Chatting long distance with a dear friend, I caught myself whining about having too many obligations and not enough time to do the things I’ve set as goals for myself.

“You’re so driven,” she said in a way that made it sound like a bad thing. I thought about it after we hung up. My ‘must dos’ take up all my time, while my ‘wanna dos’ gather dust and make me feel driven… but not in a good way at all.

I had a familiar knot in my throat and my skin was a little itchy. I learned about the itch thing two summers ago when I had a rash I feared was shingles. My doctor diagnosed it as a stress reaction. Her prescription: “Meditate… anyway you want. You need to chill.”

Stress is a major ager. Along with it’s overactive pals, adrenaline and cortisol, stress messes with every organ in the body. For me, it first attacks my skin, the body’s largest organ.

Summer beach season is the most hectic time of the year for my vacation rental business. I keep a lot of plates spinning to make sure my customers enjoy themselves.

I may appear calm and cheerful, but my mind is racing. Morning meditation is a given on crazy summer days though, and catching the sunrise keeps me grounded too.

Listing Our Do’s Instead of Our To-Do’s

The classic little book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson, Ph.D., sits on a table by my bathtub. There’s a chapter titled, “Remind yourself that when you die, your ‘in basket’ won’t be empty.”

How true! The author says, “If you’re obsessed with getting everything done, you’ll never have a sense of well-being.”

We will never be totally caught up. And the truth is, we sometimes forget how much control we have over what gets into our inbox of life. Sometimes, the demands we put on ourselves are unrealistic.

A lot of my own deadlines are entirely self-imposed. There’s no teacher or editor or parent expecting anything of me.

Most of us are doing the very best we can in this complicated life, and we don’t give ourselves enough credit.

I’ve decided to experiment with noting all the things I do alongside my to-do list. This morning, before work, I finished this article, planned dinner, balanced the checkbook, emptied the dishwasher and stopped at the library. Try it. I think you’ll be pretty impressed with yourself.

This year, busy or not, I’m committed to enjoying summer. I’m trying to wake up every morning like a kid with no school, looking forward to another day of summer vacation. Yesterday, I stopped after my walk for a fresh squeezed lemonade. It tasted like a mini-vacation. The inbox can wait.

Finding Our Feeling Center

That catch I feel in my throat is the same feeling I get when I’m excited or inspired or really happy. It’s how I feel just before tears come, like during an emotional movie or when I see one of my nieces on her dad’s arm at the back of a church, ready to walk down the aisle. Happy tears are going to roll.

That spot in my throat is my feeling center. My emotions, good and bad, meet there and decide which way they’re going.

If they’re headed for happy, hip-hip-hurray! If they’re headed toward excitement about a project, clear the desk and make a pot of coffee. If they’re headed for stressed out, it’s time for a walk on the beach.

I shared this feeling center idea with a girlfriend. She told me her spot is her forehead. If she’s stressing, she catches herself frowning or rubbing her temples. If she sees a cute puppy, she scrunches her forehead. For you, it might be in your shoulders. Maybe it shows up as butterflies in your stomach.

As a generation, I don’t think we’ve spent much time thinking about feelings. We’ve been too busy! But now I’m convinced, if we can really tune in to that feeling center and decipher what our feelings mean, we can do a better job of steering our emotions in the right direction.

Harnessing Our “Inner Push”

In his book, The Mature Mind, the late aging expert Dr. Gene Cohen wrote, “our growth does not stop at ‘adulthood’ but can continue throughout our lives. This growth is fueled by many strands of urge, desire, craving, longing, and seeking, which, collectively, I call the Inner Push.”

He goes on to say this Inner Push helps us discover more about ourselves – our generosity, our creativity and our spirituality – so we can live more wholeheartedly as we change and age.

Maybe this is what being driven is about as we ease past midlife. When I ask people about their Inner Push, balance is a word I hear most.

The same friend who called me driven wrote me an email: “It’s a balance of work and play that makes us happy. It’s all in the satisfaction level of your life that dictates what you’re pushed to do. It’s good to examine that.”

Some of us are driven to volunteer more as our work requires less of our time. Some of us want to ease into retirement but keep a toe in the water to keep up with technology and stay in touch with people.

Maybe your push is getting behind the wheel of a motorhome and exploring what’s over the next hill. The possibilities are as endless as the excitement.

How do you feel driven toward your future? Are your demands of yourself realistic? Where is your feeling center? What do you do to manage everyday stressors? Please share you thoughts and insights below.

Terri Edmund WhiteTerri Edmund White is an innkeeper on Anna Maria Island, Florida. She enjoys life with her husband Jim and their cats, adopted from the Humane Society of Manatee County. A former corporate writer and editor, Terri is currently penning her way to her 100th birthday and has started a 100 Year Project website to write about the journey.

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