Close Connections: That funny feeling …


By Nancy Norman

Do you ever get that funny feeling there’s something you should be doing right now, or something else you should be doing? For me, there’s a flash of adrenaline, an anxiety that fills my stomach.

And quickly I’m thinking, “Oh no, I was supposed to….what was it?” I’m scanning. But there’s nothing there!

This somewhat jolting experience is likely a conditioned response to a life lived in schedules and appointments, a calendar and clock. And now there’s a shift. So what to do, when life after 50 should feel familiar, with these vacuous signals that something’s not attended to?

A reader wrote in about this. It’s so fun, by the way, when you readers of Life After 50 write in with questions or comments. Your communications inspire columns and research and thought. So here’s what Michael says:

“A shift occurring in these later years makes sense. It’s not about once busy … now idle, but that shift seems somehow unsettling. As if there are more things that one should be doing.

“These transitions are wondrous opportunities for continued growth. The unquenchable desire for learning continues; the opportunities becoming more varied.

“It was our busy selves that found things easy. Yes, we fussed and mussed for all the mundane. We complained for the distractions from our ‘purpose.’  But oh how we defaulted to accomplishing the tasks at hand.  There is goodness in that when younger … but now, if defaulting to what we know how to do … then we’re missing the opportunity to stretch for new knowledge; maybe a new skill … or an old skill applied in a new way.”

So do we default to repeating behaviors of familiar tasks, or do we stretch like mind yoga to something new or newer?

Here’s some thoughts:

  • When you reach for the TV monitor or head for the computer, STOP! While both electronic friends can help us find new ideas, they can also soak up our hours. Instead, have a lie down and ask yourself what you’d like to know.
  • Think about days in elementary school, or the earliest days of your life you can. What seemed alluring but got lost in the shuffle of arithmetic and recess? Can you remember any of those flights of fancy as you lay on your rug during rest time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on something you’ve always said to yourself you can’t understand. For me, one subject would be physics. But there are people, famous people, who think it a worthy subject to learn about. Why not?
  • Take risks, ask questions, don’t avoid looking dumb. Since I don’t watch the news and only see highlights on the internet, in conversations with friends I find myself asking, “Who’s that?” or “What’s that about?” They smile and explain. The courage to ask must be one of those “new skills” we can learn.

This is a time of shifting. And we can make it a gift.

Nancy Norman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, musician with The Storys duo and former “Intimacy” columnist for “The Wichita Eagle.” Email her at




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