Wrestling With Time and Dinosaurs
The nameless group we refer to as “they say” includes a comment about how the first step in overcoming a problem is to admit you have one.
I am not convinced that hearing a clock ticking in my head is such a thing.
Maybe it would cause more alarm if I was Captain Hook and I was worried about a crocodile coming after me, but I have both hands and no reason to worry about vengeful dinosaurs.
And while it is fair to say that I share some qualities with Peter Pan, I can’t fly, don’t live on an island with the Lost Boys, and am clearly by every measure a man in my forties.
Or to quote my daughter, I admit that I am closer to 50 than to 40 which is precisely why 50 no longer sounds old to me.
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock
I don’t know when I noticed the sound of the clock inside my head but once it showed up it became a fixture that I pass every day, in some ways no different than any other landmark I see during my daily routine.
Except this one makes a noise that I can sometimes drown out but never ignore for long. It reminds me of all of the things I have to do, and all that I want to do, and how there is never enough time to do it all.
It isn’t for lack of desire, organization or money that some of these things won’t happen either.
It is simply because I won’t live long enough to do it all.
I can’t possibly be a doctor, scientist, writer, teacher, salesman or professor in one life, at least not the way I want to.
There won’t be time to do a proper job, obtain the experience and expertise and make a difference in these areas, so I have to pick and choose what to focus upon.
Twenty-five years ago I never worried about these things because I was on the golden road of unlimited time and opportunity, but somewhere along the way I hit a bump and took a detour.
Somewhere along the way I became a passenger on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and that bastard never stops for anything. If you want to get out you have to jump out of the car and take the beating that comes with flying into objects at warp speed.
Part of me doesn’t mind that because I wasn’t built for grace; I was built for demolition. I stride around a room like a cat, I lumber like the damn Taurus I am.
Responsibilities and Solutions
Twenty-five years ago I didn’t have any other responsibilities to worry about. I was truly my own man in every sense of the word but that changed and it was my choice to make the change.
Don’t misunderstand this to mean that I regret that because I don’t – but you can’t know what you haven’t experienced.
I thought I had a good idea about what would happen with marriage and children, but I didn’t understand the weight and pressure that comes with accepting that kind of responsibility.
It didn’t occur to me how many times I would subjugate my desire to try something, or to push my career because I didn’t want my children to live a nomadic life.
We live the life our family defines for us, and that's okay. #pureblogging
I wanted them to have the sort of stability I had when I was a kid and for the most part they have. They are thriving and every time I see them I know that even though we are winging it like all parents do, we’re mostly getting it right.
But the thing is, they are in high school and middle school now so I can sort of see a light in the distance and I recognize that time is moving at warp speed.
The day is coming when they will be on their own and I can shift the focus more clearly again upon what I want to do with my life, without the primary focus being on them.
Except that freedom comes at a price and it is one that is paid with a limited resource.
I’ll be older than I am now when that moment hits and though I can speculate I can’t say precisely how old I’ll be.
Since I don’t know how long I’ll live I don’t know how much time I’ll have left. I have no reason to believe that I am going to die young, but no one knows the future.
Hence the tick tock in my head and my quest to find the things that quiet that noise and give me peace of mind.
I don’t need a perfect solution here, nor do I expect to find one, but I need something.
A Simple Plan
For now the idea is to work hard to live each day and to be present in the moments.
It is to do my best not to waste time on crap I hate and or things that take away from the important stuff.
It is to dance in the fire and to roll with the tide as it comes in and out each day.
And I’ll do the best I can so that each night when I close my eyes, I’ll do so knowing I did what I could do that day and that will have to be enough.
Nancy Davis September 3, 2015 at 11:57 am
I have learned to truly enjoy life and get rid of things that do not make me happy. Life is short, and I cannot imagine wasting time any longer. I am also close to 50 myself, and have come to the conclusion that I will endeavor to give Father Time a hard time with this getting old nonsense.
In fact, I am learning a totally new skill and it makes the days seem shorter when I help DJ a gig.
Life is short, better live for the moment if you can.
