Time is such a dependable commodity. There are exactly the same number of seconds, minutes and hours in each day, week, month, year and century. So tell me then why it feels as if this time in my life is flying by so quickly, why I can’t keep up with all I want to, plan to and need to do each day.
Just recently I was talking with a friend much older than I who confided that she was having the same experience. Are we trying to do too much I wondered? Are we feeling there’s-more-time-behind-us-than-ahead-of-us discomfort? Have we aged and slowed down that much physically? Or are we trying to put two quarts into a one-quart jar?
Regardless of what causes this feeling, Oscar and I have had our fill of being overwhelmed each day by what we hope to accomplish. Now every morning he makes a “to do” list to keep in the pocket of his T-shirt, and I make a list of “gotta-get-dones” in a small spiral notebook to carry in my pocket or purse.
We hoped that would solve our problem but it didn’t. His list and my notebook just reminded us both of the time-hungry chores we hoped to get done that were still waiting for us, sometimes for weeks.
So the other day we came up with a new idea – a task-of-the-day item we call it our TOD that we’ve specified as our 24-hour target. For me the first one was to weed and trim the greenery around our house. It took several hours in shirt-sweating heat, but when it was done I felt so-o-o good. For Oscar it was processing the mail and papers that had collected in a carton by his bedside. And then there was the wonderful TOD we worked on together – deciding which books in one of our 13 bookcases we were ready to donate to the library.
It feels a bit crazy but organizing the chores this way and following through with our decisions each day is energizing some how. There is a new satisfaction that we seem to be directing the action. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by these things, we’ve gained control of a runaway coach and are now driving it instead of being dragged.
What I like best about this new plan is the feeling of satisfaction I have when I get into bed each night. Upon reflection, I guess what we really did was cut a huge piece of food into bite-sized pieces. Instead of choking on an enormous mouthful we’re now able to relish each bite, enjoy the flavor of accomplishment and experience the pleasure of chewing and swallowing a task that we had previously dreaded.
Of course, I realize this will not work for everyone. And the discipline required may not last for Oscar and me. But somehow, accomplishing one specific waiting task each day makes us feel our time has been well-spent, which somehow seems to slow things down a bit. As chores get done and the waiting list gets shorter, we feel that time has become a friend rather than an enemy, and we have more freedom to enjoy the hours and days that we have left.
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.”