Unlike the idleness of our younger days though, when we wasted time because we either didn't know any better or as an act of rebellion against confining structures, senior time is precious because, like it or not, we no longer have much of it left. There's a major difference between looking at life from the vantage point of infinite possibilities vs. looking at it as one would a train about to reach its destination.
Because time is now finite, many retirees don't waste precious hours pondering what they want to do, where they want to be, how to live their lives. The existential “Why am I here” question has given way to the practical “How do I enjoy life to the fullest in my remaining time in this world” consideration.
Those of us lucky enough to reach our retirement years with mind and body intact know that the gift of health and life is not to be taken lightly. Every week we hear of people our age or even younger felled by death or disease, morbid reminders that we are inevitably getting closer to our turn.
Thus, we fill our days with plans and dreams – traveling is number one on most retirees' list, learning a new skill and taking up a hobby follow closely. Grandparents embrace “APOstolic” work with gusto, and long-dormant inclinations – like forming a band – are being revived. What this is essentially is pursuing one's bliss, whatever form it takes, wherever it takes you.
To make full use of senior time, one has to set goals, I am constantly reminded. But unlike our younger years when our objectives were large and distant, achievable only through years of struggling, senior goals are within grasp. “I make a list of things I want to accomplish in a day,” my friend Cynthia tells me. Her list includes such mundane tasks as taking the comforters to the laundromat and baking a cake for her granddaughter. The sense of accomplishment is unmatched, she says, because these are things she never managed to do on her own time when she was still working.
I have set a goal of reading cover-to-cover 100 books for 2014, not an easy task because I get interrupted a lot by household chores, socials and other pleasurable obligations, such as putting out this online magazine. Now as we approach the ninth month of this year, I'm starting to be concerned because I've just read 55, meaning I have to cram 45 books in just 127 days.
Will I make it to the magic 100? Not impossible, but a bit frenzied.
And what do I want to get out of this fevered reading? First, to follow my bliss in retirement since reading is my number one favorite activity, and I never managed to finish 20 books a year when I was still working a job, mothering my kids and trying to prove myself to the world. And there are so many wonderful books out there just waiting to be read.
Second, the more time I have to marvel at how much knowledge I still have to gain, the more I feel the need to learn. And one of the lessons I want to master is the art of writing down the stories that I have within me, gleaned from the many experiences I have gone through and the observations I have done of other people. Reading books of various genres helps me refine my thoughts on going about this task.
And if I miss the 100 mark? I'm not going to sweat it, nor will I feel like a failure the way I would have when I was younger. Getting older, after all, is accepting our limitations graciously and welcoming a new day with joy in our hearts, because its one more day granted us to do what we want, when we want to do it.