Friday, February 10, 2017

On Achieving Balance


One of the things I most enjoy about being retired is the ability to wake up very slowly each morning over a mug of coffee. I tend to gravitate toward our living room, with it's southeast facing windows that allow me to watch the sky change color as the sun comes up. It's also where I most enjoy writing a blog post, particularly if I have the windows open and can hear the sounds of birds calling such as I do right now.

We have blue skies at the moment, but more rain is heading our way tonight. This looks to be the last for a while, and selfishly I'm very pleased about that because until my now-soggy backyard dries out, my landscaping project can not move forward.

In the meantime, other elements are coming together. Yesterday my floor installer came by to trim the door for our upstairs guest bath, which no longer shut once a transition piece was laid down between the new wood floored hallway, and existing bathroom tile. And today my new window treatments for the family room are going in, which I'm quite excited about. The new window treatments are such that we can continue to have an unobstructed view through our sliding doors when we wish, or partially or fully drop them for glare removal when watching something on our family room TV, and to obtain privacy when we have workmen in the backyard.

Because of all the improvements we are making to the house, we have blocked off most of January, February, and March to remain at home. I realized yesterday while talking with a friend that that makes this the longest single stretch we have ever been home since retiring. And it has not been without struggle. In talking with my friend in detail, I expressed the struggles I was having finding serenity while remaining in place. Since retiring, our lives have been in a state of almost constant stimulation as we travel, briefly return home, then travel again, or conversely, spend large blocks of time in training for significant endurance events like long distance hikes, bike rides, and some lengthy backpacking. Because of the home improvements of course, but also my husband having a shoulder tear that has kept him in a sling for some weeks, neither of these are currently occurring, and I am struggling to remain balanced without them.

The friend who I was speaking to about all this has a background in homeopathic remedies. She suggested my struggle to remain in balance might be caused to a degree by anxiety. In our 'normal' retired life, the constant exertion and stimulation had likely been keeping anxiety at bay, but without those as distractions, I now had to learn to deal with them on my own. She knows I'm an avid hiker, biker, etc., but suggested to add another 20-25 minutes of rapid walking in the PM, in addition to my morning workouts. The reason would be to initiate another download of endorphins as my morning endorphins subsided (their shelf life being about 5 -- 7 hours on average). She said it would likely help my sleep as well, in that while I might find myself falling asleep a bit later due to the late day dosage of endorphins, it would be a higher quality sleep overall.

She also suggested I start practicing mini-sessions of meditation, rather than a longer, single session such as I strive to do now. The mini-sessions will generate small doses of feel good chemicals to counter those times when I'm feeling out of balance, likely the result of small doses of anxiety coming to the surface.

Both of  these seemed like common sense salves to me, and I initiated the first last night, when my husband and I did a quick 25 minute brisk walk before dinner. It felt great, and gave me a much needed, late day little boost of energy. And even as we're both headed to the gym this morning, we'll do the same mini-but-brisk walk before dressing for dinner out tonight, and continue to do so going forward. And though I've already completed my AM meditation, I will work to stay mindful about doing short ones again throughout the day as necessary.

She also advised that I drink much, much more water than I'm currently drinking.

I had never, ever considered anxiety as being the cause of my struggle to remain balanced, presuming anxiety to be of the oh-my-God-we're-going-to-die variety I sometimes encounter during periods of turbulence when flying. And if was/is anxiety, could it really be that simple to counter? My friend advised me not to be surprised if doing all three of these turn out to be life changing. I'm looking forward to her being correct.

Plans and Goals for Today
60 minute cardio workout at the gym, plus ab work.
Read Book Club selection, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien during workout.
Be home in time for window installation appointment.
Book a multi week hiking trip to New Zealand next spring with Road Scholar, plus a little on-our-own time thrown in at the end, before returning home.
Attend Art lecture on Salvador Dali at our Lifelong Learning program.
Be home again in time for office project meeting with our designer.
Late afternoon Mini-Brisk Walk
Attend a wine and dinner event with our wine society group this evening.

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