Time Well Spent

Sadly, time is no longer on my side.  Even though I still think of myself as middle aged, I am actually well past the mid-point of my life and fast approaching the “golden years.”  Which means I am always startled (and not in a good way) by what I see in the mirror every morning, and that I have learned to accept that all the hair dye, concealer, push-up bras and cosmetic procedures in the world aren’t ever going to make me look young again.  And I’ve gotten used to that, I really have.  Because at this point in my life, I’m much more concerned with making sure that I don’t waste any of the precious time I actually have left.

A healthy perspective is one of the few gifts of aging, but I think it is a very valuable one.  I no longer believe I can put off the important stuff, counting on a tomorrow that may never come.  If something is important, it deserves to be done now, or at least as soon as possible.  Procrastination is a luxury reserved for the young.

Beyond that, I have a much better sense of what is truly  important.  I used to waste far too much time trying to push myself into situations that didn’t work for me, just because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.  I wasted even more time trying to get the approval of almost everyone in my life, even from people who made it clear time and time again that I wasn’t living up to their expectations.  Now I know that life is too short to waste on people who don’t enrich my life, who aren’t willing to accept me as I am, or who seem intent on trying to shape me into whoever they happen to think I ought to be.

Last weekend, I visited the small town in Kansas where I lived during my preteen and teenage years.  I got together with dear friends I have stayed close to for over forty years, and also got the chance to reconnect with old friends I haven’t seen in far too long.  It was a wonderful weekend full of laughter and memories, and we had a terrific time acting (almost) as silly as we did when we actually were young. And when the weekend drew to a close, we all agreed that we needed to get together again, sooner rather than later.  Because we aren’t getting any younger, and we’re no longer willing to wait quite so long to hang out with people whose company we enjoy so much.

When I was young, I honestly believed that I had all the time in the world to do the things I wanted to do, to spend time with the people I loved, and to chase after each and every one of my dreams.  Now I know better, which could be rather depressing.  But I choose not to look at it that way.  Instead, I have  come to see my aging as a gift that forces me to realize that time is an incredibly valuable commodity, and that I need to spend it wisely.  I just wish I hadn’t waited quite so long to figure that one out.

64 thoughts on “Time Well Spent

      • That’s for sure. Oh, by the way, the photo of you makes you look on the young side of middle age. It’s a nice photo. I enjoy your writing and feel such a kinship with your aging thoughts. One thing it took me a long time to figure out is that it’s ok to say no and that for everything you say yes to, your saying no to something else. I wish I’d lived that better when my four kids had us chasing our own tails for all their activities. All good things but we said yes to too many opportunities and no to far too many relaxing family meals and playing outside before dark. Just one of the things I can mention. I’ll save the rest. So, anyway, my 89 year old mother tells me I don’t have to do anything I really don’t want to do. That when you reach a certain age, it’s ok to be a little selfish with your time so you can do some things you haven’t had time to do in earlier years. Sound advice.

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        • I like the way your mom thinks! And I think so many of us wish that we had learned to say “no” a little earlier in our lives. It’s especially hard when we’re parents, and trying to juggle so many activities that we know our kids enjoy, but that also take up far too much of our time. Maybe it is easier to be more protective of our time when we’re older, because it’s more about us then? I’m not sure, but glad I eventually figured it out!
          And PS: Thanks for your kind words!

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  1. “Do you want to learn to write?” a writer friend asked.
    “Sure,” I said,
    “Start thirty years ago.”

    While there is much truth in what he was saying, it is never time wasted in doing what one wants to do.

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  2. There are so many ‘revelations’ that occur to us as we get older, aren’t there? That said, I prefer to think that I may still have another 30 or more years left and it really doesn’t matter how I spend them as long as I enjoy them and don’t upset other people with whatever it is I choose to do. I’ll be 66 in a few months. There’s still time – or could be – be kind to yourself, Ann. And you’re still going to change as the years go on.

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    • Thanks, Val! And your bring up a good point, our tendency to think that at whatever stage of life we are in, we sometimes believe “this is is.” And yet we continue to change and grow throughout our lives!

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  3. As I have grown older (my golden years!) I seem to be more aware of everything around me. Perhaps it is simply that I have more time to savor each moment. Like you, I realize my time will not go on forever. Every day is a gift and I cannot waste one of them. Lovely post! You will be just fine – cheers!

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    • Thank you so much! I wonder if our increasing awareness is a combination of having more time to notice what’s around us, and also recognizing that our time isn’t going to go on forever. And it’s good that we recognize the gift of each day!

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  4. In a perfect world, I am 32 again and embarking on a new career choice: I still have the same masters’ but I am adding to it: I meet my husband sooner: we have one or two children: and the list continues. In my world, I was busy travelling to Europe, Asia, etc. while my husband was in the military. If we met sooner, I would have traveled with him together instead of alone. But then again, I could have been in the Towers on 9/11 or in the area. I am grateful though that I traveled many places at the height of my physical endurance and when I didn’t have a house to take care of. I know one day, I will retire and we will do some short traveling but I am always grateful that my mom told me, “Do as much as you can.” She was most likely my greatest motivator and I do have step children and 6 grand children.

