A Poor Life, This

Here we are, halfway through December already. Before we know it it will be 2014. It’s astonishing to me how fast the days are flying by. When I was little, my parents used to say this all the time and I used to think they were a bit nutty to be honest. How could days possibly go faster? To me they dragged. Hauling myself to school every day, sitting through the dreaded maths lessons, listening to the bored history teacher droning on about corn laws, dragging a bag full of text books home to do the homework each night. Time certainly didn’t fly for me.

Then, as I got older, I noticed that this strange phenomenon seems to be true. The older you get the faster time goes. I wake up each Monday morning thinking, “Here we go again, then. Another week.” Before I know it, it’s Friday evening and I’m heading out of the office door calling to everyone to  have a good weekend. It’s quite scary, actually. When you get to a certain age you suddenly realise that you no longer want time to fly at all. In fact, you want it to stop taking giant leaps forward and start making tiny fairy steps. So much to do! So little time!

I was thinking this morning about my birthday. It was back in June and was the big one. The day I turned fifty! It was a fabulous day as it turned out and I had a great weekend away with daughters, daughters-in-law, sister and sister-in-law. But that was almost six months ago! How did that happen? It was just a few weeks ago in my mind. It was quite a shock to realise how long ago it actually happened, and to realise that I’m almost as close to my fifty-first birthday as I am to my fiftieth.

Maybe the trick is to stop waiting for things to happen “in the future” and start noticing what’s going on today. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about my mythical future. I imagine all sorts of things and look forward to special days. Even simple things like wishing the week away so it will soon be weekend again … what about actually noticing the day we have and making the most of it? If we concentrate on the “now” will time slow down again?

When I was at school I don’t think I had time to think about the future so much. I was busy with schoolwork, with meeting my best friend and trying to discover the meaning of the universe (yes, really. We had very long discussions about the nature of God and trying to make sense of life. We were very strange fourteen-year-olds). There was music to listen to, books to read, films to see, boys to drool over…each day was packed with adventure and – well – happenings. We would head home from school, do our homework, eat our tea, then either meet up or telephone each other and talk for hours about what we’d done that very day. What we found to talk about I have no idea, but the point is we lived in that day. That very day was all that existed for us back then. We didn’t harp on about the past or think too much about the future. There was too much information to dissect from the day we were in.

Is that what makes the difference? When you’re older you are constantly making plans. You are looking ahead all the time. There are bills to budget for, events to attend, holidays to plan, meetings coming up, assignments to hand in. It’s all future stuff that takes up the now. Because we are forever looking ahead we perhaps fail to live in the present, and before we know it the day has gone and we are onto the next without even noticing what happened.

I’m becoming more aware of this and realising that each day should count. Maybe if I take notice of everything that’s happening right now and stop worrying or dwelling on what might happen, or looking ahead too far, the days will become fuller, richer and will appear to slow down a little. I sometimes think my fourteen-year-old self was a bit wiser than her fifty-year-old counterpart. She lived in the day. Maybe it’s time I remembered that and tried to copy her.

The rushing around and missing the moment is always more pronounced at this time of year. Christmas is nearly here and our days are given over to preparation and planning. We rush around trying to organise shopping trips, wrapping sessions, dinner plans, present-buying and  card-writing. Who is going where for Christmas dinner? What should we serve for the main course? Will Auntie Mavis really buy us talcum powder yet again? What can we get Uncle Fred, the man whose only interest is watching Holby City and rolling his own?  Life is especially frantic in December, and as we tear around trying to ensure we have the perfect Christmas (is there such a thing?) we really do miss out on each precious day.

As W H Davies put it so beautifully…

What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?

—No time to stand beneath the boughs, And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.

Have a great week xx

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