I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Paying attention

Lily Lake last Thursday
When I turned seventy, I would wake in the mornings and smile that I'd made it into my eighth decade, feeling good, staying active, and spending my days in ways that make me happy. That included walking, hiking, working out with friends, and blogging. That was more than two years ago. My life is essentially the same today, but there's a subtle difference.

There's really something different about being 72. One of my blogging friends, Nancy, just turned (as she put it) six times twelve and wrote a really nice post about it. It got me to thinking about things, as we share our lives with one another in the blogging universe. I realized that when I wake up these days, how old I am emerges into my consciousness in the form of a number: 72. But then again, it's just a number. Am I any different today than I was two years ago? Or will be in another two years?

Age is a curious thing, and I don't want to discount it. Aren't I the same person who wakes up today who woke up yesterday? Since my seventieth birthday, I've written hundreds of posts in both my blogs and lived another 841 days. I've observed the changes of the seasons from my front window, as well as in the wilderness as I hike with my friends every Thursday. During the seven years that I've been trekking with the Senior Trailblazers, there are several of us who don't come any more, because of illness or infirmities. We are, after all, seniors with a median age around 67. When I look back at pictures of who was on our hikes two years ago, I miss seeing the faces of old friends whose knees or backs or ankles just can't take it any more. One day I will be one of them, and another who has just begun her adventures with the seniors will take my place. That's the natural order of things.

What I don't want to do is miss out because I wasn't paying attention. One of the things this blog is good for is giving me a chance to notice the differences that emerge between weeks. I spend this time on Sunday mornings thinking about my life, which I wouldn't be doing otherwise. Sometimes the words just pour out of me and a theme quickly takes shape. Other times, like today, there's quite a bit of stopping and starting, pondering just what it is that I'm trying to capture.

In the two weeks since my car accident, I notice that I pay attention to the cars around me in a whole different way. They are moving so fast, and I've got to stay vigilant and not allow something like that to happen again. But since my reaction times are slower than they once were, I notice that driving now makes me feel anxious. In time, I suspect that will diminish, but should it? We are encased in metal boxes that travel at incredible speeds, and we all must trust those around us to do their part in keeping us safe. I see people all the time who are busy talking on the phone or being distracted in other ways. Driving and traffic have become so much a part of our lives that we stop paying attention, until something happens to change it, like being involved in a collision like I was.

I am fortunate to have developed a very full life for myself during my retirement years. Upon leaving my career and home town of Boulder seven years ago, I was excited to find a new way to live. Staying active and fit became the central focus of my days, rather than revolving around the Monday to Friday routine of work. I like routine, so I have a schedule that makes me aware of the days of the week. A three-times-a-week class at 9:00am, my coffee shop buddies who are now almost like family, my Thursday hikes and Saturday walks, and my blogging schedule. Nobody imposes my schedule on me; it's what gives my days structure and it's what I choose to do.

However, there's that old nemesis of habit becoming so entrenched that sometimes I find myself doing something just because that's what I do. And before long a season has passed, another year has come and gone, and I haven't been paying attention. Contemplation about one's life can be a valuable tool to make sure that these days that seemingly stretch ahead into infinity are not missed. Every once in awhile I need to stop and look around and take stock of where I am and where I am going. And appreciate the moment.

Yesterday was the first full day of spring, and as I sit here with my laptop I can see that the sun has just come up, and now the days will be longer than the nights until we reach the summer solstice. I learned yesterday that on the equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west all over the world, no matter where you are located. But those who are in the Southern Hemisphere will begin to experience shorter days and longer nights, just the opposite of my experience way up here near the 49th parallel north.

It's all a matter of perspective. I've finally come to the end of this post, one that was rather hard to give birth to, but now it's done, and I can continue the rest of today's activities. Sunday is the one day that I don't have a set routine. After this post is written, that is. In a couple of weeks I'll be attending a two-day class on Saturday and Sunday and will not have the luxury of taking an hour to write this post, but today it's been valuable for me, and I think I've stopped long enough to pay attention and smell the flowers.

24 comments:

Weekend-Windup said...

Nice to hear about your feelings of day to day life. Have a good life time all the day...

gigihawaii said...

You have a way with words. Have you thought of becoming a novelist?

amanda | wildly simple said...

Observation is one of life's greatest skills, in my opinion!
Enjoy where your Sunday takes you, DJan!

Rian said...

Taking stock of one's life is always a good thing to do on occasion. You seem to do a good job of it. As DH and I approach the big 7-0 this summer, I admit to finding it a bit daunting. Having a good attitude and continued involvement in creative ventures help.

I read somewhere that when asked what it feels like *to be old* the person responded with... "It feels the same as when I was young - on the inside, the outside is a different matter".

Far Side of Fifty said...

Happy Sunday! Always good to hear what you have to write. I think it is normal to be really aware of your surroundings when you are driving, and even more so after your accident. It might be time that you forgive yourself... at least when the car gets fixed!
You like your schedule and it makes you feel grounded!
So you a taking a class...what will you learn now? Hope it is something fun...like Photography!! :)

Elephant's Child said...

I thrive on routine, and sometimes become its slave.
Love that you are prepared to be flexible with yours, and that you take time to contemplate the world, its direction and your place in it.
Hugs.

Retired English Teacher said...

You are just full of wisdom and inspiration today! I'm serious. I copied and pasted parts of your post into my Goals and Aspirations Notebook.

