Recently, I was harshly reminded of the reality of aging while on the treadmill that I have in the basement. I gazed down at the age/heart rate chart on the display screen and realized that at age 66, I was getting towards the bottom of the graph. How did that happen so quickly?
The aging process is sly, stealthy, and surreal. The years creep by, seemingly slowly at first; then, ever so gradually, the wheel of time cranks faster and faster with greater and greater momentum, until the weeks and months roll past at a dizzying and frightening warp speed. Before you know it, you are a 50-year-old and are at the summit of the mountain, looking down at the back face.
The older one gets, the faster the perception of the passage of time. A single summer seemed to represent an eternity when I was a child; now, in midlife, the summers blur by. Some of this may be explained on a strictly mathematical basis — for a five-year-old, one year represents 20% of his or her life, whereas for a 50-year-old, it represents a mere 2%. Save-the-date family events that are on the calendar and are scheduled for a few years in the future approach at an uncomfortably rapid pace and suddenly are here.
Another factor in the perception of time racing by is our pursuit of a career. Being productive and busy does not lend itself to time awareness. When focused on day-to-day activities and caught up in the routines of living, consumed by the variety of roles that we play, often in a hurry, constantly on the move – we rarely are cognizant of the hours, weeks, and months speeding by. When we exist without giving a great deal of thought to actual existence, fail to focus on the here and now with too much attention paid to the future, the time framework of existence seems to lose its substance, weight, and meaning.
Please take a moment and take a peek at a recent NY Times article by Tim Urban, How Covid Stole Our Time and How We Can Get it Back. It has a compelling graphic of a 90-year human life in weeks (image seen below from Wait But Why website), with the 52 weeks of the year on the x-axis and the 90-years of life on the y-axis, with each box representing one week of life. There are 4680 boxes on the graph representing the number of weeks in 90 years. At this point, I am at 3475 weeks into the graph, having entered into the bottom tercile. Reality testing! It is a mere delusion that we have countless time ahead of us.
I have found that by taking a moment and giving thought to what I have accomplished on any given day tends to give the time framework of existence more weight and substance. In other words, take the time to think about time spent.
Time seems to slow for me when I am doing planks for a 60-second interval, push-ups, pull-ups, or am at a multi-intersection Florida traffic light, etc.!
“Our earthly transit is a brief wink between eternity and eternity.”
“Time is overwhelming, omnipotent, and ubiquitous in its power…it may never be conquered or defeated.”
Stop for a moment to think about the absolute truth that our time is truly limited and that the clock is ticking away relentlessly. What can be done the face of this seemingly harsh reality? The answer is to try to appreciate and savor every moment, focus on what matters, put our best efforts into every endeavor, avoid procrastination and wasting precious time, and relish the journey because the inevitable destination for all of us is the same.
“Life is a fatal adventure. It can only have one end.
So why not make it as far ranging and free as possible.”
“Never abandon the spirited fire of spontaneous, determined inspiration that sparks dreams into majestic conclusions, marvellous deeds, and spectacular endings.”
Bernard Ficarra, M.D.
“You are old when you lose the capacity to dream and be creative.”
Shlomo Raz, M.D.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs, Memento Mori quote
from Commencement address, Stanford University 2005
Bottom Line: Life is short and proceeds rapidly, seemingly faster and faster as we age. Seize the day! Tempus fugit; Carpe diem!