Life Getting Messy, Confusing & Unrewarding at Times? Recalibrate for better results!
Some of us give too much and take too little whether with family or friends. When we're busy, there isn't time to think about the little things that eat away at us. However, lately, with more time on our hands as we still keep our social distance more than we used to, we've been thinking, seeing and feeling more intensely some of these feelings.
How do we continue to carry so much weight on our shoulders? It can make us sad, disappointed and at times a tad angry.
We came up with the concept of recalibration. Just as we adjust the gradations, settings or sensors on our devices and appliances for balance, from our cameras to ovens, vacuum cleaners, computers and exercise machines, why not do that for ourselves and our relationships?
If you feel you've drifted off course with someone in your life, perhaps, it's time to recalibrate your navigation system and adjust your risks, fears, likes and loves. Whatever our fantasies of who we ought to be, or others should be, it's time to move the dial in a new direction.
But be ready to move it again since little in life is static. As we age and are on the clock, we know how important it is to enjoy every precious moment. And we do most of the time. We have made a conscious effort to ratchet up our goals. Both of us have become full-fledged crusaders for optimism, good health and good living all around. At the same time, we're trying to crank up our gratefulness and joy meters to a higher level. How blessed we both are to have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, decent health and healthcare, good kids and grandkids and friends we can count on.
We've also readjusted our sensitivity meters to stay close to those who make us feel valued and worthwhile and maybe notch down those relationships that do the opposite at times. What troubles us is when we keep cutting people slack and making excuses for their occasionally unsavory behavior.
Eventually, we ask ourselves: What am I getting out of this relationship? It's time, we reason, to elevate our self-worth by recalibrating what we're willing to tolerate. That doesn't mean tossing them out of our lives for good, but it does mean weighing the pros and cons of the intensity or frequency of the relationship and sometimes speaking up gently.
How we gauge our life-meters is about finding the best way to live the lives we've been dealt with and figure how and to whom we want to devote time, energy and even sometimes money.
Here are some lessons we've learned as we recalibrate ours. Start by taking a Marie Kondo-style joy look at how you spend your time and whom you are with, even jotting down notes. Seeing in print helps, we have found. Then, adjust in these seven different ways:
* Don't measure days in terms of productivity, maybe dial this down, and begin to measure them by your level of well-being and happiness. What are we trying to prove at our advanced ages? Margaret gets joy from working with kids, taking digital photos, going on a fast long walk and hanging out with her good friends, sisters and kids.
Barbara loves the process of crafting another article or book, painting a watercolor picture, getting in 15,000 steps by walking around her village and seeing what's new, using heavier weights in an exercise class or with her trainer, reading and cooking, sometimes with her beau. And sometimes doing nothing but watching her spring bulbs pop up and trees fill with more blossoms.
* Cut out being afraid to treat yourself to something outside your comfort zone. Up your risk-taking meter, whether it's spending more money on a dress you're dying to have or attempting to parachute from a plane. Margaret has splurged on some new clothing. While in Los Angeles this summer for a wedding, she also plans to look at some possible properties if she moves west. Barbara, who's stayed close to home except for visits to her daughters, plans to go on a small vacation, breathing air with other guests. That's a big step for her, which she's willing now to take post-second booster vaccine.
* Retip the friendship scales. If you're always the giver, take it down a notch. Don't be so available. Don't rush to someone's side who doesn't necessarily rush to yours in an emergency. Do you want to continue to put yourself out for that person? That doesn't mean dropping the friendship. But it does mean sometimes no longer cutting them slack for this or that reason and sometimes speaking up. Giving and not getting is an emotional and time suck. Of late, Margaret has started to pull away from these relationships but not completely. She will continue to email and text and do an occasional phone call. But she sets boundaries on how long she can talk and what she's willing to listen to in those conversations. She also gave up her post as host of a Zoom. Let someone else do it now.
Barbara feels the same and though she's been labeled "the glue" for several friendships and relationships, including some relatives, she's let some know she's resigned from that role. Let someone else pick up the mantle, organize dinners and even put together the next high school reunion book, which she did with a friend twice. Presidents retire after two terms, so she feels she's earned her non-involvement, too.
* Recalibrate your expectations. We accept responsibility; ours may be too high and we can notch them down a bit, realizing that others don't necessarily think the way we do. Just because you sent gifts to someone's daughters who graduated from high school, doesn't mean they will or can do the same. If this becomes a pattern, it might be time to stop and maybe just send a card or note. This isn't about tit for tat, it's about not feeling used, especially if they never thanked you. And we advise: don't feel guilt, it's a useless emotion, we discovered.
* Surround yourself with people who project positive energy. Who needs negativity in big doses when we've all faced so many challenges in the past two-plus years? This doesn't mean avoiding those with problems. We all have them and share with our nearest and dearest. These are the people who find it hard to be grateful for what they have and regularly whine or complain. Remember, we can't change others, only ourselves.
* Set goals for yourself-work, play-and then recalibrate how this is working for you. If you're stressed or unhappy, move the dial. Margaret doesn't want to spend all her time writing and has split her day in two. She will work until 2pm and then she goes out for a walk or errands. Some days she'll meet a friend for lunch and maybe go to a museum or a concert during the day. On weekends she'll just sit on the sofa and read a good book or magazines or give her apartment a good cleaning.
Barbara still spends most of her day writing, but she squeezes in exercise class and/or a walk every day and a time for what she calls her gratefulness meditation. She also finds time to read the New York Times and certain magazines daily or weekly and watch some favorite TV series, something she's trying to wean herself of as the pandemic winds down. Checking in with certain friends is also a critical part of her day and week. And she's made a list of art museum shows she plans to see in the coming months.
* Adjust your time to allow time for what you've pushed aside but would like to pick up again. Margaret joined a temple with services at 6 p.m. on a Friday night. However, she tutors until then and often has to miss the services or come on late. Once the school year ends, she will recalibrate her tutoring responsibilities to other days or hours, making time for her students and for herself. She also put away her digital camera this winter because she's been too busy with other things. But she plans to pull it out again once the weather gets warm and realign her priorities.
Barbara tries not to miss a painting class once a week, her workouts daily or walks, Zoom calls with her grade- and middle-school group of 10 friends every other week, birthday greetings to loved ones and time to cook for herself and her beau. Trying something new adds fun, even if she'll never make it again. Oh, that awful double chocolate banana pound cake or dense brownies weren't worth calories; into the dumpster they went.
Recalibration is a safe, sound way to evaluate what needs adjusting. It offers a fresh point of reference from which we can navigate our lives much better going forward. Ready, set, go!