I observed my birthday in August. ‘Observed’ as opposed to ‘celebrated.’ I stopped celebrating at sixty. In contrast to the kind of celebrations birthdays dictate at age twenty-one, at a certain point they call for less concern over parties and gifts and more time spent in reflection.
My reflections began with asking myself what I did last year. Also, do I remember what I did? Did I accomplish anything? Taking a longer look back, are there dreams I’ve stored up waiting for the right time to pursue — a bucket list of sorts?
What came to mind on this birthday is time and the apparent supersonic speed at which it passes. I’ve read that one reason for our perception that time goes faster as we age is that we have our regular routines and few surprises to interrupt them. Unlike teenagers, for whom time creeps, we generally know what to expect from life and this helps create the impression that time is racing by. What also creates that perception is that it is racing by.
I like what I did this year, because I was creative, traveled, exercised regularly, made new friends, and still kept up with most of the old ones.
My bucket list is short — finish my book and start another, do a little traveling, keep healthy, keep laughing, be open to new adventures, don’t let go of friends, try to accept what comes with grace.
I subscribe to the To Do Institute’s newsletter, “Thirty Thousand Days,” (the number represents an eighty-two-year life span). In the latest issue I read that “nearly every type of psychological disorder is characterized by a heightened degree of self-focused attention.”
The newsletter’s advice to counteract this obsession with ourselves is to write haiku. As you prepare to write one of these seventeen-syllable poems, “you are looking at clouds, flowers, insects, dogs, and other people,” and you’re “giving attention to the world around you,” and not just to yourself. Good advice for all of us.
Despite its benefits, I’m not sure haiku is for me. I routinely violate a three hundred word maximum for a bi-weekly column I write. Imagine me trying to capture something in seventeen syllables.
A friend of mine still teases me about the time we met for coffee about a year before I left work and I expressed the fear that if I retired I might lose my identity, as closely tied to my work as it seemed to be. I’ve learned since then that, thankfully, my identity is not the same thing as my work and it’s pretty hard to lose. As the saying goes, “We take ourselves with us wherever we go.”