Time Ain’t On My Side

14 July 2021 14:07 GMT+0100 

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and it won’t wait for me. That’s a bit of a mash up: the title that begins this thought and essay is from Blue Oyster Cult’s song Burn’n For You, while the completing phrase in the opening of this paragraph is from The Rolling Stone’s Time Waits For No One (Mick Taylor’s guitar will break your heart).

The 14th of July is always an intersection of events and anticipations: it’s our wedding anniversary, which all of France celebrates along with that other event they call Fête Nationale (Bastille Day to Anglophones), Blake Charles and Kieran’s birthdays are in two weeks, and on this particular 14th, it’s four months until the dreaded six-oh birthday.

This isn’t bothering me as much as the last time I had a mid-life crisis. Previously, the traumatic birthday was turning 28, when I became closer to 30 than 25, and even further from 19, which sticks in my mind as an  idyllic year. In time I got over it, certainly by the time I was 31, and since then, until today, I haven’t really thought much about the numbers.

But with more time gone than remaining, and in an effort to make the most of that unknown quantity of remaining time, I’ve started making some adjustments.

I stopped taking the stairs. Now I always take the escalator. Before I almost always took the stairs…just because. Of course, I walk up or down the while the escalator moves, so the escalator becomes what former defense secretary Colin Powell liked to call a force multiplier. I like the moment of adjustment and synchronization to match my pace and stride to catch the forming then disappearing steps. Same thing with the elevator (although I remain stationary in these).

I skip all film and show introductions, and don’t watch the credits.

In the past I tried to cast a wider net, be more open minded, and read a variety of periodicals, or within my preferred magazines, read something I normally wouldn’t. Now…not so much, not at all. More than that: if a new issue of one of the *1New York and London Review of Books comes in the mail, and there’s nothing of merit, it’s immediately in the recycling pile. And I’ve given up considering more subscriptions: except for maybe by the occasional paper copy at the newsstand before a train or plane ride, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Baffler, and so many others, will remain unread. The one exception might be Harper’s – I’m mulling a re-subscription; that it is published only once a month is an advantage.

The news is now only The Washington Post, and because we’re on this side of the pond, sometimes The Guardian. Previously The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and others, were a part of the mix. No more.

The same applies to books: many slated to be read will not be, and these days, I find myself more often removing from rather than adding to my to-read list. And I’m a bit risk averse: I’ll re-read Merwin or Didion or Fitzgerald2W.S., Joan, and Penelope before risking wasting time on the latest best seller.

I read and write on the train to and from work. Once in awhile I may up having to talk to co-workers, and in a few cases that’s okay, but sometimes I’m unlucky. They’re all nice people, but the clock is ticking. Happily soon I’ll be working from home full time, so no more time lost commuting.

When in the apartment in Chur, I read while eating.

I’ve never watched much sports, maybe the Masters each spring, and now, almost never. I might break down and watch some swimming at the Olympics.

If something remains unread in the ‘to read folder’ for more than six months, I delete it.

I don’t go hiking, even though I’m in Switzerland quite a bit. I suppose that’s a bit like living in Hawaii and not going surfing. I used to enjoy hiking, whether it was in the many open space areas around the Bay Area or elsewhere: the Sierra Nevada, in the Wrangall St. Elias National Park, or in the Green Mountains. But now I felt like I’ve been there, done that, and there’s not much left to mine in that particular vein. Of course if I lived in Hawaii, I’d be surfing (or trying to, let’s be honest).

I’m not so much into the food thing any more: keep it simple, save time. Eat the same thing for a few meals? No problem. I’ve got more important things to do than obsess over food3A nod to B. R. Myers and his essay here..

Keyboard shortcuts, scripts to automate routine and repeated tasks, and similar, so that I’m doing real things, not meta things. I delay all hardware and software upgrades for as long as possible. I’d still be on Windows XP if I could. I got a new mouse so I can move through pages faster. Slow scrolling sucks.

If I’m going for a swim after work, I don’t bother to shower. I’ll be in the pool long enough for a thorough chlorine infusion, and the shower after are more than enough to ensure the only thing I smell like is chlorine.

At the gym I skip the vanity, less essential exercises: curls for biceps and triceps, crunches and sit ups. Instead it’s all old school, big muscle group work outs: push, pull, squat, hinge, lunge, and single leg4I highly recommend Lou Schuler’s … Continue reading. But for a few muscle heads there, no one sweats as much as me. Afterwards I skip the rowing/running/cybex machines, and instead go at it with the leather jump rope, then the weighted jump ropes Annie got me. I don’t suck on my digital pacifier between exercises.

There are, of course, many improvements that could be made. Social media has had its uses as we’re mostly away from friends and family, and however flawed, is a way to keep in touch. Best I think, would be to revert to a previous routine: just check in once a week, to catch up and put out any updates.

But mainly, I try to do fewer things, slowly, with a bit more attention. Perhaps more than any of the above mentioned prunings, this seems the best way to make use of the time that’s left.

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  1. To also pseudo-quote Mick, "No it ain't".

    A New England summer phenomenon is old guys (meaning 80+) wearing really loud slacks, eg. yellow. I used to think they were just out of it, but I've recently come to understand that it's the opposite: when you're 80, you've ceased to give a shit what anyone thinks… you wear whatever you want.

    There's freedom in shedding pretense and social expectations.
    All that we really have is time; spend it on your own terms.

    1. You’re spot on and that’s the sequel (not squeal) to this essay, which has been running around my head, but I haven’t quite got under control yet. It’s really the more interesting aspect to getting up there: those inner changes and adjustments, versus the external things that I’ve talked about. Wasn’t it Tony who often said something about ‘giving a rat’s ass’? I’ve found myself thinking more about that recently.

      1. To be fair, and in keeping with our getting-on-in-life cogitations, I could never settle on whether it was best put as "I could give a rat's ass…," or "I couldn't give a rat's ass…."

        Regardless, I read Blake's missive and feel a touch of the bleak. From whence come these burgeoning musings on our mortality my dear friend? Flip the hour glass over, put it in the back corner of a cupboard, open a chilled rosé, and settle down with a good book you've not yet read. Perhaps we should make plans to meet in Paris, or Capri, or at Dave's splendid lake-side cottage? The light beckons. (No, not that light.)

        1. The intended tone was a sort of clear eyed realism, but missing was a sense of joie or appreciation, which there is, and this absence may account for any bleakness.

          Actually all is quite good, in the head and soul of yours truly, and more practically, in all the Elder / Andre /Sweetman household.

          A get together is in order. This fall and winter will be busy: I expect to be working from France full time starting soon, but I need to wrap up things in Chur, and am having knee surgery later this year. In North America I need to get over to get our stuff out of storage (to be sold or shipped here), and working in a trip to New Hampshire would be easy. Maybe late next spring or summer?

    2. Wow, when Dave wrote "… I've recently come to understand that it's the opposite: when you're 80, you've ceased to give a shit what anyone thinks… you wear whatever you want," I found myself thinking, "shit Dave, you felt this way when you were in your early 20s, didn't you?"

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