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, October 26, 2014

The gift of time

My toy when I was two
When I was a little girl, it didn't take much to make me happy, and I got just as attached to those little stuffed animals or dolls to feel as though my life would end if they were lost. I can still remember the ache of longing for some long-forgotten item from the past. I may have forgotten what it was, but I can remember all too well the feeling of loss. That is something that goes right along with life: learning to let go of what I once owned, who I once was, and loved ones who will never return.

I saw a movie yesterday with my friend Judy. It hasn't gotten great reviews and was adapted from a play, and it has somewhat of that feeling. We enjoyed it nevertheless, and how could you not when the movie has Maggie Smith in it? The movie, "My Old Lady," also stars Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas. It's been a long time since I've seen Kline in a movie, maybe since 1988 when he was in "A Fish Called Wanda," and I was struck by how much he has aged. You go along in life thinking that those people you don't see often are still the same as they were, and then when you see them again, you can hardly believe how much they've changed. I'm sure it's the same for other people when they see me again after decades have passed.

In the movie, Maggie has a line that I thought of several times during the night and inspired this post: in talking about wealth and fortune, she said, "You have the greatest wealth of all: the gift of time." As an old woman of 92, she has only a short time left, and she is aware of it every moment of every day. Although I am twenty years younger than that old woman, I can feel what she meant, since so much time has passed since I was that young toddler with my stuffed animal. Even if I have the gift of twenty more years, that is just not very long at all in the scheme of things. It will pass in the blink of an eye.

But I've been given that gift, as I realize when I stride quickly past an old man who leans heavily on his cane, shuffling carefully down the sidewalk. I've had such a good life already, and I still have more to come, God willing. For the time being, I also have good health. My loved ones who left in their forties, fifties, and sixties did not have the gift of time. Whatever else comes to pass in my life, I will not die prematurely. Or have my hair turn prematurely white, for that matter. I've written before about that "three score and ten" span of a lifetime, and I've managed to achieve it and am skating along through my seventies. I'm not ready to retire from life just yet.

Today my toys are a lot more expensive than that stuffed animal, and I am now looking forward to a new iPad to take the place of my old one. In three years, although it is still very functional, the advances in screen quality and speed have convinced me to upgrade it. I use it every day and carry it with me to the coffee shop or wherever I might be wanting to connect to the outside world. I'm looking forward to showing off my pictures to my friends on my newest toy. It's so new that it has just appeared in the stores. I went yesterday to the local Best Buy to take a look at it, and I am glad I've got my very own iPad coming in the mail tomorrow. It was supposed to have arrived Friday, but the delay has simply spread out my anticipation to encapsulate the weekend.

It has also made me very aware that it's that feeling of anticipation and joy of ownership that I desire. Just like the little girl in the picture, she's got her toy and feels no lack. But long after the toy has worn out its usefulness, the feeling I had when I first held it in my hands, that will be easy to remember. Of course, this is just what the advertisers have in mind: to feed that ephemeral desire to have the latest and greatest. I fell into their trap and I'm not sorry. I can also convince myself that I'm helping bolster the economy. Plus I'll sell my old one to a friend who is anxious to have her own toy, which will be new to her. I can't think of a downside to my purchase. I've already gotten quite a bit of emotional mileage out of it.

The weather has been pretty rainy and blustery all week, and it's no different today. I was hoping that perhaps I might have gotten a chance to make another skydive before the Drop Zone closes for two months, but it isn't going to happen. It's possible I've made my last skydive already. But then again, I'm not selling my gear, and I will keep it in date. That means that if I decide next spring that I want to make another jump or two, it will be possible. Rather than closing the door with a slam, I'll close it gently, and keep my hand on the doorknob for awhile longer. I know that many of you are not surprised that I might want to keep skydiving, but that is a toy that is almost worn out. I would never have believed twenty years ago that I would find myself in this place, almost neutral about whether or not to continue leaping out of airplanes, but that's where I am. And then I'll have a flash of remembrance of being under my beautiful canopy, looking out at Puget Sound, the mountains rising up from the horizon, the wind in my face, and I think well, maybe...

I have been blessed with the gift of time. I'm still able to partake in outdoor activities to my heart's content. Although I know that all things pass, I'll never forget the wonderful feelings that I've experienced in my life. Long ago, I remember thinking that one day I would be an old woman and hoping I'd be glad that my life took the twists and turns that it has. And you know what? I am.

Now it's time to start my day. My partner still sleeps next to me, the rain is drumming on the roof, and my tea is gone. I missed all this last weekend when I was not here; it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It's also true that taking stock of one's life and being grateful for the good things makes one happier. Because of this blog and my habit of writing here every Sunday morning, I have that gift, too. Until we meet again next weekend, I wish you nothing but good things, and the gift of time.


justme_alive said...

I like your phrase "I'll keep my hand on the doorknob a bit longer", sounds like a good idea.

Rian said...

You're right there, DJan. It would be hard to pass up a movie with Maggie Smith in it. I think my favorite part of Downton Abbey is Maggie's one liners.

And you are right about *the gift of time* - my siblings didn't get it, but I did. Guess I'll always wonder why. But I AM grateful.

As for toys, yes... every age has them. Right now I would really like a kitchen gadget that is a bit expensive, but would make things easier. Should I spend the money on it? Still considering.

