If there is one aspect of being post-50 that we all share in one way or another, it is the concern about care—caring for our parents, our spouses, our grandchildren, our children. Many of you can probably check off several of the above as immediate areas of concern, especially if you are a member of the sandwich generation, those caring for aging parents while still helping your children get on their feet in a slowly recovering economy.
Women especially find themselves in caretaking roles, even as more and more of us are also working full time. The physical, emotional, and financial strain inevitably takes its toll. Yet the one person who seems to be left off the list for care is the one person who is most crucial to everyone’s needs being met—you.
This is not news to you, I’m sure. Yes, yes, you know you must replenish yourself so that you have something left to give, but who has time? And on the one hand, you can know that you have to make time, even a little, or you will simply wipe yourself out and not be there for anyone, yet even knowing this, you push forward. That superwoman ethos we first imposed on ourselves as working mothers, able to do it all, has not gone away.
Our nest may be empty, but we still feel responsible for everyone’s well-being. We are “younger” and healthier than people our age were a generation ago. We’re thinking about starting a business more often than we’re thinking of retiring from one. Yet we know that we won’t live forever, and we can’t deny that our energy is not the same as it once was. It’s shifting, yet our lifestyles are not necessarily shifting with it.
I’m not talking about recognizing that we really do need to retire. Just the opposite, actually. Too often we get stuck in either/or thinking, that we either keep going at the same pace and in the same way as we have always done or we throw in the towel and retire to some cookie cutter senior complex in the desert. But those aren’t the only choices. Those really aren’t choices at all, frankly.
When I say that our energy is shifting, I mean just that. It is simply moving within us, changing form, no longer the energy of all-nighters to meet a deadline or the kind that fuels caring nonstop for small children. But it is still there, and it is even more powerful than ever before. Especially at menopause and beyond, the energy heats up in us creatively. We can easily miss this, however, if we are focused only on trying to make use of the physical energy we think we need to accomplish everything we want to and need to in our lives.
This is why it is crucial to find time to care for yourself. Not only do you need to restore yourself physically and emotionally, but you need to learn how to get in touch with this creativity so that you can use it to shift gears and rebalance, to determine what you need to do now to start that business, for example, so that it nurtures you and fits best with who you are and who you will be with each passing year. Especially if you are feeling stuck in a cycle of work and caregiving, these moments to pause and reflect, to express yourself and tap into your inner wisdom, are necessary if you are going to get unstuck and find solutions that go beyond quick fixes.
Believe it or not, taking time for yourself now will free your time in the future, making it possible for you to not only rise above the day-to-day but to give more to others and to the world in ways that don’t drain you but sustain you. Take the time—make the time—today.
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