Archives for posts with tag: aging

I had a childhood friend who was more of a sister to me than my siblings. We weathered a parochial school education together; navigated the sometimes hilarious straits of dating; married men of questionable maturity; co-raised our girls; and then we parted. Death does that.

We had just clicked into our fifth decade chronologically. Life was transitioning for us both. By now divorced, I was looking for a job and college hunting with my daughter. My best friend was also planning for that inevitable empty nest too but she was still married with a younger child occupying her time. We would sit together having a “cuppa” tea or a glass of wine while projecting into the future about us. It came as a quick decision one afternoon. Since statistically her husband would likely predecease her, we should arrange to eventually retire together to some home for the elderly, matching rocking chairs, cats languishing in our laps, and wearing shiny clip-on earrings in our blue-tinted hair. It sounded delightful. So us.

But cancer came for her and stayed for just about two years. Time somehow extended the days despite the tears. She requested that I write her obituary and I accepted the assignment. One brilliant autumn afternoon as we sat on her couch, she asked if I believed in heaven. I said I did not. She was unsure. We didn’t dwell on that matter as she turned the conversation to the pergola she and her husband were building in the backyard. Always the optimist.

The wake was well attended. She was an amiable woman with an edgy sense of humor, well-known for her over-the-top entertaining style and masterful culinary skills. She wore bouclé jackets with jeans and pearls. And, as I bent down and kissed her forehead, I said “Good night and sleep tight”. You never say good-bye to dear friends.

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Autumn Day

Remember that old song from the sixtiesSee  You in September“? Back then, it was about returning to the school year and reconnecting with friends, classmates, boyfriends or girlfriends after a summer hiatus. It was a circle of completion. After a summer “off”, it was time to hit the books, study, and make grades.

In my reflection of those years, there was a certain predictability to the circadian rhythm of life. Now, I am troubled by September. It really signifies a time when I am reaching what poets call the “autumn” of my life. There are a lot of unknown variables. Will I continue to produce services of value, connect with my clients, and be resourceful enough to move into areas not yet explored? I think about my health and how to preserve it. Do I have the stamina to continue being involved with activities that make me happy? I didn’t think I’d have these thoughts creep up on a stunning September day but here they are, nagging me.

Autumn was always a great kickoff time. Learn something new. Get into the grind of work at school. It was exciting and created a focus. There was always winter school break to look forward to. In this moment, I feel as if time has stopped to allow me to assess where I am going, what will I do, who shall I be. It’s the WHO one that’s the kicker. I never thought of myself as an “old” person.

I have been a friend, a wife, a mother, a business woman, a volunteer, a champion and now I have a new person to develop – a writer. That’s not new news to me but it may be to others. I have written technical documents, project plans and reviews. But this time, it’s personal. It’s me writing about my view, my experience and my life. And, there’s something clawing at my confidence.

Good writers share an experience. It’s the sharing that breathes life into the words. True, it has to be written in a way that will grab attention, but I think about all the ordinary experiences in life that seem to take on an ethereal glow or grow larger in importance in the hands of a capable wordsmith. The experience can be something so mundane it eludes awareness or so great it commands attention. I think of Emily Dickinson and her poem about a fly for the insignificant, and Shakespeare’s work when I consider a grander scale.

How does my writing stand up to thoughts expressed and emotions evoked? Am I really too old to embark on a writing journey? And, does it matter to any one else but me? I really don’t know. And, I’ll never know unless I do it. Make it part of me.

From articles I’ve read to speaking with friends, it’s not the things you do you regret as much as the ones you didn’t. When you reach an age that causes you to reassess your life’s experience, you can always begin something new. It may be the end of summer, but here’s an opportunity to erase regrets of inaction going forward.

Race Starting Blocks

With all the school graduations and commencements taking place, a common theme is “Now is our time”. Somehow the bright future that awaits each graduate seems so far in distance that light years is a more appropriate term. But what happens when time is applied to the distance? The distance closes remarkably fast. In fact, too damned fast.

Some scientific approaches about time perception, especially in an aging population, illustrates that the amount of time one has lived has some effect on time escalation perception. Imagine a two year old.  At one year old, that two year old child has lived 50% of his or her time on this planet whereas for someone in their 60s, 70s, one year represents a much smaller fraction of time. A great article from NPR covered this territory with regard to the perception that time seems to speed up as we age. Through this process, it would appear that people actually run out of time but that is a fallacy. Time is ad infinitum, ageless, forever, so how can one run out of it?

A more descriptive thought is we run into time.

Somewhere in our lives, time and our unconscious self met up in a single moment. From then on, our aware self notices that we are hurtling through time toward our inevitable demise. We become aware that instead of fifty years to experience life, we are now limited to several decades before we shuffle off our mortal coil. Feeling pressure, our experiences become more precious. Time flies by unchecked.

Another explanation is that time seems to drag on when we are learning new experiences. Remember how childhood summers lasted ages – because we were learning new stuff, how to swim, play games, explore nature, and build new friendships. All new stuff to our nascent brains. That coding process takes time and effort on our part. But once you learn how to do something, then we begin auto-pilot phase.

For example, when you were learning how to drive, it seemed as if there were millions of instructions encoding your brain but after forty years of driving, you can actual drive while you daydream and not get killed. And because of that familiarity, you don’t work at driving. There is nothing to encode so time speeds up.

Of course, all this is just perception. Time is relegated to specific rules of the universe. It doesn’t actually speed up. But it still doesn’t ameliorate the fact that as we age, we have a compelling need to experience our life in a more direct and honoring way than when we were younger. The desire for “meaning” in life takes a giant step into our awareness. But that’s a different story.

Catch you later.

 

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