REFLECTIONS: On Liberalism

Older and Busier Than Ever

In the comments on last week's post about Chapter 6 of Dr. Robert Butler's book, The Longevity Prescription - all about the importance of exercise – Elizabeth Rogers posted this:

“Back when I was putting in 60+ hour workweeks, I so looked forward to semi-retirement, which I've finally reached at 73. But now that I'm here, where's all that wonderful free time I dreamed I'd have to read, think or just do nothing? Actually, there isn't much!

“On top of what has to be done, there are all the things we're told we SHOULD be doing: preparing nutritious meals from scratch, exercising like crazy, clipping coupons, volunteering, being social, keeping up with all the latest political, medical and financial information. WHEW!!

“Guess what? I do the best I can...I'm no super-elder. I'm just an ordinary person who, even now, can't do it all!”

I hear you, Elizabeth. Loud and clear. It drives me nuts. And wears me out.

For much of my career, I was jumping on and off airplanes to U.S. cities and around the world. I don't know how many hours a week I worked, but the average was certainly way above the standard 40 and often included weekends. I had an active social life too, dated a lot, regularly gave parties for 20 or 30 people and more frequently, dinners for four or six – and did all the cooking.

No maid service for me, I kept the apartment clean on my own, paid the bills on time and got the laundry done. I went to lots of movies and plays with friends, read several newspapers each day and tons of books over the years.

I had plenty of time in those days to wander around Greenwich Village with no particular destination, spend more hours than I liked at the hair salon, hang out in book stores all afternoon, listen to music at home and at concerts, visit museums on whim and I wasted a lot of time back then getting silly with friends smoking pot. Not to mention the amazing amount – in retrospect - of sex I indulged in.

And not infrequently, I sat around wondering why I had nothing to do at that moment.

But these days? I'm always behind. Didn't I just sweep up the cat food Ollie scatters about the kitchen? I guess not; it's crackling under my feet. Why am I suddenly out of clean underpants? How come there's no milk for cereal? Maybe I'll go to an afternoon movie today – oh, damn, I haven't written tomorrow's blog post and my brain is empty. And (so sorry, Dr. Butler), I haven't done my walk yet, let alone picked up those birthday gifts I need.

Some variation on that goes on constantly. I can never check off everything on the to-do list.

One of the big things that is different nowadays is the internet. There is always another email – or 10 or 20 - to answer, another webpage to read, another link to follow. Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge, in a comment on the same post as Elizabeth's, wrote:

“I had become lazy and my pattern had been to go straight to the computer upon rising. Hours later found me still reading stuff on the Internet and still in my nightgown.”

No kidding. My invariable morning routine, beginning around 5AM, goes like this: brush my teeth, turn on the computer, start the coffee, feed the cat, make the bed, clean the litter box, pour the coffee, sit down at the computer. Like Darlene, I could often be found still there, in my nightgown, at noon.

About a year ago, thoroughly fed up with my grungy-feeling self, I made a rule that I cannot shower and dress later that 7:30, and I have stuck with it although not without an internal battle some mornings. Plus, unless I am out of the house, never more than an hour goes by that I don't check the computer and spend a whole lot of time lost in cyberspace.

The computer, in all its functions, is the biggest time suck I've ever known. Supposedly, it is more efficient to pay bills online, but I suspect that by the time I sort them, enter the information, double- and triple check that I've put each amount in the correct boxes, chosen the right pay date and filed all the statements in the proper computer folders, I could have written the checks and stamped the envelopes more quickly.

In her comment, Darlene vowed, “I will spend more time on my body and less time on the computer.” Good luck to her. I don't think it's worth the mental effort for me to try; I know I would fail – and I fail at so many personal vows that I don't want something else to feel guilty about.

There is no question that the computer, for me, takes away a lot of time I used to spend on all the other stuff of life. But age contributes too. I know I'm slower, that my stamina for pushing the vacuum cleaner around is not what it once was and my energy at any physical task flags faster than it did in my middle years.

So if I once cleaned the entire house on Saturday mornings, now I need a rest after cleaning one bathroom. And you know where that rest period is spent – the computer. Another hour shot.

I also think life is just generally more time consuming than it was 20 or 30 years ago. If you need to call any kind of customer service, it will take a minimum of 30 minutes often without resolution so that another 30 minutes will be required tomorrow or the next day.

