Leaving home at midlife, with peace of mind intact, requires more than just a clear conscience and excellent contingency planning. It also takes focus, priority setting skills and the ability to rally yourself (and possibly the rest of the troops) with military precision. Doing it well however, means that once you are on that (in my case) plane, a sense of peace should arrive about the same time as that first glass of bubbly. Aaaah, bliss…
Why is leaving home different at this stage of life? Think back a decade or two, to that lovely carefree stage of life when you thought you were ten foot tall and bulletproof, the world was your oyster, and you were so delightfully self absorbed that you didn’t even realise you were. Those were the days when you could head away for the weekend or hop on a plane (finances permitting) with your eyes firmly focused on the adventures ahead with nary a thought for much else. Arranging your life to leave home may have taken a bit of organising, but it was a relatively small inconvenience because your responsibilities were likely also relatively few.
At midlife however, our lives are more intricately woven and entwined others. We are supposed to be grown up by now, which invariably comes with responsibilities. Whether embraced or suffered through, you know that in order to leave home at midlife (even for just a day or two) with any semblance of peace of mind, those responsibilities need to be considered, quite possibly resulting in something else being added to your ‘Before I Leave’ list – if only so you can feel ever so accomplished when crossing them off 🙂
Here’s the approach I’ve found to be most helpful to get me to that elusive peace of mind:
1. On one page only, write the headings/labels of all the aspects of your life which matter most to you (list or mind map – your call). By way of example, mine currently are: Parents, Beloveds, Spike the Spoodle, Home, Finances, Work, The Ripenists, Volunteering, Wellbeing, Projects.
2. Under each heading, do a brain dump of every single thing you can think of which, if not done or planned to be handled in your absence, would detract from your away-from-home peace of mind, such as: Parents – install Skype, check connection to St John, update In Case of Emergency details. Beloveds – pack magazines and chocolate fish (sister), pinot noir (stepson), ensure G has passwords to bank accounts. Spike – Vet for annual shots. Projects – choose paint colour. Finances – pay bills, get Euros. Work – do GST, complete invoicing. Wellbeing – Osteopath appointment for return … I’m sure you get the picture!
3. Under each heading, prioritise according to: (i) what needs to be done so that you won’t worry about it while away; (ii) what needs to be done so that those who are impacted by your actions (e.g. Beloveds, work colleagues) won’t worry while you are away; and (iii) what you’d like to get done, but if push came to shove, could be deferred or done by someone else.
4. Depending on the nature of your trip and whether or not you are contactable (by choice or design) decide which of those priorities can be done from a distance (e.g. pay bills online), if needs must.
5. In a perfect world, your list will now be smaller – fewer ‘Must do before I leave’ and more ‘Like to do, if I can’ instead. That alone should help increase your peace of mind and allow you to know you will take care of what really matters most to you and those you care about.
6. Finally, allocate realistic time to honour your priorities, including signalling early to others whose help you may need, and GET TO IT!
The benefit of listing your ‘Must do’s’ under each of the most important aspects of your life is that you get the jumble of lots of thought out of your head so you can truly prioritise, otherwise the pressure of having so much to do (whether real or imagined) can create unnecessary stress.
If that approach still seems somewhat overwhelming, consider instead what you would really have to do in the event of needing to leave home, within 24 hours, for an emergency – heaven forbid! It focuses the mind and, as a consequence, your actions. I would, for example, simply call or email a computer whizz to sort out my parents technology needs. I’d forgo buying the chocolate fish and wine. I’d get my Accountant to do the GST and leave the invoicing till I return.
Yet another of the benefits of midlife is that we’ve usually created some sort of infrastructure that we can kick into gear if support is needed, so don’t think you need to do everything yourself. Be realistic about what really needs to happen so you can leave home with peace of mind – it’s nearly always less than we imagine.
What techniques do you use when organising yourself to leave home?