For several years now, I’ve engaged (on and off) in the blogging world with mid-lifers and retirees – many of whom tout the spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits of establishing habits and practices. Throughout these years, I’ve prided myself on the fact that I am spontaneous and buck the very notion of routines and schedules.
Kathy Gottberg’s – at SMART Living 365 – has a great blog from the end of March 2021, about creating practices wherein she quotes Seth Godin:
A “practice” is something done intentionally. You decide to do it yourself, or you decide everyone in your office will do it (if you are the boss). If you keep doing it, it may become a “habit” or may not. So, a “habit” is something you routinely do, without ever deciding to do it.” While a habit may be a good one or a destructive one, our practices point out what we believe and back it up with our actions about what matters most to us in the world.
Per usual, Kathy Gottberg’s post got me thinking. And while I was crafting this post on habit and practice, today she shared a vlog inviting us to ponder what it means to live like you were dying – inspired by a Tim McGraw song. The post reminded me of a Kris Allen song of a similar name.
Most of my life, I believed I would die young. As I’ve gotten older, the “thinking I’m dying” tapes can still resurface from time to time and I wonder if I’ve done everything I want to before I die.
But, in reality, I’m 57 and statistically have another possible 30 years to live. So instead of creating bucket lists or thinking about what I’d do if I only had a day or a few months to live, I ask myself – how do I want to spend it?
I think often of something my son said as a teenager, “Life is too long to do the same thing every day.”
I know that much of my resistance to the idea of forming practices stems from two realities:
- I lived the first 13 years of my adult life in an actual “habit” with a scheduled, over-regulated, oppressive convent where I believed that following the rules was my only way to get to heaven.
- I equate the idea of habits & practices to “should” – whether imposed by others or myself.
After 25 WONDERFUL years of managing, balancing, rushing, and trying to give all I could for my children and 13 years prior to that living a life filled with SHOULDs and SHOULDn’ts in the convent – I am in a position to design a life that is not rushed or taking into account the needs and desires of others first. (Don’t get me wrong – if any of my children or my husband – or any child, friend, or family member needs me, I’m there!)
I don’t want to be beholden to “to-dos” or “shoulds” or “life goals.”
Now that we are truly empty-nesters – with all three children living in their own apartments and taking care of themselves financially – my days and nights are not dictated by their needs. Of course, I love spending time with my husband – and we decide how we’d like to spend time together – but I don’t need to be responsible for him.
While I’m not retired, I am self-employed and have designed my work life to allow at least 2 four-day weekends a month, and never work the 5th week of the month. (Which is, of course, a practice.) I am fortunate to have control over my work schedule.
And I’m fortunate to live within two miles (an easy walk or bike ride) of many libraries, swimming pools, banks, stores, Starbucks, grocery stores – and within five miles of bike paths to the lake, forest preserves, and a beautiful river.
Habits and Practices
I have some habits – I judge neither good nor bad. I stay up late, laugh at my own jokes, watch every Meryl Streep and Denzel Washington movie I come across, leave the laundry unfolded and the dishes not done, read magazines front to back…
And some things I’ve practiced for years – intentionally: I’m a pescatarian (26+ years); I never drink coffee (ever); I don’t drink alcohol (40+ years); I don’t wear makeup or high heels (6+ years).
And recently, whether I like to admit it or not, I’ve adopted practices to create a healthful lifestyle.
- Drink an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, fiber and calcium-rich smoothie 5-6 times a week.
- Drink my own version of Starbuck’s pink drink with green tea, non-dairy milk, CoQ-10 and a few drops of POM juice.
- Bike about 4.5 miles to swim 3-4 times a week for 45 min – 1 hour.
- Bike about 20 miles on Sunday.
- Read fiction daily.
- Tend my indoor plants and outdoor garden.
- Have a jigsaw puzzle in progress.
The Reason It Works
The reason it all works for me – is because it is NOT routine. No two days look or feel the same. I don’t do these practices in the same order, at the same time, in the same place each day. I am not obligated to do them. Each day I decide to do or not to do each of these things – and I don’t judge my decision.
I know that I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunities I do to create a healthful lifestyle that I enjoy. Not everyone does.
The thing I haven’t yet figured out – in this “what will the next 30 years be” – is the way that I don’t get so caught up in enjoying my life that I forget my desire to have a positive impact on the world around me.
I love professionally working with small nonprofits doing good in the world, but I haven’t yet landed on what practice I will embrace to express “what I believe and back it up with my actions about what matters most to me in the world” outside of my work life. I keep asking myself: How do I create a meaningful lifestyle?