Arkansas Patti said...

Maggie Smith is enough of a teaser to see that movie. She and Judi Dench never let me down.
Keep your hand on the doorknob. Just knowing you still can may be enough and it it isn't---then go for it. Having options I have found lessens the need.

Red said...

I like your metaphor where you relate life to the toys you have had. You look back and reflect and feel very satisfied and that's why you can look forward. And if it's not to be you will still be happy.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, It’s a pleasure to be following Eye on the Edge. It seems like with each new post I find something that causes me to pause and think … I can relate to that. Today you are talking about the gift of time and I certainly feel that I have that gift. When I reflect on things it seems that during middle-age I gave very little thought to the whole aging process. Now I think about it daily. For example, when I’m out and around on my daily routine I always have my “age receptors” engaged. That means I’m aware of age-related treatment. It definitely spans the gamut from extreme respectfulness to rejection. Most common is something in the middle. Rejection is far less common, but it almost always comes from a very young person. This all brings me back to the concept of the gift. When some young person treats me like an old geezer the thought that comes to my mind is, I hope you are lucky enough to reach “senior” status. It does take some luck and getting there with good health … well, just like you said … it is the gift of time! Thanks for sharing another great post. John

Far Side of Fifty said...

:) Thanks for the thoughtful post on time. Yes you are poised with your hand on that doorknob as far as sky diving is concerned. The rest of your life may be under control but you are still an adrenalin junkie! :)

John's Island said...

DJan, sorry for a second comment, but I totally forgot to mention your new iPad. Congrats on that purchase! I have a first gen iPad and love it. My question is, Do you use the iPad to prepare and post Eye on the Edge? I use a desktop PC (Windows 8.1) to prepare my posts for my blog. John

Folkways Note Book said...

Would like to watch the movie about the old lady. Being aware of all that surrounds one - every day -- slows down the time that is passing. At least I believe so. Such a nice post -- barbara

The Broad said...

DJan you are an inspiration to all of us of advancing years! There are so many of us and so many challenges ahead in how to live and how to accept change that we may not have been anticipating. I totally agree with you about movies with Maggie Smith and I will make a point of seeing The Gift of Time.

Anonymous said...

The gift of time. How we take it for granted. I am getting old, too. What else is in store for me.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post! And the mercury retro part of the ipad purchase? The delay in receiving it...

Rita said...

Now that movie is in my Netflix queue and I'll look forward to seeing it when it comes out.
I've been thinking a lot about time and health since little Ian has joined the family. They are both gifts you don't truly appreciate until they aren't endlessly available to you like they used to be. I would have been a completely different grandma 20 years ago...but I am meant to be this grandma to Ian. Not zipping about, but slowly moving. Much more patient and calm and grateful, though. ;) ;) Have a wonderful week, as I know you will. :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, your posting is "timely" for me because last week I saw the doctor and I'm going to go in tomorrow to be fitted for a heart monitor for a day and then later for a month. There's a problem and I'm not really sure of what's happening here.

So like you, I've been aware of the gift of life and I find myself so grateful for the life I've had--for the friends and the homes and the cats and the love I've shared with others. Life is good. Peace.

Crabby McSlacker said...

Such an eloquent post!

I struggle sometimes with the whole notion that our time here is not unlimited, and used to totally freak myself out over it. Which did nothing but spoil a few more moments I could have spent enjoying it!

I still haven't reconciled myself to "mortality" as a concept, I'm kind of in denial about that, but at least I try to grab all the life I can while I'm here. And sure sounds like you do as well!

Friko said...

Thank you, DJan, you are a dear.

I’m just like you when it comes to toys: I don’t have many, but I get huge pleasure from each and every one. If and when I replace them I get that feeling of excitement all over again each time.

To me it’s not the quantity of time we are gifted but what we make of it. We know that when it’s over it’s over, never to be relived. But to be like you, to be aware of the preciousness of every day, of the joy in using your body well, that is the true gift.

You are one of nature’s true philosophers. It’s a privilege to know you.

Sally Wessely said...

This is a beautiful post. I am thinking I must see the movie if Maggie Smith is in it. I wonder why the movie got bad reviews. Any ideas on that?

Do you think others that are younger just don't get being older and don't enjoy movies and books about such things? If so, I think it is because they don't yet know that time is indeed a gift. We learn that lesson as we age.

Keep on keeping on.

Yum Yucky said...

I remember having only a small cardboard box of toys when I was young. It made me happy. I would visit with friends who had much more than me, but I still treasured the contents of that box and never felt I lacked anything. My life has become so much bigger than that box of toys. I feel I've overcomplicated some things in the quest to have "more". But in the end, what I'm realizing is that a simple life is what satisfies me most. It's taken me years to understand this about myself. It's good to know what I truly want out of life. (thank you so much for this reflective post)

amanda said...

As always, wishing you good things too, DJan.
I've been a while ago, and as you're probably noticing from my comments, I'm making my way through my reading list, catching up.. wool socks on, feet up by the fire for a bit this Sunday afternoon.
Though my posting & commenting is sporatic lately, it's important to me to let you know - even when I go weeks without posting, I think of my blog friends like you regularly. Often. And with a smile, wondering what you're up to each day.