“Now what?” you may ask the silent house as you sip your morning coffee.
I’ve talked to a number of women lately who are wondering what happens next. Now that my kids are gone, now that my spouse is gone, now that I’m retired. What do I do with myself? How on earth am I going to fill my days?
They turn to me and ask, “Now what?”
It has occurred to me that we face this Now What period a few times in our lives as women. When we first marry, graduate from college or become mothers. In my personal experience life has a way of rushing in to fill the void when you are younger.
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But that’s not necessarily so when we are a bit older.
Later in life it feels a little different. That place usually involves a curve ball or two and we feel like maybe we’re too overwhelmed with the details to deal with it.
When a spouse suddenly dies there is so much to cope with that it may be a while before you wake up to face your new life with a “Now what.”
After you’ve fought a battle with cancer, or another disease, and come out the other side you may still be worried about your health and doing the job of healing your body. But the Now What comes when you begin to feel better. Trust me on this one.
When you lose your job and you are 57 years old and really have no idea what you can do next to support yourself.
A long-time friend passes away and leaves a big hole in your heart and social calendar.
The final kid leaves home and you can do anything your heart desires because the only one relying on you is YOU.
You’ve been caring for an ill parent for a long while and they pass on.
We’ve all been there – or will be. So first off, count yourself in good company. You aren’t the only woman to be asking yourself this question over your morning coffee. Many women have sat in this seat before you. And you know what? Everything turned out alright.
Secondly, this isn’t your first rodeo. Remember back to past times where you were wondering what to do with yourself once a big part of your life was gone or drastically changed. The circumstances were different, and so were you, but you did it before and you can do it again.
Next, you might think about making a list. What do you like doing? What do you hate doing? Can you get rid of any of the things on your hate to do list? Can you turn any of the things you love into a way to support yourself or to fill your days with meaning?
Who can you help? There is so much loneliness and pain in our world. Can you reach out to someone else? Help them with their problem while you are sorting out yours? Not only will you feel good about helping someone else but you may also find the answer to your question.
Take your time. As much as you can take time to sit quietly and listen to your heart. Tune out the bill collectors as impossible as that may seem, the “should dos” and “must dos”. Sit quietly and sip a warm drink and stare off into the distance. Daydream. Sometimes we simply have to stop moving so the answer has a chance to catch up with us.
Reach out. If you are stuck and can’t seem to find an answer reach out to someone. A friend, therapist, support group or a religious leader. Get the help you need from a third party who might see something you are missing because you are too close to the problem. Sometimes a fresh eye makes a world of difference.
The answer will come.
It may take time to figure out what happens next. You may have to wait for little things to happen in the world around you (the right people, opportunity, timing) before the timing is right for you. Be patient. Do what you can to take extra good care of yourself and trust that what you need is on its way. Keep working, moving, caring, loving. It’s on it’s way.
It’s not an easy part of life, this bit that feels like standing at the bottom of a giant staircase with no view of the top. But you aren’t alone. Keep putting one foot in front of another, holding onto the railing, and know that with patience and perseverance you will reach the top.
You can do it!