The older I get the more I accept the significance and gravity of the familiar adage “time flies”. From a day-by day perspective things feel about right – only occasionally does a 24 hour period slips through my fingers. Even looking back on the most recently passed week I feel I can account for the majority of moments passed. But the incredible speed at which years are now streaking by is a bit concerning. Here it is 2018 – where the heck did 2017 go?
In my early days it took forever to get to that next year older. How I wished I could accelerate into teen years and then jump to that magical 18 and finally pass the threshold of the sacred 21 years old. Time sure did not fly for me back then. These days I would be quite happy to decelerate to a slow, steady, memorable trickle of days going by.
It feels as if time runs at a different pace at different times in our lives.
Way back as a youngster, time was an insignificant component of daily life. I never worried about wasting time. I did what I wanted for as long as I wanted or until called in for dinner. Time mattered when it came to school, dinner time, popcorn time and bedtime. There was no need for a watch to keep me punctual. Because little stress was associated with being on time the day could be enjoyed wandering a bit, playing a bit more, and enjoying all along the way.
When I entered the work force things changed big time. Getting to work on time was essential if I hoped to keep my job. Being late to meetings was unacceptable and a tardy quarterly report could put you on the streets. Everything was on a schedule as I came to understand the true meaning of deadlines: basically get it done or you are dead.
Along with time pressures and deadlines comes the stress we all learn to cope with else sacrifice our health and sanity. Scurrying around madly in hopes of getting critical tasks completed on schedule introduced a constant level of anxiety – there just wasn’t enough time in the day. And that anxiety often followed you home, gnawing away at any chance for quality sleep and quick to re-enlist the minute you got up.
As a parent a new aspect of time emerges. While previously obsessed with one’s own time or lack thereof, as parents our time no longer belongs solely to us. Suddenly what is most important to others in our brood takes precedence. Scheduling becomes an order of magnitude more challenging with multiple lives involved. We surrender to the impossibility of being two places at once though often times find ourselves pulled and stretched in many directions. Where does the time go?
Is there any hope to slow down to a more acceptable, saner pace?
If you are fortunate enough to survive to this point mentally and physically intact, you may be in for better times, saner times, more reasonable times. Retirement time is a brand new experience and at least for me proved worth the wait.
Once retired you are no longer driven by external forces toward someone else’s ultimate end. Rather than struggling to survive the moment you can focus on living those moments. Instead of a flurry of vague scenes days begin to contain real content, filled with memories worthy of being remembered. Finally you have time for yourself.
Rather than worry about tomorrow you are free to concentrate on today. This moment – now – is what matters. You will never be right here again so make the most of right now. As the saying goes, “life is like a coin: you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once.”
It can take time to adjust to a new pace. Even six years retired I still find myself getting wound up when driving in traffic. Decades in Silicon Valley left me conditioned to rush hour traffic and the helpless panic felt arriving late for an appointment. I still fight that reflex to push and get there as quickly as possible. Now I have time. Now I can go with the flow and get there when I do. But old habits die hard.
In retirement, you have time to focus attention on important little things. A thoughtful card given to a spouse, ample time to reflect upon your life and passions, relaxing wanderings in the park with nothing hanging over your head, a call to family of friends too long neglected. Now you have time to do something nice for someone. Now you have time to do something nice for you.
It is interesting as you focus on the quality of the moments rather than respond to in a knee-jerk fashion to outside stimuli you may face other challenges. For example, instead of wondering what time it is I sometimes find myself wondering what day it is. I joke with friends “I’m happy if I can keep the month straight!” How wonderful is it to not worry about approaching deadlines or responsibilities, to live the day as it unrolls before you, to go with the flow and wander wherever.
Yes time does fly. And yes it seems to do so even faster these days. But it is not just about the length of the day, it’s what you do with that day. Time may scamper quickly by. But memories we make are forever alive in our minds. Make the most of your hours.