And that's not counting the accumulation of lost time tracking the cell phone. In the old days, the phone stayed where it always was.

There used to be human beings in the grocery market to ask questions of. Nowadays, there are so few I'd be better off wandering every aisle to locate an item I can't find than try to track down an employee.

God knows I could be wrong, but bank or credit card or delivery screw ups seem to happen more frequently than when I was younger, taking more time from life to sort them out. And living in Lake Oswego now, I often must drive 30 minutes to a shopping mall to get ordinary items (like gift wrap, on my current list) that no one in town carries and the mall is so damned big, I have to drive between the stores.

I don't mean to keep harping on New York City, but there wasn't anything I could possibly need there that I couldn't find within a five-minute walk.

So, Elizabeth, you're not alone. The ordinary stuff of everyday life just takes longer now and when you're older and slower, double the time. No wonder days and weeks and years fly by while we ask ourselves where they went.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Intruder - Cops and Robbers


What comfort to know that I'm in such good company with time issues :)And no, I do not spend that much time on the computer, probably 1-2 hrs. per day. You're correct Ronni about less stamina these days, but then there is less to do with a smaller home, no yard work, less to cook, yada, yada. I'm not sure what's causing this, but I do know that I "hate" it!! DD

"God knows I could be wrong, but bank or credit card or delivery screw ups seem to happen more frequently than when I was younger, taking more time from life to sort them out."

I agree, Ronni, and think I have the answer to so many mix-ups in our bank,credit card and Utility bills.

The young people who succeeded us in those service jobs think they are great Multi-taskers. They can listen to the radio,text their friends,and put together our Visa bills all at the same time. NOT! There are so many mistakes made they should be ashamed.And, as you said, we have to spend hours sorting it all out.

When we were working there were no such distractions. If you ever got a personal telephone call, it meant somebody died. You were expected to give 100% of your attentionj to the job at hand,and we did.

The young people today do not give 100% of their attention to anything,even driving their cars!

My bills are paid automatically and I check my bank account a couple times a week to verify payments. Much easier and quicker that way.
I do know what you mean about how browsing the internet can become a habit that takes more time than you want to spend and I too get coffee and spend time on the computer, but only about an hour in the morning, then I stop and make breakfast and then have other chores to take care of. Some days I am not back on the computer until evening.

It makes me feel better that I am not the only one who looks so much at the computer in the morning still in my night wear. Then I go back downstairs to get a second cup of coffee and watch Jon Stewart’s rerun at 10 am. I feel bad sometimes that I spend so much time on the computer but I really enjoy reading all the blogs on my list. If I did not, then I would be totally isolated (with my husband) as I still know no one around here.

I used to always read the newspaper around breakfast. Now I can read four or five of them and instead of stopping with the local stuff, I can find out what's a problem all around the world. I like it but not sure it's healthy!

I am still trying to spend less time on the computer. I have stopped reading every political rant that comes in my in-box and I walk before turning it on now, which forces me to get dressed earlier. Keep wishing me luck because my motivation never lasts for long. If I am not careful I will start making excuses for not getting out there.

I just have to keep reminding myself that I am in bad shape and it isn't going to get better if I don't make it so.

Me too, me too. I'm over here waving my arms in the air.

Retirement time has filled very fast with all of the above plus school. Mary cleans my house, so I am solely responsible for the disaster my home becomes on a daily basis.

Earlier this month, I lost consciousness. Did you know they take your drivers license away if you do that. I now bus, sometimes taking three to run an errand...only two to get to the dentist's office. Now that I'm on foot again, there's far less time to spend on the computer....darn it. I so like reading blogs when I should be writing. Did I mention that too? LOL.

I agree about the computer. It is one distraction after another, thoughts building on thoughts, leading down new rabbit holes. For instance, I have spent several minutes considering how much I love the word "underpants" and how it seems to be popping up more and more. Why is that? The word is fun in some way. Is it because it is so utilitarian,and free or gender or provocative associations? Is it because it sounds childlike and innocent? I haven't done any "research" yet on the usage of "underpants" but sadly I may before the day is out. And so it goes!

Ronni, I must have wrote this post :) Agree on all of it. I have been in my new smaller home for one year. Thought I would have more time. Have not found it. Have added several hours almost daily gardening. Have not been able to read the growing stack of books but with cold winter months - maybe I can read.

