"Now you have all the time in the world." If I hear that phrase one more time I'll set the speaker's hair on fire. "How much time do YOU have before that fire reaches your head?"
Many younger people think that retirement means having halcyon, never-ending leisure time to kill, plenty of time to do whatever your little heart desires. That's fine if you have enough money for "forever" and your body defies gravity and all the laws of nature by not wearing out.
Reality check: You DON'T have all the time in the world. You have less time than you have ever had. If you don't use that time, while you're relatively able, your time will end with a big pile of ''woulda, shoulda, couldas.'' It will be right next to the stack of "if only I had . . . s.''
My father didn't have time to play much golf during his working years. When retirement came, they moved to the Sun Belt, to a golfing, gated place with a nice private view of the golf course, which he couldn't use. By then he had circulatory and eye problems that prevented his playing actual golf, but he could watch it, sort of (mostly on TV).
The notion of having oodles of time is a tempting one. But that "forever" attitude leads to postponing things you really want to do while you can still do them. If all you ever wanted to do was sit in a recliner and watch the world go by, you'll be amazed at how slowly and how fast that time goes by. Each day will be slow and the same as all the others. But the years will fly and take your abilities with them.
If, on the other hand, you realize that there's no such thing as "all the time in the world," if you get up and go see those mountains while you can still enjoy them, take that Mississippi River cruise you've always dreamed of, your days will be shorter and you will have gained experiences that will be new memories. Shiny new memories of places you've finally seen beat the heck out of old photographs that are worn with handling.
Those old photos preserve things and people dear to your heart. The trouble is that the old snapshot is all that's left of them. There's a lot to be said for meeting new friends, seeing places you've never seen before.
Fear and complacency are the enemy. It's not really so difficult to forsake the recliner for a comfy seat on a bus and good food prepared by somebody else. People are helpful. I have a disability that makes adventuring a little difficult, but the difficulties don't outweigh the benefits. Strangers on the same tour are always willing to help me. It makes them feel good and it makes that adventure possible for me. If people see me struggling to get on or off a boat, I suddenly have all the help in the world. They all want me to enjoy my adventure.
I hear that stupid clock ticking away, warning me that time is not necessarily my friend. Darling Husband's clock is louder that mine, 12 years louder. We have just returned from a wonderful adventure to a place I thought I'd never see: Dubrovnik, in Croatia. What a wonderful place! The trip was long and tiring. It involved getting on and off buses and trains and a ferry ride across the Adriatic.
We're both still tired, but oh, it was wonderful to go, be there, meet new friends and see those dreamed-of places. So we're tired. So what? Walking through Wal-Mart makes me tired too.
The point is we don't have all the time in the world. Our time is getting shorter, and we are determined to fill it with as many new experiences as we can manage before the old bods demand that recliner and won't let us do new things anymore.
My mother had a healthy sense of adventure. Before my late husband died (which he did at 64, a dramatic shortening of the time we both thought he had), my mother took a trip with us to Cape Town, South Africa, where his family and many friends urged us to come and visit.
She saw the first baboons she had ever seen up close and personal on her 80th birthday.
Okay. So maybe you won't go to Dubrovnik or Cape Town, but there is still the Grand Canyon, or Williamsburg, Va., or the Grand Ole Opry, or Las Vegas or leaf-peeping in Vermont in October, or Dinosaur National Monument, or Big Sur, or . . . You only live once and you've already used up most of that life. Get on with it. Pretend your hair is on fire.
Write to Sheila Stoll in care of LifeTimes, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.