No longer and not yet

Welcome to my view from a little more than halfway through. On this blog, I’ll be sharing my thoughts and perspectives about life and these radical changes we are going through as older adults. Our parents and their siblings are passing away leaving us as the elder generation of our families. We can see retirement from here and there are few things more frightening than wondering if you will be financially stable after you can no longer work. Fewer and fewer of us are looking forward retirement because we are nowhere near feeling comfortable about it.

This time of Covid-19 is having a dramatic effect on us. It’s chaotic, stressful, fearful, and historic. Basically, it’s just not helping.

Every single person on the planet is affected by this pandemic, but not everyone is thinking in terms of what comes next. We’re not going back to “normal” in whatever way you define that. Our lives have forever changed, some for the better and mostly for the unthinkable. Nearly one million people worldwide have died; more than 200,000 of them are Americans. There’s little evidence to believe that this will change until there is a safe, accessible, and effective vaccine.

I want us to take time to reflect on this and consider that we we are in a time of transition like we’ve never experienced in our lifetime. It’s a place that is no longer and not yet. We know this place well as the summer between graduation and going to college. It’s the time between giving notice at your current job before you begin the new one. It’s middle age to retirement.

There are glimpses of what the future may hold. Many more of us will likely be working remotely going forward. The mainstream use of tele-medicine, the convenience of pre-order and pick-up, less business travel, and greater flexibility in our schedules may be here to stay.

This gets me to thinking about my own future and the things that have contributed to my quality of life these past several months. My list includes working from home, greater flexibility of my life (not my limbs, that’s another story), a greatly simplified and less stressful lifestyle. I don’t set an alarm any longer, my body sets the sleep schedule and I pretty much go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. I have the time to think. Sometimes that’s a curse and sometimes it’s a blessing.

I also see it as a time of opportunity for change, challenge, and personal growth. There are a ridiculous number of actual “things” that I need to let go of. Unpacked boxes from two moves ago. Not so nice hand-me-down furniture. Things that make me feel guilty when I think of getting rid of them and also make me feel guilty about keeping them. Like family items that have less sentimental attachment but belonged to your great Aunt Clara. Another thing that just needs to go – the carefully boxed cards from my bridal shower 25 years ago. The box remains in the house while the marriage dissolved years ago.

Habits of thinking that won’t leave my life with a garage sale: guilt, overthinking, controlling, self-doubt, busy-ness, and my big one, unwiring my White privileged upbringing. I’ve learned so much about myself from 55 to 56 this year. I am far more introverted than I ever realized. I have also learned that being “a good White person” is meaningless, really. I’m doing my work, getting out of my comfort zones and into the uncomfortable places where learning happens and I challenge my biases.

It’s worth taking stock of where you are at this moment, in this place of no longer and not yet. What have you learned about yourself, family members, friends, and relationships? What is important for you to take across this threshold? What no longer serves you and needs to be left behind? This is a great exercise for a post-pandemic life as well as the close of our middle years. What does the third act of your life look like?

Published by Laura Nelson Lof

I'm a lifelong Iowan and a proud alum of The University of Iowa. I'm a writer, an armchair political scientist, and an accomplished sports spectator.

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