Never enough time

marilyn postcardsFor many years, the Medalists — a group of female friends who’ve been together for about thirty-five years — hosted dinners around a theme:  purple food, round food, things stuffed in other things, even the eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  (The latter was the only theme that didn’t work. It led to a limited menu of asparagus representing fallen trees and ice cream for the volcano) “Why don’t we do these dinners again?” I asked. “No time,” was the answer.

We used to play mail art games, stamped mysterious messages on postcards and sent them to each other to figure out the meaning. We even wrote stories. “Shall we do this again?”  “No.”

sylvia story

fishy story

We submitted entries to the Bulwer-Lytton contest, which awards a prize for writing the worst opening sentence of a novel. Here are two doozies:  “In a fury of bits, bytes and RAMS, she slipped her disk as he tried to interface with her bottom line across the spreadsheet.”  Or. “Kathleen directed her gaze down the length of the conveyor belt, looked with envy at the young women chattering away about their boyfriends, parties and new clothes, looked with affection at the older women talking softly about grandchildren and retirement dreams, or lost in reveries and not talking at all, then sealed a large, dirty fingernail in the can of tuna fish and thought, My coffee break can’t come soon enough.” “Shall we try this another time?” I say. “No. We don’t have time.”

The above was part of a recent conversation as we looked at photos and stacks of creative projects we’d completed over the years. Sadly, one member of our group passed away last fall (the second Medalist to leave us). She was the archivist of the various projects, which, along with memories, we are now sorting through.

How can we have no time? I wondered. We were holding down full-time jobs when we made these meals, created this mail art, and wrote these stories.

Everyone shrugged.  But what does “no time” mean when you’re retired, or semi-retired as two members of the group are? When I was working fifty-hour weeks, I still managed to entertain on weekends and even cleaned my house.  Now I have no time for either, well, a little time for the former but none for the latter.

One possibility is that we’re aware that the time left to us is limited; our lives no longer stretch as far as the horizon, like they did when we were kids. This can makes us feel rushed to complete unfinished business. Also, some people create long lists of faraway places to visit while they’re physically and mentally able and hurry around the world to check off the countries on their lists. Some retirees become obsessed with projects that fill as much or more of their days than work did earlier. I’d put myself in that category.  Writing two novels is more than a full-time job.

Speaking for myself, things take longer these days…on purpose.  Before retirement, I got up early every morning.  Now I might wake up about the time I would have been at my desk starting my workday. Before retirement, I read the morning paper while I drank my cup of tea standing at the kitchen counter. Now I sit on the couch with the cat purring on my lap, drink two cups of tea, and read at my leisure. I meet friends for lunch more often, ones who aren’t looking at their watches or smartphones while we eat.

Even if I start my day slowly, by the end of the day I still feel the time crunch. Then I remind myself that I’m the one controlling my time. My friends and I have made choices about how we spend our lives and if we feel we have no time, we’ve done it to ourselves. By the way, if I were honest, I’d admit that I probably have time to clean my house.  I just don’t want to do it.  Maybe with a little more time…








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.
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18 Responses to Never enough time

  1. You absolutely nailed it with this post! I really enjoy your blog. Let’s plan a lunch with Jackie Smith soon.


  2. I’m a fledgling retiree. But, reflecting upon the almost five months that I’ve been retired, you’ve described my experience exactly!

  3. Joan says:

    I don’t know how you found the time to write this. I’m impressed!

  4. JanO says:

    As you may recall, Ann…I retired from BSD in Aug. 1998…62 years old/26 years employed with the district. During those years, I was also co-president Cherry Crest Elem. PTA; BSD PTSA Council President; BEOP President, Levy Co-Chair. For 3 early-retirement years, I so-enjoyed being a ‘walker’ alongside horses bearing children with mental/physical disabilities. Oh, how I enjoyed it all! However, at 79, I find each moment of my rather sedentary life precious…my spring/summer/fall filled with golfing twice weekly. Yes, I watch tv, and enjoy quite-often gatherings with friends. When asked “Are you as busy as I am?”…I say “Likely not, because I read in bed til 2 a.m, set my alarm for 10 a.m., have a one/only cigarette & cup of coffee at 10:30, watch a ‘soap’ at 11….shower then, and look forward to whatever wonder the day has in store.”
    I so enjoy reading your posts, Ann. Exactly as much as I enjoyed working for you! .

  5. travelnwrite says:

    What is really sad is that we all ‘find the time’ to attend memorials/funerals for departed friends but don’t find/have the time to be with them while they are alive. It has been an interesting study in friendship, spending a portion of the year living far away from long time friends. Weeks will pass without any word from them so I write to make sure all is well and I get a response that is some version of, ‘good to hear from you, I’ve been too busy to be in touch’. . .

  6. Becky Hashimoto says:

    Loved this blog, Ann. Don’t know how you find the time to do it with your travels around the world, luncheons, classes, writing. You’re a marvel.

  7. dkzody says:

    Ah, time. I use it as I like now, yet it seems to fly so quickly. Much quicker than it did when I was working all those many years. I do fill my days with activities that give me great joy.

  8. Shirley Shimada says:

    During our Panama trip, I learned that at least two of the retired people have cleaning people coming in to clean their homes — one has someone come in every week! The other revealed her friend comes in for $50 every other week. Does that sound like a good idea? I’m thinking about it!

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