On Turning 59
Today is my birthday. Another year gone by. 59 of them in fact. It feels depressing in that so much time has gone by, seemingly in the blink of an eye. Yet, it also feels good to know that I’ve made it this far.
They say that inside every old man is a young man looking at his body and wondering “what the hell happened?” I get that feeling sometimes, especially when I see a picture of myself that someone, usually a family member, has taken. For just an instant, the thought enters my head, “Who is that old man?” Oh, it’s me. Bummer.
But this is not a blog about feeling sorry for all the good times that have gone by. This is a blog about being OK with where you are right now – and feeling even better about where you’re headed.
In one of John Denver’s songs he wrote, “I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time, all the things I’ve done and how it’s been, and I can’t help believing in my own mind, I know I’m gonna hate to see it end.”
Same here. Looking back, I’ve done a lot of things I’m grateful I got to do. I served in the military, fought in Viet-Nam, lived in Japan and Thailand for a year and a half, raised two wonderful sons I’m immensely proud of. Any yes, there’s a lot of things I wish I could go back and re-do. I do miss that younger version of me.
John Denver’s song then goes on to say, “The days they pass so quickly now, the nights are seldom long, time around me whispers when it’s cold. The changes somehow frighten me, still I have to smile, it turns me on to think of growing old.”
But times have changed, and so have I. The light of my life now are my grandkids. They’re the ones that keep me young with their boundless energy as well as the wonder in their eyes when they see a butterfly land on a leaf. To them, nothing is impossible – and they make me believe it too.
Slowing Down Time
When you’re a kid, you notice everything. In fact, you “see” time in really small increments – how many more soap opera until your favorite show comes on, how many ticks of the clock before recess, how many more classes before you get to go home. Your entire day is a progression of moments and you notice each and every one of them. That’s why it seems to take forever for class to end. When you look towards the future, you see an endless stream of similar moments and you know deep in side that you’ve got all the time in the world. That’s the way it feels when you’re young.
However, once you get older, you begin to “see” and experience time in bigger and bigger chunks. Need to pick up milk after work. PTA meeting on Wednesday. Expense reports due on Friday. Billie’s birthday next month. See the difference? We tend to live our lives in the future, always worrying and thinking about the next appointment or the next item that’s due on our schedule. And if you’re always living for tomorrow, you tend to forget about today.
Kids never think about tomorrow, or next week, or next month – not unless it’s their birthday, of course. Kids never worry about the homework due on Monday. They’re way too busy enjoying the weekend today.
Adults, on the other hand, can’t remember what they had for breakfast this morning, or even what they actually did during the day. Why? Because they tend to “see” time in bigger and bigger chunks – and they lose all the day-to-day details in the process.
So how do you “slow down” time? How do you “be a kid again” and actually experience the present moment for once? Well, first, be aware of what’s happening. Be aware that time hasn’t sped up just because you’ve gotten old. You’re just noticing bigger chunks of it. Why? Because it’s not new to you anymore. You’ve seen it all before, right? Sure – but that attitude is also blinding you to the rich details that color life and make it so meaningful.
See with Young Eyes
So make an effort to notice the details. I know you’ve driven past the same vacant lot day after day on the way to work without noticing anything new. Then one day, you see they they’ve opened a new strip mall. “Where did that come from?” you ask. “That wasn’t there yesterday!.” Well, yes it was. You just didn’t notice the lot being cleared, the surface being graded, the foundation being poured, the walls going up, the roof being installed. All those details you lumped together and missed.
How do you notice the small details? How do you see with young eyes again? Practice. Right now, take a deep breath. As you exhale, focus all of your attention to the spot just below your nose. Feel the breath flow over your skin. Is it warm? Which nostril did it come out of? The left? The right? Both?
Take another deep breath only this time, notice the breath going in. Again, focus all your attention on the spot of skin just below your nose. What did that breath feel like? Was it different than the previous one? How so? Was it longer? Smoother? Deeper or more shallow?
If you do this for a couple of minutes, you’ll realize that each breath is different. If you’ll be still for a moment and focus, you’ll notice the differences. In the same way, each second of our life is different.
All you have to do is notice.