After the multi-year adrenaline rush of a high-tech career, I’m down-shifting: learning how to slow down and savor each moment as it comes. I’m testing out what it might feel like to be retired — whatever that means these days.
Purposefully down-shifting is a form of mindfulness practice in its own right. It’s harder than it looks.
Slow Mo, Slow Cooking
I’m trying out how it feels to pursue slow-paced, inherently time-consuming activities, such as:
- Baking no-knead, slow rise artisan bread — a process that takes 24 hours or more
- Knitting shawls and sweaters — projects that take weeks to complete
- Planning, shopping and preparing slow-cooked meals, gourmet dinners that simmer in a slow cooker for 6–8 hours
- Learning how to adapt a variety of dishes to the slow cooker
- Walking for 4–6 miles most days
This lifestyle is slower, but not boring. I wake up each day happy to undertake multiple hands-on crafts, tasks and projects.
Food for the Brain
On a less positive note I haven’t figured out how to keep my brain as actively engaged as it used to be. This is a challenge for someone who earned her living as a consultant and excelled as a big-picture thinker…
But it’s more than just an identity crisis. I don’t want to end up like my mother, addicted to crossword and sudoku puzzles. My husband and I are talking about downsizing, so I’m not ready to buy or learn to play the piano.
Scientists say that using a second language keeps the brain plastic and youthful. Before embarking on a high-tech career, I was fluent in French and passable in Spanish, but those skills eroded through lack of use.
Last year I worked to regain some French language skills, while preparing for a 3‑week trek across southwestern France. Now that I’m back in Seattle, it’s not so easy to speak French on a regular basis, so I rely on Netflix and French movies as a fallback.
Clearly I need to find some activities or pursuits that engage my brain as thoroughly as my crafts, hikes and slow-mo cooking engage my hands and eyes.