A schedule is something I need, but something I fight.

Contemplation doesn't even happen without a schedule.

Here's to not missing even one moment awarded us in this crazy life. Thanks for the inspiration!

Linda Reeder said...

I have to do a "paying attention" check every now and then too. My days are busy, not on a tight schedule, but planned.
Today we planned to get going right away and get over to work in Jill's yard before the gains came. We did that, spending over three hours working hard. During lunch I spent an hour and a half reading the newspaper. Then since it wasn't raining, I spent an hour walking. I am just now getting to your
Sunday post, something I often do first thing on Sunday mornings.
For me, a busy life is a good thing. But yes, I need to remember to pay attention.

Arkansas Patti said...

You've made me realize that sometimes I do let a day just slip away. Perhaps that is why time seems to fly by as we get older.
I realize the value your schedule though I would most likely rebel against it. Still it wouldn't hurt to put a little more structure into my life.
Per usual, you give us grist for our mental mills.

Red said...

Your last paragraph is key...it's all relative. Time is a measurement that can be analyzed and compared in many ways. Yes our bodies and minds change as we age but you are doing the right thing by keeping active. There's good and bad to routines. for some people it's the only way they function well. For the free spirits routine is a prison.

Linda Myers said...

I sometimes don't notice what's going on around me - that happens when I'm too busy.

I pay a lot of attention at night, after my husband Art has gone to bed. The sliding door is open and I can hear the night sounds. I am paying attention to the world at a time when I'm not out there in it.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Greetings from Seattle. Once again I’ve stopped by Eye on the Edge to check out your latest reflections on life and found them to be so very much in tune with my own thoughts about where we are all going. Sometimes the things you write about are simmering right below the surface in my stream of thoughts and that’s especially true about Paying Attention. Your question, Are we the same person we were yesterday? … Of course the answer is NO, but how many of us will realize the subtle differences? In a way, this reminds me of the advertisement currently running about the “retirement challenge” and how a small amount builds up over a long time … like a line of dominos progressively getting larger … the smaller ones can tumble larger ones and ultimately a great big domino! I think those of us following Eye on the Edge are lucky to have you bring these things to our attention! Thanks for this great post. John

Rita said...

I love your Sunday posts the best, Djan! This was no exception. Sounds like your accident truly got your attention...in a good way. It is too easy to skim across the surface of our days. :)

The Broad said...

This is just a wonderful post DJan! I am so impressed with the details of your life and how you have organized it for yourself according to who you are. It is so easy to not pay attention to the what, where and how of life. Your Sunday time of reflection and analysis has to be of tremendous importance to the quality of your life. It's an absolute pleasure to read what you have to say...

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Ah, so here's someone else suggesting that you should write a book!

Tabor said...

I was getting lazy over the winter, but now hope to get busy and work harder once again.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, after the two "fender benders" that I wrote about in an earlier comment, I realized that I couldn't multi-task while driving. What that meant was that I couldn't listen to books on tape because they so absorbed me. So that's one change that happened for me.

As to routine. I need it also in my life because there is so much I want to accomplish and goals aren't being met if I'm not using a routing. I'll write a little about this in my birthday posting next week. Peace.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

DJan, thanks for the mention! Years ago I began to hear about a concept called "Mindfulness," and it sounded like something I should try but I never did. Basically it's a practice of Paying Attention. Like you, I think that's a key to living life to the fullest. Gonna go look up Mindfulness now!

Leticia Holt said...

I really had fun reading your post. I’m so impressed with the way you observe and view your day to day existence. Anyway, your accident seems to have given you quite traumatic feelings, and it's amazing how you deal with them in such a positive way. That just proves how blessed you are. You are such an admirable person, Djan! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful read! All the best to you!

Leticia Holt @ K Hunter Law

Friko said...

It really is all just a matter of perspective. Or perception, if you like. Same thing.

You are doing everything that feels good to you, that’s where true wisdom lies.

Grab every day and mould it to your liking. What else is there?

troutbirder said...

Your musings have put me in the same mood along similar lines today. Being so philosophically introspective is hard work. OH WELL......:)

Glenda C. Beall said...

Your post today makes me wish my young nephew could read it and absorb the wisdom you offer. He is floundering and blaming all his problems on his parents who can't seem to get along enough to take care of him, but he is now 21. He has to accept his fate and move one. But it is hard for him to let go of the anger. We all must pay attention and appreciate each day that goes so quickly. I always enjoy your writing.

B. WHITTINGTON said...

Reading your post made me think back to my own life and age. I'm enjoying the heck out of being 69 knowing that I will June 8 be the big 7-0. I think it will come with it's own paths to follow. Yet, I realize I often feel 16 in my head. Losing my husband gave me an entirely new perspective on everything.
I always enjoy your posts and photos. I'm not on here enough to keep up. Take care of you. Your look great in your photos. Hugs. Barb

Clifford Wheeler said...

Thank you for sharing your perspective from a very personal point of view. People have always known how valuable things are, but only realize the true purpose of it in their lives when a major life-changing event happens, like accidents and such. Speaking of accidents, it’s good that it has given you a deeper attention to your surroundings – especially around cars. I’m sure it wasn’t a great moment for you, but I’m glad that you’re still fine after all that. Take care!


Clifford Wheeler @ Powell Spencer & Partners