“Time keeps on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’ into the future….” Steve Miller Band. “There’s never enough time.” “Make time.” “Only …
“Time keeps on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’ into the future….”
“There’s never enough time.” “Make time.” “Only time will tell.” “Set the timer.” Someone once told me, “Time is your only real possession.” Something no one can take from you. I had to ponder that to understand its true meaning. Time is an element of everything we do. It doesn’t matter the circumstance, the conversation, the issue, the activity, time demands a piece of our attention. Whether we want to manage it, want more of it, wish we could slow it down or speed it up, our American way of living can press us into servitude to time. Not all cultures live by the clock.
I used to think that this feeling of time racing out of control was a function of aging, but I am learning that younger people complain about it, too. The calendar pages are turning too fast. I’ve wondered if it’s the result of our very fast-paced way of life. People drive faster, talk faster and survive on “fast foods.” Efficiency and higher productivity rates are among our standards for success. I’ve heard it said that we are no longer human beings. We’ve become human doings.
When my millennial-aged children describe their daily routines and obligations it makes my head spin. I recall my young adulthood when I was focused on balancing work and family. It was hard, no doubt. Stress is an unavoidable part of living. But I don’t remember conditions like the ones I see today. Amidst the hustle and bustle of school-age children, full-time jobs and maintaining a household, I didn’t have a device in my pocket constantly alerting me to the latest news from around the globe, or the constant requests for comment on minute details of the daily lives of family, friends, and ridiculously vast social networks, plus notifications and reminders of where to be and when to be there today and for days in advance! From my vantage point, modern American life has become mind-boggling.
I think our kids have a right to complain. But whenever I’ve started to share some understanding or sympathy or offer a little “loving advice from Mom,” like the need to set some boundaries or “Just say No,” my suggestions either fall on deaf ears or elicit a response like, “Mom, don’t worry. We got this.” I just hope they’re right.
On Feb. 1, I volunteered to serve cake and coffee at the 88th birthday celebration for the Cook Public Library. Among the unexpected fringe benefits were the delightful conversations with patrons who visited that day. The festivities occurred on a weekday so most of the attendees were somewhere between the ages of 60 and 90. Entertaining memories, historical facts, and other topics of common interest were shared by waves of visitors who helped kick off “We Love Our Library Month.”
As you might guess, some discussions touched upon life, before and after retirement. One guest announced that she didn’t like to think of herself as “retired.” Instead, she preferred to think of this stage of life as “repurposing.” I liked that. There were lots of these valuable seeds planted to help reframe this period when time seems to be just flying by. Too many to even try to recap here — nuggets of wisdom and humorous quips that made us all laugh out loud. And the adjectives describing the swift pace by which time was rushing along. Words like astonishing, disconcerting, and even kinda scary, definitely elicited the most nodding heads of agreement.
We grieved changes that come in later life. The identities we lost when we left occupations to which we had dedicated decades of our lives. We talked of lost friendships to illness and death, or by having relocated from their home faraway to a new life among strangers. Someone described the loss of being part of a team with related challenges and accomplishments. And then there were all those shared issues of diminishing strength, stamina, mobility, mental acuity - the list goes on. As one person put it, “This getting old ain’t for wimps.” Being among my peers felt good. We understood each other.
These days, when I’m out in the community doing errands, at the bank, the clinic, at a meeting, I am very aware of my age. The clerks, tellers, nurses, the people who ring up my groceries or serve me breakfast at the cafe, are all much younger than me. They no longer just hand me my receipt and my change and say “thank you.” They’ve started calling me “hon” and “dear.” Funny, I don’t feel that old. But it’s true. I’m old enough to be their grandmother. I appreciate their kind gestures, but I can’t refrain from assuring that nice young man bagging my groceries that I can carry them out without his help. I know my time on Mother Earth is heading toward the finish line. It just must be a lot more evident to others than it is to me.
So, here we are in February already. This strangely mild winter reminds me not only are the days speeding by but so are the decades. I started hearing about global climate change over 50 years ago with predicted impacts to appear somewhere around 2050. That always seemed so far away in the future. But here I am watching the signs right in front of my face, with talk of the infamous “tipping point” right around the corner. Thankfully, we have begun to amp up our efforts to slow the process down but as the saying goes, only time will tell how well we do.
And then, my friends are celebrating 50th wedding anniversaries. I remember people in my parent’s photo albums celebrating theirs. They looked very old. Surprise! That now could be me in those pictures. I admit, a look at myself in bright light can be shocking.
So far, the hands on my clock are still ticking. Hour by hour. Day by day. I’ve decided to try to make every day “the time of my life.” Less time sweating the small stuff. Attending to what matters most. Appreciating the moment. And caring for the planet. Honestly, does anyone really want to live on Mars? It’s time to celebrate just being alive.