Something wonderful just happened. I turned 50.
All the time leading up to it people kept saying things like: “I can’t believe it. Where has the time gone? 50 already, how is that possible? It goes so fast. Life is flying by.”
I knew what they were talking about. In my thirties I had a mantra that acted as a warning to those coming up behind. “LIFE SPEEDS UP AT 25”. It was a hardcore fact. I was living proof. My colleagues were flesh and blood examples. Something drastic and mysterious had happened at the mid twenty mark, and since then life had taken on a frantic pace.
By my thirties I’d find myself saying “Where have the last five years gone?” then “What happened to the last ten?”
I wasn’t lounging on the couch, wasting my time, or wishing my life away. Far from it. I was running businesses and sitting on boards, volunteering and working out, dancing and playing and learning, and more than anything else ~ trying to right the wrongs I saw in the world.
I was having a lot of fun. I was accomplishing LOTS. But more and more life was feeling like one of those campfire songs you sing faster and faster and faster until the words-smash-into each-other-and-stopmakingsense.
At this pace it felt like I was zooming to the end of my life, which fueled my fire for accomplishing more. With less time left to save the world I worked harder and faster, trying to “keep up”. Setting goals, achieving them, and quickly setting new ones, I was living in a more and more distant future.
At the time I had no idea that I was responsible for the pace of life. I didn’t know that life doesn’t speed up on its own, I was the one with my foot on the gas.
Then in my mid thirties everything changed. I’d like to say I smartened up, saw the folly of my ways and slowed down, but no. It took a more drastic act to stop me in my tracks, (but that story is for another time). The illness that seemed like a tragedy at the time, turned out to be a beautiful turning point in my life, and the biggest gift I could ever hope for.
It forced me to get in touch with my body, notice my own needs, and live at my natural pace. By paying attention to myself I found my attention spreading to others and all of life. I was becoming present. I’d replaced living in the distant future with living in this moment right now. I was no longer rushing from one thing to another, keeping track in my head of a growing list of things to do and be.
It took a while for me to realize this was happening, but I discovered that life had slowed down. My experience of time had completely changed. Days felt full and long and luxurious.
Every instant I noticed my breathing time stood still for a moment. The more times in a day I noticed my breath, the longer the day stretched out. As I felt my feet touch the ground, tasted the ripe peach on my tongue, felt the car seat hugging my body, heard the sounds of sirens and birds and music, time slowed down.
So now at 50 I no longer feel that life has sped up. I’m not wondering where the time has gone, or how I got here so fast. I’m in awe of being 50 years old. That’s a LOT of years to be breathing and walking and eating and loving. That’s a lot of years of friendships and family and births and deaths and successes and failures. It’s a lot of years of hopes and dreams and fears, intimate conversations, walks taken, hands held, tomatoes harvested, meals shared, basketball games cheered for, legs shaved, and floors washed.
I’ve been fortunate to have lived an incredible life in three different countries, with rewarding careers, and wonderful people, in sickness and in health, during better and worse times, filled with happy hellos and tearful goodbyes and all that happens in between. And fortunate enough to slow down and appreciate it all as I look back on it, and as it’s happening now.
At 50 I actually feel ready to die. I don’t have a desire to die. I have a readiness. It’s been a long and lovely life. I assume that there are more days coming, but if they don’t I have lived fully and lived well, especially once I learned to pay attention.
Paying attention is my secret for slowing down time.