“Time goes by so quickly now,” my mother said when I was young and she was old. I didn’t believe her.
I believe her now.
“Mom, how can that be?” I thought back then. “You have all the time in the world. You’re not working anymore; you don’t have any deadlines. Your days arrive empty and waiting to be filled. And you can choose what to do and when to do it. You’re your own boss!”
That was then. This is now. Much to my chagrin, I’ve come to recognize that Mom was spot on. Time does seem to speed up as I slow down. And what has changed for me since Mom’s wise observation? My age.
I’m now as old as she was when she spoke those words. And I’m having trouble accepting the truth. Every day things take longer. I can’t lift and carry like I used to or clean or cook with the same inexhaustible drive. I seem to have more time but less charge in my batteries.
But having heard Mom voice her reality has helped me come to accept mine. And I’m grateful to understand that more things than I imagined can change as we age. Visible changes seem somehow easier to accept, like hair color, wrinkles and droop. But it’s the invisible changes — energy levels, vision, strength and memory — that have caught me by surprise.
As I look around at my compatriots in a retirement community, I realize the timetable can vary with the individual. Yes, we all grow older, but not necessarily at the same pace. Age and energy are not on a universal clock. Our commonality is that each of us has 24 hours every day to live our lives, to crowd in the gotta-get-dones and the gotta-bes with the wanna-get-dones and the wanna-bes.
When Mom was 72, I was only 44, still working, still parenting, still juggling my roles in life. With the dream of retirement, I envisioned time slowing down, spreading out endlessly before me each day. However, what I’ve discovered is that as I age, my time each day seems to go by more quickly even as choices expand. Despite retirement and my declaration of independence, senior life is not exactly the slow down and relaxation I expected. Life is a cornucopia and there is so much from which to choose.
Where did this sense of speed come from? Is it that time seems shorter and faster because we now have more behind us than before us? Or is it because as we diminish our obligations, we increase our choices? It’s really not important where the feeling comes from.
What has been helpful for me to learn is that I’m not alone in this experience. My mother had it. My friends have confirmed it. And my own life reminds me daily to choose carefully how I spend my time. Speed is not the issue. Satisfaction is.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of the book “Changing Places: A Journey with my Parents into Their Old Age.”