I'm laughing so much about the "underpants" thing Peg wrote, I can't remember the profound thought I thought I had! Oh yeah...I am worried that I will never learn the discipline of organizing my time. I haven't learned it yet. Time is speeding up according to Susan Sontag. I heard her speak about it once when when I had less time than I seem to have now yet I had time for that talk. Now I am slowing down and I can't remember her point.

"Squirrel!" (reference to the movie "Up")

It's after 9am and I'm in my bathrobe and online. I did get a couple of glasses of water down with my meds but that's the extent of it. I am cooking from scratch, making vats of stuff I have to freeze. Sunday I was gone all day fiddling around. It took me all month to finish reading two books. I have grandgirls two days a week. Monday shows up suddenly and my list has one thing crossed of it. It took me two weeks to finish letting the air out of their swim pool so I could put it in the garage. Make that can put it in today for sure. When I was first married in the 60's I could clean my whole house Saturday. I'm now in a similar sized house I can't vacuum the whole thing in one go. And the yard, HELP! I probably should pack for this weekend now, ha, ha. I see an apartment in my future. Send the Boy Scouts if it snows this year ;-).

Folks here will appreciate what happened to us this morning. Overnight there was an audible thump .. couldn't imagine what had happened. Looked in the closet this morning and saw that the pole hanger I put in 18 years ago had given way -- piles of stuff all over the floor. Yikes.

So suddenly what was already going to be a packed day (I work from home in addition to all the usual) is filled with cleaning the closet and rehanging stuff. Have been meaning to do it for some years, but this event is going to throw off the whole week as today's agenda gets pushed into tomorrow ... etc.

I too feel as if I just can't seem to get everything done. I suspect I may, in my freedom from usually going to a worksite, be simply asking more of myself than is possible.

I think I'll print this out on a piece of PAPER and tape it up somewhere near the computers as a reminder!

How true! How true! And now I feel much better about all of the time I spend online because I'm in such good company.

Don't think I've ever met a person anywhere who spent a lifetime in NYC - that didn't want to go back!

Again, "You can the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl."

I've wondered how I used to get everything done when still working. Then I wake up and remember that I didn't! Some of those things simply didn't get done. No gardening or going to libraries, for example.

The computer certainly does take up time. I used to paint, but since our group withered away it's not fun to do it alone. Now I spend time online--that's the way I have to do most socializing now. Probably would go nuts without it. But I never go online until evening!

I also have found that retirement didn't bring nearly the discretionary time I anticipated, I don't begin to do all the things I planned, and indeed I agree that a good part of the reason is this darn computer ("...the biggest time suck I've ever known"). A secondary, and it seems universal, issue is that of declining energy levels, and a difficulty overcoming inertia. A third is slipshod organizing (when I was working I HAD to be super-disciplined, now I let things slide, there's always tomorrow you know). And now reading Dr. Butler's book reminds me of all the things I ought to be doing more of (exercise! socialize! get involved!) and that makes me feel even more unhappy with my current self. Not good. So this quote really resonated when I came upon it recently:

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu

Sigh. I remember when I had a "to do" list of errands and tasks each day -- and they all got done!!! I suppose that should bother me but, save the occasional bout with guilt, it dosn't.

My experience is somewhat different. I'm as busy as I was when I worked the "real" job but now, I do what I love and the day flies by. Between art journalism and painting, I feel that every day is filled with joy - even if I do spend most mornings at the computer, answering e-mails from museums and galleries and taking care of my own business. I have to agree with the above poster who commented on the number of mistakes and mix-ups on bills. In that case, I'm glad for the Internet because it keeps me entertained while I am on endless hold - calling India or China or who knows where, trying to sort things out.

My friend Bunionella always says "If you want to get something done, ask a busy woman." My kids grades were always higher when they were working and playing sports. I find that I can still read a book a day and not feel that I've fallen down the rabbit hole, but the internet sucks me in and swallows whole mornings despite my best intentions.

Here's to all of us in our nightclothes, clicking and reading and commenting and playing and exercising our fast twitch muscles :)

Thanks, Ronni, for validating my experience. It's good to know there are others out there still struggling to get it all done. It's interesting to read everyone's comments and to realize that I actually omitted one of the major black holes down which time disappears--the COMPUTER!

