To some, the title of this post may seem an odd statement from a septuagenarian. Certainly Mick Jagger was nowhere near that age when he sang those song lyrics in 1964.
Yet time is merely a construct of the imagination that can be perceived in many ways. I think how one views time will be consistent with how one views most abstract concepts. Being a “glass-half-full” kind of gal, I look for the bright side of things.
I feel I’m richer in knowledge for the years on my timeline and, I’d like to believe, wiser. I certainly have more confidence in myself because of the time I’ve spent living and learning. I prefer to look at my years lived as a valuable asset and just as important as the years I have yet to live.
Over time, I’ve learned what does and does not work for me.
In my 20s and 30s, I hadn’t been on this Earth long enough to know better, and I followed what I was told and observed, even when my inner voice told me to be different. In retrospect, I’ve come to realize that most of the decisions I question are the ones I made to be like everybody else—choosing the traditional path that baby boomers were spoon-fed as the road to success.
Still, I wonder, what if I had jumped in the van with the sexy, handsome guy from Key West and gone to California instead of finishing out my junior year at Ohio U? Or—perhaps less dramatic but equally life-changing—what if I had transferred to CBS-TV in Los Angeles instead of staying in New York and taking the job in the publishing division in 1976?
Looking back, I don’t blame myself or regret the choices—even if I sometimes ponder the paths not taken.
Whether I took the high road or the detour, the roads I traveled make it possible for me to believe that at this point in my life, time is on my side. It is because of my accumulated years of experience that I can, at 70, take the skills I’ve honed over my lifetime and begin to use them in an entirely new way. I can live a soul-led life and confidently choose to follow my intuition over the prevailing rationale if there’s a conflict.
Not to say that I haven’t woken up in a panic at times when I chose the road less traveled, thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” When Joe and I sold almost all our belongings and were about to take off to travel across the country in a 20-year-old Jeep Cherokee with 250,000+ miles, more than once I awoke steeped in sweat, wondering if we were crazy.
Yet, a few deep breaths later, I would push the scenario to the next step to answer.
Me, in panic: What if it doesn’t work out? What if we hate living on the road?
Me, after deep breathing: Um, we could come back, get our things out of storage, rent an apartment, and go back to living the more conventional life.
Me, feeling better: Right!
So, the real risk was not giving it a try. Not knowing if there was something more. Dying with our dreams still inside, unexplored. To me, that was the far greater fear.
Time is always valuable, yet still elusive, especially when looking back or looking ahead.
How often have you looked at your reflection in a mirror, or at your child or grandchild and thought, “When did that happen?” But it did, and if we’re fortunate, we can smile at most of the changes time has brought.
And since the look forward can only be a projection of what we want or what we fear, it makes the moment we have now, the present moment, ever so valuable.
We may not know how much time we have ahead of us, but as long as we’re breathing, we have this moment. And if we can make this moment a time of joy, happiness, productivity, reflection, or something we want, then we have every reason to believe the next will follow suit.
There is always enough time on the path to happiness. The only thing that stops us from making good use of our time is worrying that we’re starting too late. It’s never too late to change. All it takes is a strong desire and a bit of courage.
Taking small steps and following our heart’s desires moment by moment will help ensure that when we take our final look in the rearview mirror, we’ll be pleased with the out-picturing of our time here.
This is not new advice. Here’s a translation (there are many versions) of an ancient Buddhist Evening Prayer, said daily in meditation.
I beg to urge you everyone,
Life and death is a great matter,
All things pass quickly away,
Awaken, awaken, take heed,
Make use of this precious life.
Image: '57 Chevy ©Gemignani. Prints available here.
Text ©Shelley Lieber
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