I’ve been thinking a lot about the third-third lately, which is to say, the next thirty years. Now, I know that there’s no way to predict how long I’ll live; a truck could be barreling down upon me at this moment (if this letter ends abruptly, you’ll know why). But barring accidents and weird cancers (and there is a little bit of weird cancer history in my family), I’ve got a good shot at a few more decades of living. The question is, how do I prepare?
One thing I know I need to do is stretch myself physically. I’m a fairly flexible person, but if I’ve been sitting in the same position for a long time, I moan and groan as I stand up. After looking around for nearby yoga classes (everything seems to be filled up right now), I turned to YouTube, where “Yoga with Adriene” was waiting for me. So far, I’ve been sticking to Yoga for Seniors (even though, at age 58-almost-59, I’m officially still a junior), but soon I’ll move to a more mainstream class. To be honest, I find yoga a little boring, but I feel so good after I’m done.
I’m also trying to stretch myself creatively by drawing. As a kid, I drew all of the time (it was my second favorite activity after reading). I went through a period where I wanted to be a cartoonist when I grew up, but over the years, other creative activities took center stage, primarily writing and quiltmaking. Lately, though, I’ve been drawing again, pushing myself to break out of old habits and trying to learn new techniques. I find drawing completely absorbing. Way back before I had kids, I used to draw a Christmas comic that I sent out to friends, and I might try that again this year.
Here’s what might end up being the biggest stretch of all: the Social Stretch. As a rule, I prefer to socialize in my own home, by myself or with Clifton and Travis. So when our new neighbors Rick and Marie invited us to their wedding in February, I had no intention of making new friends or being adopted into a dinner group of sorts, but that’s exactly what happened. In March, Rick and Marie invited us over to dinner along with Peter and Peter, who had been at our table at the wedding and who we adored immediately. This month, Peter and Peter cooked dinner for everyone, which means that we’ll be hosting in May–gulp! I’ve not had a ton of dinner parties over the years and am more than a little nervous, especially because the other couples in this new little tribe of ours are excellent cooks. I consider myself a good home cook, which is different from being a dinner party cook. But this is another good way to stretch myself, right? Okay, true confession time: I may ultimately stretch myself over to my favorite barbecue place and pick some pulled pork for our dinner party. But I promise I’ll make all the sides and dessert!
As a creature of routine, I have reservations about stretching myself in any way. I know I need to, and I know it will make this next phase of life richer, but who knows what changes stretching myself will bring about? It’s impossible to predict. What I do know is that right now, stretching feels like growing, and it’s always good to grow, right?
How about you? How are you stretching yourself these days?
This is such an appropriate topic for me this week! A few things come to mind immediately.
My friend Pam has been after me to try her exercise class for literally YEARS! Up to now, I’ve resisted because: it’s expensive, it’s outdoors at 6 am, and frankly, I was intimidated. Most of these women have been doing this class forever. But after years of failed attempts to get myself to do any kind of strength training on my own, I decided to give it a try. The older I get, I realize that I need to be proactive and intentional about fitness. Walking every day is fine. Great even! But I also need to build muscle, work on balance, and stay flexible if I’m going live the kind of life I want. So, I beat back those excuses one by one: I can afford it and if I actually go three times a week (or even five times, if I do the yoga classes), it’s kind of a deal. I’m usually awake by 6 am anyway and I’ve been wanting to shake up my morning routine. And… what do I have to lose?
It’s still the first week and I’m writing this with sore muscles from head to toe, but I actually enjoyed it! (Well enjoyed the fact that I did it, let’s be honest.) And it turns out that there was no reason to be intimidated. Like most situations, people are focused on their own stuff and not worried about the fact that I can’t hold a plank for more than 15 seconds. It’s early days, but as I’ve learned from Gretchen Rubin, sometimes one change leads to others, and I think that this is a stretch in the right direction for me. Who knows where it will lead?
I also got out of my comfort zone socially and attended an in-person Modern Quilt Guild meeting. As you know, I was very inspired by the quilts and creativity at QuiltCon. But it’s so easy to attend a show like that and in the moment it seems life changing, and then… you go home and right back to your comfort zone. I’m not going to let that happen. Left to my own devices, I fall back into comfortable patterns of making traditional quilts (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I had a million excuses about why attending this particular quilt guild meeting was hard: it’s too far away, it’s at an inconvenient time, and I won’t know anyone. But, once again, I dismissed the negativity and took the leap! I’m hoping that a monthly injection of inspiration and the company of like-minded modern quilters might unlock some creative energy in me. I’ve not had positive experiences with quilt guilds in the past, so just showing up was a stretch for me.
I just realized that I’m using community to help stretch me out of my comfort zone, both physically and creatively! Sorry to bring up Gretchin Rubin again, but under her Four Tendencies matrix, I’m an Obliger. This means that I struggle to meet inner expectations but have no problem meeting outer expectations. Translation: I can’t make myself lift weights at home, but if I have a friend waiting for me at a workout class—I’ll never miss it! Know thyself. Community is key for me.
I’m admiring you stretching yourself socially with entertaining. Before children, we used to be a part of a group of friends that took turns hosting dinner parties. We all cooked elaborate dinners for each other. Let’s just say that I used to own a paella pan (that I used exactly once). But the entertaining muscle has atrophied. I know what you mean about being a good home cook, but cooking for a dinner party is a different thing altogether! I was going to say that I’ll leave the entertaining to you, but on second thought, I’ve been meaning to have my friend Kristi and her husband over ever since we both became empty nesters. So, maybe I’ll get that date on the books. Just a tiny stretch.
P.S. I love your Christmas comic! And if you do it again, I better be on the mailing list!