Technology is a mixed bag for me, as it apparently is for quite a few of us. I have both work and personal computers and email systems in my home office, and it definitely takes a chunk of time every day to keep track of it all. For better or worse, I suspect we'll be balancing the demands of technology on our time for the rest of our years.


I have to chuckle at the use of the "puter", for if our parents were alive, I bet they would say get off that darn thing:-)) We're just the older generation of the younger video game playing kids whose parents complain about the same thing. I'm not addicted to the computer, it's a tool I use when I want. I have no interest in being the younger version of my super woman years, I like who I am now just fine! What I do and when I do it are my choice and do so guilt free. I accept me and where I am in life without reservations. Good post Ronni:-)

As Dee said, it's good to know we're in such good company. Ronni,you could be describing my past, working, life and current one.

If there's a slight alteration in my routine, it takes me ages to recover any kind of rhythm and I run around like a headless chicken. And I have rituals to help me not to forget....fat chance.

In front of the PC is a safe place!

when I read this, I'm somewhat glad that I'm computer stupid. I get up early, check the weather, if it rains I have to get out into town to feed the ferals. today, I'm nervous cause the two I always see, well today I only saw one. Hurts me. What will I do when it snows.
Go to the mall for a 1 mile walk and leave cause the noise kills me. Wish I lived in the city. Much more interesting life.

Well, guess I'm coming a little late to this conversation, so no one is likely to read it. Why bother, I ask myself? But sometimes commenting later than others, is my response to "my running the 'puter rather than letting it run me." Took me a couple years or more to exercise more control over what, for me, might have been considered compulsive and/or addictive behavior after first beginning to use the computer and soon after finding blogs.

Got a kick out of Peg's contemplation of the word "underpants," She definitely needs to watch CBS' Late Show with Craig Ferguson who seems stuck on the phrase, "in your pants" to elicit laughs.

I'm still trying to more efficiently run my life since my husband died and suspect I'll be spending the rest of my life doing so. Consequently, I'm just going with the flow and enjoying most every minute of it. I especially like spontaneous activities, like this afternoon, when I suddenly went to a movie. Yeah, there were other things I probably should have been doing.

I love what everyone says, Ronni. I know that no one is going to read my stuff but I have to write it anyway....I agree with Kate in Maine...Syd has his puter and I have mine and we have our fun while we are alive and well. Thank goodness that the market delivers...so I can just make a list and get the other stuff whenever. Cleaning the house - oye - but it is always picked up and I love the nightime when I watch movies and crochet, THIS IS MY TIME AND I DESERVE TO DO WHATEVER I DO. Yeah retirement...now to win the lottery?

Every post I read of yours, Ronni, makes me think, besides the age difference, that we were twins separated at birth. Now that I've finally figured out how to respond and read other responses (I know, I know, you told me how to a long time ago)I see myself in so many of you. My friends and I sit around and discuss the frustration of these same issues: being slower, not getting things done, and our addictions to the computer. On the flip side, though, I always envisioned myself at this age as passively sitting in a corner in a rocker as my grandmother did, observing our lives. I'm sitting in a corner, but I'm talking to people all over the world, reading and writing blogs and making new friends, now that it is difficult for me to walk and drive and get around. It's not such a bad trade-off.

You make a great point, Lyn. My g'mother was much like yours. My mom got breast cancer at 67 and died 2 years later so she didn't have the opportunity to get old--although 67 seemed older then than it is today. If I live long enough to become an ex-driver, I'll be even more grateful than I am already that my techie husband insisted I learn to use a computer back in 1988. For sure, I wouldn't still be working if I hadn't, and I'd never have met all the great people on TGB and other web sites I visit. It's not a bad trade-off at all, even though it can get a little crazy sometimes.

I love this post, only I hang out in my clothes but reading your blog makes me feel less guilty for the hours before the computer.

I arise at 6:00 and make it a point to get dressed before I come down stairs and take the dog out and feed my parrots. Several days a week (usually M-W-F)I wear a bathing suit under my clothes so I can go to the pool for arthritis aquatics and dress quickly. I pay my bills, order drugs and do other things online. For years I handled children, school, and a job with lots of travel. Now I just organize differently. Still busy after all these years. Don't have a cat anymore, however.

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