Wednesday, September 5, 2007



Time to kill
Time to waste
It’s about time
Time and again
Time is money
What’s the time?
Time is of the essence
Time passes when you’re having fun

When I think of the myriad of ways we use the word and the concept of “time,” it reminds me a bit of the number of words the Eskimos have to describe “snow.” The clock radio awakes us, and the ticking away of seconds continues throughout the day. We have all noticed that time passes at different rates of speed depending upon what activity we are doing. Time does indeed, seem to pass more quickly when we’re having a good time. An hour in the dentist office can be an eternity. Have you ever noticed, too, that time almost seems to stop when we are engaged in something that requires our concentration? Even technology seems to have redefined the passage of time. Try looking at your emails and checking the latest news on the Internet in the morning… Oh my gosh! Three hours later…

Since my retirement, I have become conscious of “time” in a way I have never experienced before. When I was working, I never had enough time. As efficient as I tried to be, there were always things left undone at the end of each day. I would race through my list, confidently knocking them off, but invariably I always had to transfer some of my today’s list to tomorrow’s to-dos. I still have a list, but it doesn’t have today, tomorrow, or any particular date at the top of it. It is a list of things I would like to do; not things that I have to do. The pressure is off to have to complete anything by a certain time. Retirement has freed me from being a prisoner of a clock’s hands.

A few weeks ago, I was picking up some things in Safeway. The checkout lady asked how I was, and I replied perfunctorily, “Fine, thank you, how are you.” She shared that her ribs were killing her as she had fallen off a stepping stool while trying to get something down from a shelf over the weekend. I said I was sorry, and commiserated with her while she scanned my items.

Last week I happened to get in to her line at Safeway. Once again she said, “Hello, how are you?”
How are you?” I replied. How are your ribs? Did the soreness go away? She seemed genuinely pleased that I had remembered, and we had a nice chat.
It occurred to me that before retirement, I really didn’t have the time to engage grocery clerks in a conversation. My mind was elsewhere; on all the things I had to do; trying to sort through how I was going to get them all done. My eyes were averted- Just get the items scanned and totaled, swipe the card; bag them up; and I was off. Efficiency of time was of utmost importance.

Now spending time becomes the focus. I have it to spend – how am I going to spend it wisely and well? The choice is mine!
Other ways in which time has changed for me are when I am walking along the streets of San Francisco. Before, invariably, I had a destination: head down, feet moving in the correct direction. Now, often I am ambling…just out because walking is good for me and it’s a nice day. My head is up; my mind is not preoccupied; so I see new things and notice activity, and make eye contact with people and exchange smiles. The world seems much more humane.

Humane – Humanity - I have just finished reading Dave Egger’s newest book, What’s the What? about a young boy, Valentino, forced from his village in the Sudan, experiencing things at seven years old that would seem impossible for most of us to conceive of, living in refugee camps in Nigeria and Kenya for most of his youth, coming to America and fighting for a chance to get educated. Valentino’s story embodies the extremes of hell and heaven that human beings are capable of. Valentino has every right to be cynical, full of hatred, and completely disheartened by the inhumanity he has seen. Instead, he has a smile that lights up a room; he is articulate, positive, and has taken it upon himself to make sure the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan is heard. His story is compelling, but at first I felt removed and disconnected. I live a charmed life in San Francisco. Africa – The Sudan- are so far away. At my age, I do not plan to go to Africa and volunteer. But Egger’s book took hold of me in a different way. As I sit here at a café watching people go by, I look at them and ask, “What is your story?” I don’t mean to belittle the horrendous experiences Valentino was forced to endure; certainly all of us in San Francisco are better off. Yet we all have stories of struggle and loss and triumph and disappointment and laughter and hurt and isolation. Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a Village,” but those villagers need TIME if they are going to be able to notice others. Perhaps the conclusion I must make is that compassion and humanity towards others will never be achieved unless we take the time to recognize the common struggle in each of us; unless we take the time to listen to each other's stories; until we take the time...


Anonymous said...

Another aspect of time in retirement is the bookend phenomenon. There are usually a few things you need or want to do each day that are connected to a specific time: say, cocktail hour or breakfast. Or a late morning doctor's appointment and a late afternoon movie. Those fixed or semi-fixed events serve as opposite edges of a time span. They're definite. In between are loose, free, uncommitted (or whatever you want to call them) seconds, minutes and hours. That happy void is one of the great gifts of retirement People who find that freedom too empty and rush to fill it miss experiencing one of the great flows of life.

nanwebware said...

I will have to think about that: The book end phenomenon... Yes- and often, when I have specific, semi-fixed activities or appointments, it makes the free time a bit sweeter!

Anonymous said...

My time-
I love a day with nothing scheduled---true I do the same things I usually do, but I can start and stop them whatever the mood. This morning I started on a short walk and when I was about to come back, I realized I could make the 2-mile loop with no big problems, had the time, wrong shoes but so what, and so I did. No one was waiting for me --no one knew or cared....such is retirement. And then there is always a nap....
I did enjoy your blog too