When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste…
Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before…
Sometimes I contemplate time spent on pursuits that have, frankly, have been less than conducive to my well-being, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.. They suck up huge amounts of time effortlessly, and I am in thrall to it all. — the good and the ugly, including the horrific news displayed daily on the Internet. So much time is spent in this little cocoon of the Internet, or as a friend aptly calls it, “The InterWeb,” that time begins to seem meaningless. There’s no boredom because I’m constantly flitting from one flowering shrub or another, sipping the nectar of the technology gods who have totally upended my life. Pre-Internet Days? What were they like? How quickly we forget, some of us anyway. Young Persons just laugh when they hear about anything as ancient as what occurred-pre-1995.
Days, weeks and months fly by in a state of quietly alarming Internet preoccupation, as if this is life itself in its entirety, and what I choose to read, listen to or watch often takes me often back to the past. Too muchbof that and I’m thinking that’s all there is.
Reading the news online makes me worry senselessly about the future when I’m in this land-of-lost-time bubble, ensnared by endless escapes to other imagined realities, past and present, it doesn’t seem to matter any more. “Homebody,” I tell myself. “Why go out and do things? I never did much of that before. Why change now?”
For some time since I retired, time seems to be dramatically speeding up. The years left are fewer. I worked in various jobs and careers for slightly more than 42 years. Now old age is starting to pass by quickly outside this window I am peering out at life through.. What is left to do?
The small satisfactions and accomplishments of my final job and career of 23 years kept me content enough, but I ask now, “Is there more? What am I doing with the time I have left?”
When I talked to someone recently about this feeling of time “wasted,” he said not to look at it that way. You learn from those experiences, whether they are merely entertaining or “trivial,” or life-affirming and beneficial to the mind and soul. It’s vital to keep moving on, keep learning, keep experiencing the richness of life. Don’t look back with regret.
Is that possible? Actually, I think it is. I have learned a lot. I have changed in some ways. But another question remains: “Do I really want to change? Is that why change is so difficult?”
I think the 70s, where I am now, are a time for me to assess what I have done and accomplished, to sum up and get things figured out before It’s too late. It’s a time to prepare for the possibility of getting actually “old,” even if we would like to live in denial of this fact.
I ask myself, “Am I satisfied with the person I am now, the person I have become?” The answer or answers to that question will determine much of the course of my life in the years to follow. Don’t you think everyone asks themselves that question? Some are content and happy, maybe most people when they’re old, but I have mixed feelings, and the full contentment of elderhood still eludes me.
As I wrote to a friend recently, “It’s simply a fact that old age has crept up on us. That’s the reality. I fill my days with innumerable activities — reading, writing, photography, walks in the gardens and parks nearby — and yet, I come back to this quiet apartment, so full of books and things, but no sign of human life other than myself. By choice? Apparently so. I should know why it’s this way after 72 years.
My mother died almost four years ago this month. She had gradually debilitating dementia and diabetes. I was her full-time caregiver for ten years. A deep void opened up after her passing, and I no longer have a firm and resolute purpose in my life.
In the first two years that she was gone, I maintained an equilibrium because Covid kept me at home mostly, and my siblings and I were about to begin the Herculean task of emptying Mom’s house and getting it ready for sale. This gave me a goal to focus on. Everything went smoothly, and I moved into a nice apartment where I am comfortable, Nevertheless, I find myself feeling more lonely than I ever have, and thus depression is creeping back in. I have to fight it every day now.
One depression sign that alarms me, and believe me, I know them all, is a creeping sense of lethargy and inertia. It’s increasingly difficult to get out of bed to start a new day. It seems like a huge chore to go into the kitchen and fix something to eat at my very strange and irrregular mealtimes. I feel I’m on a reversible downhill slope at the present time, but there’s less and less incentive to do something about this disturbing sense of lassitude and instead I find myself in less beneficial states of solitude than I am accustomed to.
By late in the afternoon and into the evening hours, the dark clouds begin to disperse. It’s likely that I’ve had a nice walk in the park or gardens, taking pictures, which I dearly love to do every day.
Getting out for those walks and short drives, and at least seeing people out in public, dispels some of the loneliness. I desire to seek and find beauty and love. The first of these is easy, for I live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. The second is always elusive. If there never has been, nor will be, that special person to live and share my life with — and not online — then I must find love in the beauty of creation, in Nature, in my small extended family, and in even the most fleeting, seemingly insignificant gestures or responses from others . A beautiful and random smile will do it. Count your blessings and be aware of them everyday, if you aren’t already.
Today I came across these words from the famous trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow. He said:
At 72 (my age) I am far from sure that life is less desirable than when I was in my teens.
Age does not destroy all dreams and ambitions. The castles of youth are high and wide, the gates are guarded by giants and ogres. There are battlements to scale and drawbridges to cross, and mortal combat that must be waged ere the victory is won. [By contrast] the castles of age are covered by ivy and lichen, the gentle breeze comes through the trees across a peaceful lake, and the grateful sun warms us as we sit in an armchair and alternately read and doze the time away…
I am not troubled by hopes, and still less by fears. I have taken life as it came, and feel sure that I shall meet the final dissolution without fear or serious regret.
And finally, I’ve been pondering these words of Henri Nouwen:
There are endless “ifs” hidden in the world’s love. These “ifs” enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world’s love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain “hooked” to the world—trying, failing, and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart.