Time

The glorious days of youth don’t last.
We play. We laugh and when it’s passed
we wonder why it slipped away?
When and what day?

Edwina Reizer

Last week I shared a pint or two with a group of long time friends. We have all been friends for nearly half a century. We learnt about life as teenagers together, and now meet for a laugh and a chat two or three times a year. Our friendship has waxed and waned with life’s events, and we are now at a point where we are all bracketing the 6th decade, aged from 59 to 61. Commonly now our conversations revolve around our juvenile indiscretions and adventures.

During our afternoon together, Simon related an incident which cemented the fact that we are all entering a world that is once removed from our youthful experiences. In other words we are entering a new age – old age!

When he was in his late twenty’s, Simon’s 30 year old neighbour worked from home as a hairdresser and would cut his young kids hair. She and her husband were both body builders, body proud, and not shy. During the summer months they thought nothing of working in the garden in their bathing suits to get the full benefit of the summer rays and, according to Simon, in today’s nomenclature, she was “choice!” The summer of voyeuristic delights came to an end two years later with the neighbours moving to the other side of town, opening their own hairdressing salon.

Fast forward 30 years with Simon’s daughter’s upcoming birthday. Asking her what she would like, she suggested having her hair done at the local salon, which incidentally, was the one his previous neighbour owned. Not having crossed paths since those summers, he, with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, headed down to buy a gift certificate, reflecting on the last time he had seen this “choice” lady.

What he had not taken into account was the years that had elapsed. Simon’s disappointment in what he found was palpable! Why? He said that she looked just like any other frumpy 60 year old! And what exactly had he expected? Well it was only 30 years ago and I thought she would still look choice! A laugh and a tear for years gone by.

We do not often see the onset of age in our friends when we spend time in their company, but do note the changes in ourselves, with the aches and pains of aging. Unlike when younger, each twinge or niggle is accompanied by the thought it may be serious, and the party may stop at any time. From our group of 12 we have now lost two friends, and as time goes by, each time we meet there is that thought in the back of my mind, of who may be missing next time. Personally however, this growing old with friends is a fascinating experience, and has given us a common yardstick to gauge our lives by.

Together as teens we learnt about living and life on the cusp of adulthood. We learnt about drinking, toking, and loving, with the inevitable heart breaks, in each other’s company. We shared our dreams for the future, gained qualifications, or not as the case may be, and some of us lived together as flatmates. A few of us fell out over trifles, and reunited to share times of sadness. We had long periods, through our twenty’s and thirty’s, where we rarely had contact when living overseas or because we had families and work routines that kept us apart. Existing has a habit of getting in the way of life at times.

Within our group we have a millionaire, and one who has not yet been able to buy a property. We have a number with artificial joints, and a few with serious, ongoing health problems, and one whose only problem was deciding on which cosmetic procedure to have. Half are in semi retirement while half will work past retirement. Still, we all have a common bond. We all started off in the same small town, attended the same High School and for the majority of us, had the same teachers in the same class.

For some, reaching 60 is a major event, but for me it is one I could do without. Ageing has never been of great concern for me – till now. Turning 40 was good, turning 50 was fine but turning 60 is a whole different ball game. The older you become, the faster the years appear to pass. Suddenly it feels that life is now all behind me and 70, in ten years time, is the next big number. On reflection, my life feels as though it has been made up of a series of chapters, pieces of time bound together by common themes. Arriving at 60, reality begins to bite and rather than counting up as before, it is now all about counting down.

It’s a fact that life does not pass at a steady speed. For some it goes slow at times, and for others it races at unexpected times. Time stretches and shrinks, twists and straightens, all at the same time. For some it is all arbitrary as the length of time we remember is only what our memory tells us, and all that exists of our past lives is intangible but cannot be measured by any other means.

For myself, there are still many things I am interested in but it is unlikely that I will have time to explore them all. I am now at a stage of prioritising my bucket list, with one eye on the future, but making sure I value living in the present.

There is however a secret to having a long life – at least the memory of one. Repetition of events seems to make the days and the years go faster. Not every memory is stored as a distinct event, with the vast majority of our memories not being accessible. When you first, for example, drive to a new area, it seems to take forever.  As you repeat the drive, over and over, the time flies by, and you can’t recall any specific trip, unless something “memorable” happens. This is because your brain does not store memories of the same, repeated information, only the new.  It picks out differences to “remember” against the backdrop of the habitual or regular. Routine makes time go faster, unique and memorable events slow time down, or at least our memory and perception of it.

So, if you want to “slow down” time, and make time last longer, change the routine. Create unique experiences for each day, each week, each month. Engage in greater mindfulness and focus on, and savour each passing moment.

The old saying “Carpe diem” – Live for the day -is the key to slowing down those quickly passing years.

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