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.

Time Well Spent

I was hurrying to my car early yesterday when I heard someone call, “Good morning!”  Looking around, I saw that my neighbors, whom I know only slightly, were in their back yard with their toddler son.  As I waved back at them, they scooped up their son and brought him over to the fence for me to see.  “He’s going to be one-year old this coming Tuesday,” they told me proudly.  I admit that I hesitated for a few seconds, because I was running late for church, and didn’t really have time to stop and talk.  But then I did the right thing and went over to meet them at the backyard fence to admire their son and chat a bit.   I ended up being even later for church than I usually am, but it was more than worth not hurting the feelings of the very nice young parents who live behind us.

We rarely have enough people on our walking shifts at the local animal shelter where I volunteer,  which means we are usually working as fast as we can to make sure all the dogs get out for their daily walk.  Often, people visiting the shelter will approach us with their questions, and our usual response is to direct them to the staff at the front desk, who are happy to help them.  But every once in a while, we are approached by someone who wants to tell us about a beloved pet that has recently passed away, because it’s not uncommon for people to look for a new pet while they are still grieving for their old one.  And when that happens, we pause for a little while to hear their stories.  Grieving people need the chance to express their sorrow, and that can only happen if we take the time to listen.

Of course there are times when we truly are too busy to pause, even for a couple of minutes, just because someone wants our attention.  But I also believe that there are many times when we just hurry on our way, believing that we don’t have the time to deal with someone else’s problems, or can’t possibly spare a moment on someone who isn’t an integral part of our day-to-day life.  And that’s a shame, because that means we’ve lost an opportunity to form a real connection to another human being, especially at a time when the other person desperately needs that connection.

IMG_1767Most of us do live busy lives and keep hectic schedules, and aren’t always able to “stop and smell the roses” as the old saying goes.  That means time is a precious commodity, and like all precious commodities, it should be spent wisely.  But there is a difference between spending our time wisely and hoarding our time with little or no regard for the needs of others.  And when we are able to be generous with our time, and use it to truly help someone else, then that is always time well spent.

Winter Time

IMG_0963Like most people who are on the “wrong side of fifty,” I’ve reached a stage in my life where time has become a precious thing.  I know that I have more years behind me that I do ahead of me, which means I have to be more intentional about how I use the time I have left.  And this time of year, with its ever-shortening days, can make it particularly hard to find time for all the extra activities that Christmas brings for those of us who celebrate it.  I love all the baking, wrapping, decorating and parties that Christmas brings, but I really wish it came with a few extra hours each day just to deal with it all.

Since I have yet to figure out a way to find those extra hours, I try very hard to use the time I do have wisely.  When I was young enough to believe I had all the time in the world, I didn’t think twice about taking on new commitments, but now I do.  It may have taken me a few decades, but I have finally figured out that when I’m over-committed, I am also frazzled and cranky, and not pleasant company at all (just ask my husband).  The key, I think, is to keep a clear set of priorities in my head of what is necessary, what is important, and what is just plain fun.  Because if something I am being asked to do doesn’t fit into one of those three categories, then what’s the point of doing it?

The necessities are pretty much the same for most people, as they are the things that keep us going and our households running.  What’s important to us and what is fun for us is much more individual, and requires some thought.  For me, it’s important to spend time with the people I care about, to help others in need whenever I am able, to use the few talents I have been given, and to always find a way to be creative.  My definition of fun changes as I age, but I still know fun when I see it, and sometimes what is important is also fun.

Last night I was lucky enough to spend time with my family walking around the “Garden Glow” at the Missouri Botanical Garden.  It was an almost magical experience with the beautiful music playing as we walked among the gorgeous lights, stopping now and then to take some family photos.  Sure it was the weekend before Christmas and all of us had a long list of things we still need to do, but this was more important, and more fun, than wrapping the rest of the gifts, etc.  It was time well spent, no matter how I looked at it.

IMG_0973There are times when I find the shorter days of early winter a bit depressing, and the chaos of the holiday season a little overwhelming.  But then I realize that those things can also be a gift, because they help me remember that I must always be careful to choose how I spend the time I still have, and how important it is that I always choose wisely.