Joshua Wilner September 3, 2015 at 8:28 pm
Life is short and you have my full support with telling Father Time to stick it. Why can’t now be our moment? As far as I know nothing is preventing us from making it so, so why not try.
DJing sounds like fun.
Danny Brown September 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm
Hey there Josh,
As a fellow dad in pretty much the same time in life. this post resonates so much with me. I’ll be 47 next month, which – I guess – means I’m either in the second half of my life, or the last third (damn, I hope I’m not tempting fate there!).
My kids make me laugh. When mummy asks then “Howl old is daddy?”, they chime in, “46!”. When she follows up with, “And how old is mommy?” they gleefully shout, “15!”.
Now, apart from the fact that would be wrong on so many levels, it always makes me laugh, to think my kids see me as this dinosaur, and their mom as this sprite young thing. And, given, she is 13 years younger than me – but not 31 years! (maybe they just got the 3 and 1 wrong way round)
But it makes me think, what will I be like for my kids when they need a dad at sports day, or prom, etc? Given I was “old” when I had them (they’re three and five currently), I won’t be their typical dad. Yet, will I? Will age define my mobility and ability to do things with them? Or will we all adapt – will we even need to?
I’m kinda rambling here, now, so I’ll wrap up. Suffice to say, thank you for this mate, and here’s to the tick tock in all of us.
Joshua Wilner September 4, 2015 at 12:06 am
Your comment reminds me of something my kids said a while back. When my son was in preschool and we met the other parents I discovered I was younger than many of the other fathers. Quite a few were between 10 and 15 years older than I was.
At the time I wondered how they would keep up with their kids because I saw men who were in their mid forties or older as being very old. But what happened in most cases was the kids kept their dads young and those same fathers went into coaching their kids and or playing with them alongside the “younger” dads.
Maybe they don’t run as fast and maybe they are a bit more careful about not hurting themselves, but they still get out there.
The funny thing was when my daughter hit preschool I found myself among the older guys and noticed that some of younger fathers were a decade or more behind me. It made me laugh to realize how things had turned.
Anyway, I suspect that you’ll find that you are not an anomaly at all and that while you won’t be the youngest dad you certainly won’t be the oldest either.
Danny Brown September 4, 2015 at 11:01 am
Ha, nice example about the two different kids, mate – and, yes, it all works out one way or another. Besides, not sure how many more dads are a brown belt in karate, so I can always roundhouse kick them if they’re getting too far ahead in the sack race! 😉
Joshua Wilner September 4, 2015 at 11:52 pm
A good roundhouse will lead to an attitude adjustment.
Judy Lee Dunn September 4, 2015 at 10:57 am
I have been down this road. And if you are someone who wants to hold onto all possibilities and are interested in way too many things, it can be hard to settle into one career, one job, one business. Because what about all those other things I could have done? And yes, through it all, the clock keeps ticking. On the parenting/kids issue, I knew I wanted something more than teaching but I didn’t want to disrupt my child’s life, pull her out of another school just when she had readjusted. But the summer she graduated from high school, I quit my teaching job and took off for Los Angeles to learn the relief and development business. I was not quite 40.
Much to chew on here and, as with Danny, your post has put me in a reflective mood. My friend Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage fame, who is now an author and world traveler, said, “Add three years onto your current age and ask yourself, ‘What if I was going to die at [insert current age + 3 years here]? If you knew that, what would you do with the rest of your life?” A brutal question that has caused me great pain lately but is forcing me to re-evaluate once again and figure out what it is I really want to do.
Thanks for this thought-provoking post, my friend.
Danny Brown September 4, 2015 at 10:59 am
Wow, I love Betsy’s take on this – LOVE! Thanks for that, Judy, printing off and putting on my wall!
Joshua Wilner September 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm
I have been ridiculously busy today but I have thought about your comment and what your friend said all day long. It is a brutal question because most of us don’t want to apply that sort of certainty to our lives because if you are mostly healthy it is easy to put off the hard decisions.
Anyway, I have wondered if those of us who love to write are more prone to being the kind of people who have multiple interests and would like to have the time to engage in those, doesn’t really matter, mostly curiosity on my part.
