Timeless or less time?

Big Ben, courtesy of Microsoft clip art

Within the last 12 months I’ve had friends diagnosed with cancer (the latest being the man who has cut my hair for more than 30 years), one die from cancer, and, thankfully, two successfully treated for cancer.  I expect that each coming year will bring more news like this. It’s what happens when we get older.  The effect on me has been to reconsider “time.”

I’ve always operated on the theory that time, as in my time on earth, is open-ended. All of us do this. But as I see more and more evidence that I could be wrong, I realize it’s time to face up to the fact that every year the odds as to whether I’ll be around the next year, the year after that, and the year after that diminish.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not sitting around writing instructions for my funeral.  But I am thinking about not postponing things I want to do.  If I’m going to travel, I’d better do it now. I want to keep in close contact with friends, since they’re on the same trajectory, though some started on it later than I.  The only thing I’ve stopped doing is making long-range plans.  My list of goals is shorter, wants and needs are fewer, at least for the time being.

T. S. Eliot’s “Love Poem of J. Alfred Prufrock” came to mind, particularly his protagonist’s thoughts on time, as I was writing this. Below is an excerpt.

“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say:  “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and
revisions which a minute
will reverse.”

Or is there? In time, I, too, might reverse my decisions and start making plans for 2020.  Only time will tell.

About stillalife

I retired June 30, 2010 after working for 40 years in the field of education and most recently doing school public relations/community outreach in a mid-size urban school district. I wrote for superintendents and school board members. Now I'm writing for me and I hope for you. In this blog, I offer my own views coupled with the latest research on how to preserve our physical and mental health as we age, delve into issues most of us over 50 can relate to like noticing wrinkles and forgetting where we left our keys, discuss the pros and cons of different ways to engage our minds and bodies after we leave the workplace, and throw in an occasional book review, all peppered with a touch of humor, irony, and just plain silliness. Also, I'm on the third draft of my second novel since retirement.
This entry was posted in aging, changes after retirement, personal reflections and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Timeless or less time?

  1. Sharon says:

    I think for me as I’ve gotten older I realize I can see the horizon of life and that earlier I either didn’t see or did not look. Long-term plans can still be made, but how we measure “long-term” may be different. Having never been good at making long-term plans by any definition I do not plan to start now. The adage “carpe diem” needs to always apply. Have a great today!

  2. Jackie Smith says:

    I agree with Sharon, that the definition of ‘long-term’ is different these days. As a friend told me on his 80th birthday, “I’ve quit buying green bananas.”

    Watching an increasing number of friends deal with serious health issues, I’ve gotten a bit more selfish with my time, realizing that many of the things I thought I ‘should’ do (as in volunteer commitments) have cut into the time I have for things I ‘want’ to do. The time I have left for doing either ‘should’ or ‘want’ activities may well be more finite than I would like it to be.

    Time to re-write my ‘to do’ list and number one will be (again, thanks to Sharon) “Carpe Diem!”

  3. You definitely want to eat the peach Prufrock mentions. Peaches are awesome.

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