So last month I told you that I got married in a hurricane (which is way closer to the truth than you might think – read that one here.) What I didn’t tell you is that eight days before getting married, my about-to-be-wife defended her Ph.D. thesis, and nine days after getting married, my new wife and I moved to a new house in a new state. (I’m a Michigander now, and I live in the thumbpit, which will make sense to other Michiganders.) The only major life event we left out is having a baby, and that’s only because it got lost in all the wedding planning and we didn’t think about it until May. That’s when we learned that babies take nine months to build, and we were pressed for time – so instead of that, we got an 8-week old puppy two weeks after moving into our new house, which in some ways is even more work than a new baby. And in case any parents out there want to argue the point, consider the following: at least your babies aren’t mobile for about a year, you don’t have to stand with them outside at 3 in the morning waiting for them to go to the bathroom, and they tend not to chew on your walls.
We did all of these things all at once because my wife and I make bad decisions. And as you may have imagined, it has led to a decent amount of stress. My wife is starting to hallucinate, and I’ve taken to hiding in the bathtub. It’s safe in there, and it smells like soap. I like soap.
Anyway, there’s a decent chance you’ll find yourself overwhelmed sometime in the near future – by work, by family, by the giant “What do I do now?” that comes with an impending retirement – and I’d like you not to turn into a blubbering, gelatinous mess. So here are a few things that might help.
Let Go Of What You Can’t Control
We are all always constantly telling ourselves that we are in control of what’s going on in our lives, and we are all always lying to ourselves at least a little bit. We don’t control as much as we like to pretend. My wife and I couldn’t control the weather for the week of our wedding, and you can’t force people to do everything exactly the way you’d like them to. The harder you try to control things that you really have no control over, the more likely you are to be miserable. Sometimes, surrendering is a very, very good thing.
Find (or Invent) Some Structure
One of the reasons my wife is stressed is because she’s not working yet. That might sound counterintuitive – seriously, who doesn’t want a vacation? – but when everything seems to be spinning out of control, having some structure in your life is often a great way to anchor yourself to something solid. This is critically important for anyone close to retirement right now, since the average retired person watches 48 hours of television a week. Why? Because they haven’t thought about what to do with all their newfound free time, and so they do nothing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, make sure you find something structured to put some order into all that chaos – weekly lunches with friends, classes at the gym, answering emails at the same time every morning, etc. If you don’t, you’re going to wake up every day knowing that all you have in front of you is a big giant mess, and that’ll make it hard to want to wake up at all.
Tackle One Thing At A Time
Which is what we all do anyway, since all of us are terrible multi-taskers (if you don’t believe me, try reading this while watching TV or sending an email and see if you can pay full attention to all of them). This is also what you should do if you’re in a crushing amount of debt – first pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate, then the next highest, and then down the line until you’re done. Plus if you concentrate on eliminating one issue, at least then you’ll get some satisfaction from knowing that at least something is under control.
I hope that helps. Now if you’ll excuse me, my wife is trying to turn the sink on with her car keys and she’s worried that the battery might have died. But fear not! Our puppy has graduated to chewing on slippers instead of walls, so things should be back to normal pretty soon.