And since I have multiple friends who have died from terminal illnesses and accidents it is not hard for me to wonder/think in more concrete terms about what I would do if I only had a small chunk of life left.
Would I turn it all upside down and inside out to try to suck the marrow out of whatever we have left?
Maybe, if I really knew/believed that the sand was running out I could see doing it.
Judy Lee Dunn September 5, 2015 at 10:17 am
It is indeed easier to put off the question if you are healthy. My recent health scare (for a while there they couldn’t rule out any neuromuscular disease, including ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). At that point, one realizes that time if finite—life is finite. I have been sniffing around this issue since my late 30s and at 39 made the plunge to learn about third world poverty and international development. I had always wanted to write and had a strong passion for helping people, especially the disenfranchised. Then the World Vision job literally fell into my lap. (Be careful what you wish for.)
For my friends Betsy and Warren Talbot, it all started sitting around a table in a bar with friends drinking Margaritas. That age-old question came up, “What would you do with your life if you had all the money in the world?” Betsy and Warren looked at each other and said, exactly together, “Travel.” Everyone made grand plans, as people do when they are drinking. But Betsy and Warren woke up the next morning and knew they still wanted to do this travel thing. Warren quit his job at Microsoft, Betsy closed down her consulting business, they sold their house and off they went. They are still traveling six years later, though they bought a house in Spain so they have a home base. They have written two books on how to manage a life like this and Betsy has come out with her second novel in a “late bloomer” series with characters who are finding their true passions. In fact, I will be reviewing her latest novel and interviewing her on my blog in the next week or so.
Betsy’s awakening happened when her younger brother almost died of a heart attack. They both also had friends who died way too early. I have been pondering Betsy’s question for the past year and finally decided that poverty, education and gender equality have my name on them and I cannot escape their pull. I want to write pieces that open people’s eyes to some of the world’s problems. I don’t know how I am going to do this yet or what form it will take, but I know I must do it.
Joshua Wilner September 5, 2015 at 10:52 pm
I am excited to see how and what develops for you.
Frank Dickinson September 5, 2015 at 4:27 am
As the elder statesman (translate “old bastard”) of this conversation (I’m a bright and shining 52 – or old and crusty depending on who you ask), I have to say that these types of questions have been looming in my life since about age 35. What I have noticed is that that clock just gets a little louder, more persistent and a bigger pain in the ass with each passing year.
Maybe it’s because we are passionate about growth. Maybe because we don’t want to grow stagnant. Maybe it’s because, for the first time in our lives we realize our mortality.
Maybe it’s just because we are human and this is what humans do. Although as soon as I finished that sentence I thought of 4 or 5 people who did the same thing all of their life without ever giving change or growth a second thought. Let’s toss that last maybe.
Hell I don’t know what it is, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a good thing. It can be a struggle and a definite pain, but I’d hate to not give the struggle a run for its money.
Here’s to more wrestling!
Great post Josh.
Joshua Wilner September 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm
I am working on becoming a crusty old bastard. I am biased, but I can’t see the struggle as being anything but positive. We are meant to grow and become something more than who we are at 6, 13, 19, 34, 54 etc.
So I can’t see this as being anything but a good thing, even if it is hard. It is just listening to ourselves and to the world and then doing something about it.
Frank Dickinson September 5, 2015 at 11:00 pm
So true Josh – the listening and not shutting ourselves off makes all the difference. That’s what transforms the hard thing into the positive thing.
I have been thinking about this post most of the day. This is what Pure Blogging is all about. Writing our story(ies), sharing them and then interacting with others about them.
Danny Brown September 5, 2015 at 11:08 pm
See, part of me wonders how that plays out with dictators. Take Hitler – an artist from childhood, yet his growing up took him down a path that we’ll never understand. I’m wondering how that goes with the “become something more than who we are”.
Do we grow, regardless of what that growth look like? Or do we stop somewhere, and the darkness takes over? How do we combat that? Can we?
Sorry for all the questions, but like Frank says, this is a great discussion and my mind is buzzing.