A passing thought

When I was younger my life was like a bottomless basket of days to spend. Of course I always knew it was a finite amount that would eventually come to an end. But there were so very many days in that basket, that the idea of them running out was of no concern to me.

Here is one of my midlife revelations. I see now that the level of those days in that basket has dropped significantly. I don’t know how many more there are, but I can readily tell that I have already used more, undoubtedly many more, than I have left.

I think the death of both of my parents has sharpened this sense that time is running out, that time is of the essence. Since their passing, I have been somewhat preoccupied with death, and in particular with my own death. It’s not that I fear death or am even particularly sad about the idea of the end to my own life. But the thought of my inevitable death makes me consider more seriously my life.

Recently I feel like I struggle with younger people. I don’t always understand them. I don’t always understand their behavior at times or their priorities in particular. And I came to realize today that perhaps younger people still see their basket of days as an endless supply, as I did. When I was young, I had just arrived at the amusement park. I could go on the first ride that caught my eye, and then the next. But now, at this stage of my life, I’ve spent a good part of the day at that amusement park already. I’m starting to think about what rides  I most want to go on before I have to leave. It’s a different perspective altogether, with different priorities.

I know. If younger people are reading, or were to read, this, I suspect they might protest. I would have too. Of course younger people know their life will come to an end. I did too. We all do.

But that knowledge has transformed somehow inside of me with the passing years. That knowledge now colors and informs decisions I make like never before. Where do I want to live? Because, realistically, how many more moves do I really have in me? The knowledge of my mortality informs daily choices I make. Do I really need another print book? How am I going to get rid of all the books we have already collected?

Most importantly, that knowledge informs the quality of the relationships I have with other people. Do I really have time for hurt feelings or disappointment? Maybe disappointment is a choice I can choose not to make.

Today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. Her days ran out sometime during her 78th year. Do I have twenty more years, thirty or more, only 5? I have no way to know.

You might link I am maudlin or morose. But quite the opposite is true. I am on a challenging journey to find the light. I want those days left in my basket, however many there are, to shine. To really shine.



The time in our lives

Einstein originally came up with the relationship between space and time known as the space-time continuum. How Stuff Works .com explains this in an article about how warp speed works in relationship to Captain Kirk and his Enterprise team. It all has to do with traveling at or above the speed of light. According to How Stuff Works:

Einstein realized that space and time are relative — an object in motion actually experiences time at a slower rate than one at rest. Although this may seem absurd to us, we travel incredibly slow when compared to the speed of light, so we don’t notice the hands on our watches ticking slower when we’re running or traveling on an airplane. Scientists have actually proved this phenomenon by sending atomic clocks up with high-speed rocket ships. They returned to Earth slightly behind the clocks on the ground.

My mind was never able to fully grasp this concept before and it still remains a mystery to me.

I have experienced time running slow or fast, however. Sitting in a boring 50-minute history class in high school the minutes dragged by. I know this because I saw every one of them pass as I watched the clock on the wall above the door that led to freedom. Now, in these middle years of my life, the days fly past me like a leaf on the wind.

Time is a mystery. Maybe that’s because we think of time as a container for other things. I think of the time spent with our children and grandchildren that flashes past with moments of love and pride and laughter. I think of the finite number of days we’ll spend together in this lifetime and how we spend each one down never knowing how close we are to the end.

I started thinking about the concept of time because I was thinking about the book that I self-published. This has been a tough month with very low sales and it makes me feel, in some ways, like a failure. When I recognized that, I became able to deal with it. I’m not looking for reassurance that I was a flaming success because I wrote the book, edited it, and published it. I understand this to be a big accomplishment for me. The point I think I’m trying to make is that I feel bad about it because I feel like I am running out of time to make a success of myself.

I don’t know if I would have felt that way if I would have had a career with promotions, or a savings account from the money I’d made while working the last 30 years at a job. I stayed at home to raise our children, and although in my finer moments I realize this to be an accomplishment, a success, a fine use of the time in my life, at other times the doubt or inner drive and aspiration unsettles me.

On just a practical level, here in this house I have projects I’ve started that I’d like to finish. For example, I want to finish scanning photos from old magnetic non-archival photo albums to put them in better albums and create digital files to share with our children. I’m about half way done. I have the photos. I have the scanner. I have the new albums with plenty of spare empty pages. What I don’t seem to be able to find is the time.

My writing, reading, photography, needlework, gardening, genealogy—all of these are pursuits I want to follow. But there never seems to be enough time.

And that is the truth of the matter. I realized that in midlife. There will never be enough time to do all the things I’d like to do. Somehow I never really thought in those terms when I was younger and time seemed more of  a friend to me.

Now time chases ahead of me and I am forced to make careful and conscious decisions of how I will spend this valuable, priceless commodity.

I hope Einstein is right. I hope as I slow down with age, time will slow down with me. Only time will tell.