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    • That was very good advice your mom gave you! When I was in college, I had the chance to go with a student group to England for four weeks and didn’t take it. Partly due to money, partly due to fear of traveling with people I didn’t know that well, and partly because I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend for that long. I have always regretted that decision. Good for you for traveling while you could. And all of us have things we would have done differently if we could, I think. It’s just part of life.

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      • Yes, my mom was an anomaly. She would often say half in jest that if she had to do it all over again, she would be the mistress of a wealthy man and not get married. She as a beautiful woman. Her mom forbade her becoming an airline stewardess and she followed her advice. She was always very supportive of us. Growing up during the depression in the City of New York made her very strong.

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  5. Wow, I enjoy your words. Thank you for this!

    Two sayings spring to mind… the first from my home town that has a strong German heritage; “We get to soon old and too late smart.” I like to say, “Better late than never.”

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    • Thanks, Alan! I think growing old gracefully is our only good option at this point… As much as we wish we knew in our youth what we know now, it doesn’t work that way. So all we can do is make the most of the years we have left!

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  6. Very poignant message here, Ann. I do think many of us waste too much time when young on people and things that don’t matter, and you’re right that we don’t have the luxury of wasting time as we get older. I’m glad you had fun with your friends!

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    • Thanks, Kim! It is a shame that we don’t realize how precious time is until we grow a bit older, and begin to experience the kinds of losses that force us to realize just how uncertain life really is. It is good to hear from you again, my friend! I hope you are taking care of yourself….

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  7. In response to your words of wisdom permit me, dear Ann, to quote from the first chapter of my family history “The Klopp Story”. It expresses the same ideas about procrastination, which you described so well in your post: “There lives an evil spirit in us all. It puts fetters on your feet and shackles on your thoughts. It impedes good deeds and wastes precious time, not minutes, hours, or days, but years, decades, even en entire life span. Many have learned to master it, but I am not one of them. For me, it is a monster of titanic strength and insidious cunning. As long as I can remember, I have been struggling with this maleficent force that has been leering at my weaknesses and taunting me from within. Yes, I do admit, I often succumbed to it, but also successfully put up resistance against its crafty attempts to lure me into the swamp of idleness when vigorous action was required. That monster is commonly known as procrastination.” Greetings from Canada!

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    • You put it very well, Peter! Procrastination is so hard to fight, and I too struggle with it daily, especially when it comes to chores I’d rather not do. But I’ve found that when I actually finish my “to do” list then I actually have time for the things I want to do.
      Thanks for reminding me why I enjoy reading your blog so much!

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  8. But at least you realize it, understand and acceptbitvwhile making the most of your time. There are so many others that just don’t get it . My fear is they never will. Glad you had a great time. 😊

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    • I know! The worst would be never figuring it out! As for me, I try to think “better late than never.”
      I also apologize for my late reply…I’m not sure how I missed your comment, but I did! Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read and comment!

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  9. Very wise words, Ann. Having just lost my dear Mum, as you know, I am now realising that as I am approaching 60 next birthday (a scary thought), I ought to take heed also. I spend far too much time worrying about what others think of me and not enough time thinking about what I can do to enrich those days that are left to me (hopefully, there will be many but, who knows). There are still a lot of things that I’ve yet to experience so I’d better get a move on!

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    • Yes, that’s how I feel, too! We aren’t old yet, but we are old enough to stop wasting time and to try to do the things that are important and important to us. And again, I’m so sorry about your mother… That is always so hard.
      I’m also sorry I’m late replying to your email. I’m not sure how I missed your comment and George’s comment, but I did. Take care, and thanks!

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  10. Life is an accumulation of experiences, aggregated together with our memories and dreams of what the future will reveal. Accepting that we are the only one, who ever can or will realize who we truly are, and how we feel about that…well, some call it maturity 😎

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  11. I hear Ageing makes a person wiser because then you smile at some things young people hold so dear now. A few years down the line they’ll find out some things don’t really matter. I also believe that we can still do the important things or pursue our dreams no matter the age😀. A great, thoughtful and down to earth post Ann.

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    • Thank you so much! I agree that aging does make us wiser, because we are able to put things into perspective and have a better sense of what is truly important. I also agree that we are never, ever to old to pursue our dreams!

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  12. What a wonderful life affirming post Ann with sentiments that I echo. It’s one of the reasons why I love travelling and why we didn’t put off our big trip. None of us know how much time we have and life is just too precious to wait or put off doing. So glad you had such a lovely catch up with your old school friends Every day counts doesn’t it? xo

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    • Thanks, Miriam! It was wonderful to see them again, and it did make me realize that spending time with them needs to remain a priority. One of the advantages of aging is that we begin to fully realize what is important and what is not, and that’s where we spend our time. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip!

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