Times Flies When You’re Growing Old
This is a scientific phenomenon, a puzzle that scientists are still piecing together. Now, if you’re younger, listen up here, whipper snapper. If you’re growing older along with me, you already know it’s our reality. When we pause just long enough to reflect, we often wonder where the years have gone off to. Sometimes, in the morning, I awake and wonder, What the [cuss] happened?
Here’s the scary thought, though—if I’m lucky enough to reach old age, even the age of retirement, will those years begin to fly past at warp speed? Some say that time really isn’t slowing down or speeding up at all, that it’s simply our perceptions of time. Well, aren’t our perceptions, the rose-colored glasses through which we see this life, how we actually live this life?
The Bell Curve When You’re Young
When I was growing up, the bell curve wasn’t just about working my brain off just to inch closer toward the overachiever end—it was about fitting in (oh, please), being average (hey, cool), maybe even being normal (so awesome). I saved up my babysitting and table busing wages to get those Dittos jeans (yeah, mum, with the scandalous saddleback stitching), OP tees (horizontal rainbow stripes—don’t try this now), Nike tennis shoes (blue swoosh on white), et al. Plus the wings in my Farrah-esque hair made me feel like I could fly.
The clothes, the music, the sports, the hair, the friends, the car (it ran [sometimes after a good jump, or better, a pop-the-clutch start], and it had an 8-track player), and the boyfriends—nothing was left to chance (how we fooled ourselves then)—it took a fair amount of careful planning, constant vigilance. I found my niche, though, my clique. We were a couple or ten girls just a tad left of “normal”—not misfits, but definitely not normal, and nowhere near popular—we were “average”, and quite content to be so. We didn’t stick out, that far. We fit in, well enough.
The Hill This Curve Suddenly Becomes
And just when you’re at the top of that bell curve, it turns out to be the hill that unbeknownst to you, you’ve already climbed and are suddenly looking down the other side. You look back at all that time, all that time you were distracted by the things that really don’t end up mattering one single smattering. What the [cuss] was I thinking? Looking back, worrying about being average, normal, even awesome, wasn’t really worth the time. But the chasing after it actually took my time anyway.
Just when you maybe have enough money to buy the car you would have actually wanted to drive in your younger years, you go with the one I’m driving now—affordable, economical, reliable, safe. Please, please tell me the Toyota Prius is not the old people car of 2013 (bell). But I don’t really care much if it is the new Buick or Oldsmobile (hill) because it’s what I want to drive. It’s a great car—it’s reliable, it’s economical, and it’s safe. I’ve learned to live quite well without automobile awesomeness.
Routine Maintenance of The Rusty Gate
Sometimes I feel like a rusty gate (a little stiffness, some extra weight)—but with gentle prodding and regular self-care, I’m swinging along just fine. I’ve noticed that each decade brings with it a new maintenance routine (i.e., bodily function/fluid tests). The other day, I’m at our family physician’s office for routine maintenance and she’s staring at the growth on my face (what is this thing?), for a long time (several seconds feels like an eternity when you’re waiting, worrying). Finally, she says, “The human body does all sorts of interesting things as it ages.” Interesting!? What the [cuss] does that mean? Is there a cream for interesting? Can interesting be removed? [Cuss], can interesting kill me?
Practice. I breathe. I let the worry go. I breathe again. I accept. Finally, she says, after asking me all sorts of thoughtful questions (good, kind, thorough ND), “I don’t know what it is.” So it’s off to the specialist I go. And it turns out, he doesn’t know what it is either, but he is almost certain (99%-Look at this thing on my face! I’m [cussed]!-free) it isn’t dangerous. So he prescribes me a cream. And, you know what?—it works. That thing (whatever the [cuss] it was) vanishes. So later, at the follow-up appointment, my physician (again) impresses upon me that those interesting things that happen as we age sometimes remain a mystery, and isn’t it good when we can rule out the dangerous things? [Cuss], yes, it is!
Be Mindful of Your Time, Now
Does our time slip past so quickly because we’re thinking of this, that, and the other thing instead of experiencing what’s actually going on right now? What if we could change this perception of time? What if we could alter this perception by simply experiencing each moment, right now? I think back to when I was a kid—the days, like the licks it took to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, seemed to last a long time, and the years seemed to pass by so slowly, I actually wished for the next one. What the [cuss] was I thinking? I wasn’t much of a mindful child sometimes, in terms of experiencing my time, but I was a good kid.
The science suspects that time is perceived to pass more slowly during new experiences (this may explain “child time”). When we experience something for the first time, the impressions of that experience are being taken in, processed as new information, and are wired by the mind as an experiential first. Those wired impressions, the memories of those first experiences (typically either really good or bad, not the day-in-day-out usual—what’s up with that?) can even be recalled in real-time now.
So here’s where I’m at now—there is no bell curve, no middle age (lucky for me), no hill—there’s just now. Everything’s a first. Because no matter how regular or routine it may appear, each experience is new, a first, never to be again nor repeated nor replicated. I intend to experience each moment, from the mundane to the mind-blowing, fully. I’m going to find out if being mindful of each moment, each experience in my life will actually alter my time here. I believe it will. I believe I have all the time I actually have, always have had. Oh, it may not alter Greenwich and back-around-again time, but it just might alter my now time, perhaps even like it did my child time.
How do you perceive time? Do you notice differences in your perceptions of time as you age? Do you attempt to turn back the clock, stop time in its tracks, or have you learned how to let it pass all in good time?