January always brings fond memories of 2011, when I began training for the New York City Triathlon that I would complete eight months later. I had spotted an article on CNN Health seeking six individuals who wished to be sponsored and train for the event and had submitted my video entry on the platform to show my Baby-Boomer generation that it is possible to get healthier at any point in life.
Turns out, I was selected because (the producers later told me) in my video I had shaken my finger and said, “Girlfriends, if 60 is the new 40, we’d better get busy!” and they liked my spunk. That spunk was challenged many times in subsequent months, particularly when a production crew showed up to film an article documenting my first swim lesson at Berry College. There my spunky-self was, decked out in swimsuit and cap, in the worst shape I’d ever been in my life and all over national TV. I mean, really? Well, I had entered the contest of my own free will so, really. That video is still online, but I would have to be heavily bribed before telling you where to find it.
The following January, now a one-year-seasoned-59-year-old triathlete, I was invited to Atlanta to meet the six freshly selected 2012 Fit Nation future triathletes and share some of my hard-won wisdom on what they might expect while training. Personally, my greatest challenge had been time and space management (trying to fit all that training and gear into my life), so I easily created a list of recommendations on how to get organized and advised each of them to start making a to-do list on their flight home.
I also, however, wanted to prepare them to weather and embrace the earth-shattering changes that their comfy worlds were about to undergo. So, I got creative and made up a few new phrases.
It has since occurred to me that the tips I gave those budding triathletes actually apply to life in general. You don’t have to be preparing for a triathlon (or a 5K, a cooking contest, or a tennis or pickleball tournament) to tighten up and enhance your life; we’re all preparing for something!
Whether it’s retirement, grandchildren, travel, surgery (planned or unexpected), or just to have peace of mind in case anything happens, there are things you can do right now to make tomorrow easier.
The older I get, the less baggage I enjoy dragging around, and I’ve been pretty aggressive in ditching it. My friends don’t always believe me, but I really am working towards freeing up time and space in my life, trying to make room to say “yes” to the important things and resolving to say “no” to the rest.
Because everybody loves a list, here are three things to ponder. I figured them out during a happy life-changing year, and two years later with a life-threatening illness, I treasured them more than ever. Hopefully here you will find at least one inspiration to help fine-tune your life and create a more relaxed future, making space in mind, body and home to enjoy every single day. Here we go!
Comb through your budget, tightening where needed. Put all your bill payments and contributions on auto-draft. Worried about security? Learn the basics of online security (like using complex passwords) and do everything through your bank, and the risk is as low as it can be. This alone saved me hours and allowed me to focus on a 50-mile bike ride without wondering whether or not I had paid the light bill.
Record all your financial info in one secure place and remember where it is; make yourself a note if you need to. Write down the web addresses, user names and passwords you use every month, and make copies (front and back) of all your debit/credit cards and your driver’s license. I’m not proud of this, but I was so distracted while training that I misplaced three debit cards in six months. Thankfully, I had made copies, so I quickly found the number to call each time I lost one (though in retrospect, I should have just put it in speed dial…)
Consolidate. Combine debts, bank accounts and payments where possible. Get your card count down to one and you won’t have three to lose like I did.
Declutter. Garage, closets and kitchen first. I had to make room for athletic gear, clothes and healthy food, but the extra space came in handy when I had shoulder surgery last year. Less stuff to walk around, move and bump into is definitely easier to maintain.
Duplicate your keys. I know the fancy ones are expensive but in addition to the debit cards that year, I lost a couple of car keys. If you lose one and don’t have a spare, then they will cost even more! Yes, it can happen to you; it is great to have spares. My car has this quasi-safety feature that causes it to automatically lock itself sometimes. I don’t know. It can be just sitting in the driveway, and if I didn’t remember to grab my purse, there’s a good chance it’s going to become locked up and held hostage. Not long ago, I had no less than three sets of keys in the vehicle (um, in my purse) when the car took smart and locked itself up. That fourth key in the house was a wonderful thing.
Put your prescriptions on auto-refill. If you don’t have any, good for you. But, most of us have at least one. The pharmacies love it and you’ll have one less thing to remember. This one is easy-speasy; you may count on receiving incessant reminders via phone, text and email when it’s time to pick them up.
Conquer and cure “Volunteer Buildup”. Do you know that term? Okay, here’s a pass; I made it up, but you know what I’m talking about. Free yourself from obligations that you don’t treasure. Chances are you’ve served many worthy organizations through the years who depend on volunteers for their very existence. Well, guess what? They can and will survive without you. Certainly, I’m not recommending that you abandon those causes nearest to your heart; I’m recommending that you step away from the ones that are not that near. Think of it this way: young people deserve to have opportunities to grow, and they have energy! Step aside and give them room to serve. Having separation anxiety? Trouble saying no? Here’s a tip: Google “How to say no”. Saying no to one thing makes room in your life for a more meaningful “yes” down the road, even if that “yes” is a nap! Do this today: list your obligations and then cut the list in half. Give a young person a chance to serve and compel the organizations you’ve invested in to refresh their volunteer base. It’s good for them; these are good things to do. Make sure you’re giving your time and life energy away in the ways that matter most to you.
Honor your non-negotiables. These are the most important things/events/people in your life; always make room for them. They are the “yes’s” from above and only you can decide what they are. One of mine has always been jazz night. For nearly nine years my son and friends have played live jazz downtown on a weeknight. I have missed very few of these, ever. When training, I would hurry to get a swim drill in, then go to jazz smelling like chlorine (hey, it could have been worse). Through that life-threatening illness, I wondered if I would ever have another jazz night. Thankfully, I did. I cried with happiness my first night back and have never, ever taken it for granted. Another is time with my precious daughter and granddaughter in Birmingham. I don’t get there often enough and need to do better. What are yours? Church? Bridge? Beach trips? Grandson’s basketball games? Know your non-negotiables and protect them with your life. They are your bliss.
What, you’ve never heard of a glass-dome moment? Of course you have…you’ve had them all your life; you just never slapped a label on them like I did. Glass-dome moments are those instants in life that are just so beautiful, so soul-wrenchingly miraculous that they take your breath away. In a glass-dome moment you gasp and hold your breath hoping not to change a single molecule in the scene. Your senses intensify and freeze, and the vivid experience forges itself into your deepest memory. If you had a big glass dome like that little one on the mantel over your grandfather’s pocket watch, you would place it carefully over this moment, preserving from sky to ground forever.
Now you know what they are. Conjure up the memories; cherish and preserve them, and always watch for more. I have had glass-dome moments during frosty morning runs, sunset bike rides and innumerable river drifts on a kayak. I have had glass-dome moments in delivery rooms, in conversations with friends, and in countless theaters and concerts. One of my most vivid glass-dome moments happened on August 6, 2011. I was swimming downstream in the brackish Hudson River, as far out from shore as allowed so the current could propel me through the incoming swells. I couldn’t help but pause and float every few minutes, just to gaze to my left at a New York City skyline traced from an angle few have ever seen. I glass domed and vacuum sealed that moment; it will never fade.
I line up all my glass-dome moments on the mantel of my mind and intend to visit, treasure and add to them until the day I can see them no more. What are you going to do with yours?
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