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Sheila Stoll: Time is not my friend

According to physicists, time is not a straight line. It curves. Wormholes and wrinkles in time exist, at least theoretically. Those are hard concepts that my tiny mind finds difficult to engage. In my experience, time is distinctly linear. My problem is figuring out why time doesn't always seem to travel at the same speed. For instance, why can the days and weeks seem to drag by while years vanish in the twinkling of an eye? Both Darling Husband and I have made huge mistakes trying to remember how many years ago some particular event took place. Is it even remotely possible that my older daughter will be 50 next year? Half a century? How is that possible? Clearly, this is warped time in action. Or maybe I slipped through a wormhole. Darling Husband says he just retired recently. Maybe he slipped through a different one.

I'm certainly not the first to observe that, in my childhood, summer vacation ranked right up there with infinity in my childish mind. Likewise the days before Christmas slowed down excruciatingly for the sole purpose of prolonging the agony of anticipation.

Now it's difficult for me to believe that it's already time to refill all those stupid (and expensive) prescriptions. When I have the new ones in my hot little hands, the amount looks to me like there should be enough in those big bottles to last the rest of my life.

It was just yesterday that I knew I must be approaching light-speed acceleration by going online. (Oops. That was nine years ago.) I don't need high-speed broadband and the increased convenience it would give all my online activities. But when I mention that my phone is busy because we have a dialup connection, people either laugh or begin treating me as if I'm clearly slow in every way. Then they tell me that if all else fails, I can use my cell phone to call while online and I know they refer to that horrible little handheld device whose buttons are difficult to see, let alone press with any accuracy. The very thing that becomes unhearable if I move my head. Why would I willingly use that thing? Free minutes on weekends? My weekend minutes have been free for seven decades. So are all those other minutes. Nothing has ever been urgent enough to make me wish that I could do four or five things at once, short of life-threatening medical emergencies.

Younger multitasking go-getters think that retirement will be a time of endless golden days with time to do intricate woodworking, finally write that novel or take a course in cooking northern Italian cuisine that will bring praise and supreme culinary satisfaction. Guess what, kiddies, your golden years are the time when you're suddenly aware that time is short and getting shorter every day, and it exactly coincides with your increasing inability to actually do the things you'd planned to do. Yes! It's a cruel joke.

Stop calling me a Golden Ager and assuming I'm free to tend your houseplants or babysit your dog, let alone your children. I'm really busy trying to assure that I will have a tomorrow (which I probably won't if I don't get to the pharmacy for more of those wretched pills).

Time is not my friend. It never stops trying to trick me. "Oh, you have plenty of time. Don't worry, it doesn't expire until next month." And then I realize this is next month. It has been next month for three days.

I got a letter last week from a reader who will be 101 this year. It was beautifully written in every sense: It was thoughtful and to the point and written in beautiful, flowing Palmer Method script. It fairly took my breath away. Now there's a woman for whom time is life in a very immediate way. Yet she took some of her precious time to write to me. (Thank you, Marguerite!)

Time is life for all of us, in spite of its tendencies to expand and contract. It would be nice to take the long, scientific view of time, complete with warps and wormholes. But for me, time is an elastic waistband. It expands and contracts according to my own emotional girth. One of these days the elastic will wear out and no longer accommodate my perceptions. In the meantime, I'll try not to waste much of it. As long as it keeps my pants up, I'm good to go. That's how I roll.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Sheila Stoll: Time is not my friend 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 5:30am]
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