We need reminders.
Arguably, at a point in life (and certainly for people in the last third of life), reminders can be more valuable than new information. They are like old friends. You re-connect and remember why you valued them.
Reminders about time are valuable to me any time.
I can get caught up in my lifelong habit of acting as if time is abstract and unlimited, that it’s on my side, that there is an endless stream of hours and weeks and months and years that stretch beyond the horizon.
Of course, that’s not true. There is an end. Time is finite for us all. We are closer to the end as we age. Surprises can steal what’s left. And decades tend to pass so much faster than we anticipated.
Quotes and lists are good reminders.
Seth Godin recently wrote this:
"Either you're spending your time.
Or your time is spending you."
Annie Dillard wrote,
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,
“Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day.”
And there's this wonderful passage from the writer Willa Cather (1873-1947):
“These coppers, big and little, these brooms and clouts and brushes, were tools; and with them one made, not shoes or cabinet-work, but life itself. One made a climate within a climate; one made the days, — the complexion, the special flavor, the special happiness of each day as it passed; one made life.”
— Shadows on the Rock
I like to collect inspiring quotes. They are touchstones. Elegantly wrapped reminders.
Lists help too. In the same way that we need reminders about savoring fleeting time, it helps to be reminded of meaningful ways to spend our time so it doesn't spend us, and not just bucket-list goals, but things we can do and people we can connect with on any given day.
Create three columns: How. Why. When.
How: Have lunch with Jonathan.
Why: Because we care about each other and both try hard when together. I want that.
How: Write for 15 for 20 minutes whatever is on my mind.
Why: Because it helps me focus on what’s important.
When: Every morning
How: Offer [this] to [this non-profit group bettering the world in some way]
Why: Because they need people like me and I need to give back to feel whole.
When: Next week (but don’t put it off any longer).
Once you start, the list will grow. Then when you feel like retirement is a yawning stretch of empty time, refer back to your list of what matters. And to your quotes about why.