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