Life is Precious! What Are Your Plans for the Time You Have Left?
My great-aunt Esther, who lived to be 89, often lamented, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have recovered my chairs 20 years ago!” That expression has inspired me to live my dreams now, whether the dream is to get a pedicure, go on a trip, or build a new home.
My friends and I refer to our Remaining Time as our RT. We’ve decided to honor it by encouraging each other to be present in the moment, and above all, to be grateful for who we are, what we have and the wisdom we’ve gained through the experience of living over six decades.
Since turning 70 almost a year ago, I find my thoughts of RT are sharper, more focused. It’s no longer some nebulous time out there but a precious bundle of minutes, days, months and years in which anything can happen and that will most likely evaporate in the next 20 years.
Judging by how quickly the last 20 years passed, I want to embrace all of my RT with as much awareness as I can, whether that’s in times of joy or sorrow, peace or anxiety, calm or fear. I want to be as present as possible for the whole shebang.
I recently took a month-long trip to visit my 82-year-old sister, Joan, in California, at a time that wasn’t the most convenient financially or time-wise. Still, the pull to visit her and spend some of our RT together was strong. I’d worry about the consequences later.
While I was there, I cleaned out her garage, a job long needing to be done but one she just couldn’t face. For me, it was a way to be physically active and be of service at the same time.
Moreover, it was the right season with long warm days. I put on my favorite style of jazz, set a glass of iced tea on the workbench, and got down and dirty. And I mean that literally.
I found this cleaning job to be both satisfying and emotionally draining. As I took arm loads of recyclables to the bin, cut up a multitude of cardboard boxes and gathered dusty ancient electronics for a charity shop, I kept running into memories that flashed the passage of time in neon recollections.
Old photos had to be gone through together, time traveling us back to our history.
When we’re younger we can’t imagine the end to our existence and I think this denial is a survival technique.
What would move us forward in our youth if we really ‘got’ that it would all be over in a few decades? We have to believe we’re invincible and that difficult things happen to someone else.
Honoring Our Decades
For those of us over 60, who relish our RT, it’s a whole different ball game. We’ve done the striving and accumulating and probably found it didn’t bring real happiness.
Now we work towards goals with a different frame of mind, one built on a foundation of experience. We’ve had the time to sort out what works for us and what doesn’t, what causes us pain and what doesn’t.
Of course, we still experience the gamut of feelings and fears. But I think, at least in my circle of friends, there is a sense that we’ve come this far, been able to take care of ourselves this long, so why wouldn’t that keep happening?
We’ve learned to problem solve for the most part, and we support each other when one of us needs help with it.
Working in the garage made me appreciate having taken care of my body. All those trips to the gym, eating healthy and not smoking have been worth it. I have energy and passion. I’m grateful to be blessed with good health.
In another garage revelation, I felt this was future practice for the end of Joan’s RT (provided mine doesn’t go first). Only then I’ll be doing a whole house.
I can’t imagine life without her and having to do this at the same time. I dug my heels in, ruthlessly expunging the space of detritus, brushing the sadness away.
The trip wasn’t all about the garage though. We spent a lot of time talking about both light subjects as well as serious world troubling situations and the meaning of life. We don’t hold back from each other.
Having a propensity for silliness and childlike behavior, we laughed a lot. This was something we didn’t do as kids, being 12 years apart. Now we fake-bicker,
“No, I didn’t!”
“Did,” and on and on until we belly laugh ourselves silly.
Popping open a bottle of Ferrari Prosecco on our last evening together, we celebrated our sisterhood and deep friendship.
As we spread crème fraiche onto blinis and spooned silky sturgeon caviar on top, we toasted each other and remembered Auntie Esther’s lament. We were glad we’d not put off our precious RT together or bought a cheaper bottle of Prosecco.
Do you think about your remaining time? Is there anything you’re putting off doing? What do you do to celebrate your friendships? Please share your thoughts below!
Susan Tereba, an artist, jewelry designer and writer, has lived in Bali for 27 years. She had 14 years of experience as the primary caregiver for her husband, who had Alzheimer’s. Susan now writes and speaks with the goal of inspiring other caregivers for those with chronic illnesses. Please visit her website for more details.