being bored and life being a constant challenge…I have to schedule my life around end of month and end of quarter, and have a hard time getting home for Christmas (end of year deadlines).
Chronic illness started this process for me in my thirties. Managed to push thru and work around it…pretend to be that energizer bunny until 40. Now most days I make a good house cat. Within that are ebbs and flows, sometimes for days or months. The strange part is I like it mostly…the calm, the certitude not much is a crisis or worth stressing. Being able to share that with stressed friends, be the Zen place they can visit or have sit with them during worrisome medical visits, is nice.
I had to laugh. Looking back, my life has turned out NOTHING like I planned. Most recently the economic downturn meant my job was eliminated at age 60…too old and too educated to be hired again in my field. My home had to be sold at a loss and I am starting over in a new community. BUT, I believe that we all can choose to be happy…and I have. Once I resigned myself to being retired – I love it! Don’t know how I did all those 60 hour weeks and am grateful that I no longer have to. Even though my financial picture changed drastically – I’m happy with my new life.
My sister found her true love with her third husband, and I admire her courage to plunge into the unknown twice to free herself from unhealthy relationships. She traded stability for Harmony!
As for me, recently I have temporarily traded time with my artwork for helping move my mother out of her house to an assisted living facility. Downsizing doesn’t begin to describe the process. Anyone need a two-quart covered casserole? I have some to spare!
Hmm… I just got back from visiting my family for five days. It will take me a while to recover. I guess I know that about myself. Talking it out with co-workers who don’t know my family and are not involved. Complaining to my husband who is really glad he didn’t have to go. I guess as time goes on I’ll find something nice about the trip. Right now I’m on the negative. I guess in time I’ll get some perspective. Being an orphan would be good. Sigh
Grace I too have chronic health problems, RA & OA are the worst of them, and because it took me many years to get the RA diagnosed I basically retired at about age 50. I learned to make do with my military widow’s pension then I decided to retire officially at 62 and draw early social security which added about half again to my income and believe me, that helps.
I’m now in my mid 60’s and except for my two inside cats and the ones outside that I feed I live alone and love it. I do see my daughter and her kids almost daily because they live in the same trailer park, but up in the front row. I take each of them out by themselves, except for the youngest so we get one on one time together.
I realized some time ago that I actually prefer being by myself though I will take in my daughter, son-in-law, and the kids if necessary.
I was having the “need more sleep to reach a usable amount of energy” issue and was blaming aging… Then a chance comment by my mother had me upping my vitamin B complex level. After a couple months, I find I’m thinking more clearly and am sleeping better and less.
It’s worth a try…
That’s a great suggestion. I have celiac disease and if I don’t take my B vites, I crash after a few days.
Yes I get all of this, because I am coming to the same realizations. I run a home based business looking after other home based businesses office work. I find myself backing off of work that may be second best because I’m tired or distracted, rather than racing through getting it done. It isn’t done, if it isn’t done right. Take a break, a walk will often put me right and then come back with a way of completing the needed work so it won’t have to be done twice. Sleep is another issue entirely.
I let go of what I thought was security for freedom. I realized that I was just living in a shell of security. Once I set myself free, I was able to let go and (as cliche as this may sound) truly found myself. I accepted me for who I am and what God gave me. I was holding myself back before; now I just move forward. Whatever will be, will be.