One of my dearest friends is about a decade older than I am. Although we laugh a lot and are often rather silly for two women of a certain age, we also have deep conversations, and she always gives me sage advice.
“You know, aging doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to need new knees and hips, but eventually, you are going to slow down.” she counseled me on several occasions. “I’m happy with my life as it is and no longer feel the urge to travel. I’m pretty content to simply sit in my favorite chair and read. You’ll arrive at the same place sooner or later, but right now, you have a window of time. Use it well. Do the things you really want to do. Go to the places you really want to go. See the things you really want to see. And while you’re at it…eat the things you really want to eat.”
When I was about six years old, the Disney movie Peter Pan finally reached a theatre near me. In the 1950s, movies weren’t released everywhere, all at once. Small towns had to wait until the big cities had had enough of a film before it was shipped out to the hinterlands. Peter Pan wasn’t a particularly scary movie, but there were a few terrifying moments for a little kid. When Tinkerbell was captured by the dreaded Captain Hook, we all were on the edge of our seats with concern and worry for the tiny fairy. Would Peter reach her in time? But for me, the absolute horror was the crocodile. After he had feasted on the captain’s hand, he wanted more, so he slowly followed the ship waiting for the chance to chomp away on the remaining hand. As a matter of self-defense, Hook had fed the crocodile a clock that continued to tick away, acting as a primitive alarm system. The incessant tick tock, tick tock created heart-pounding moments of foreboding, apprehension, and fear in the young audience members. We knew that danger was near, and even though Hook was the villain, we didn’t want to imagine him with his hand in that huge mouth full of teeth.
In the summer of 1975, another colossal mouth full of teeth and a similar musical phrase struck terror in the hearts of moviegoers and kept people on the beach and out of the water. The auditory warning from the movie Jaws, with its steady, relentless rhythm…the dual note…dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun… put another audience on guard and on the edge of their seats. Even today, the repetition of those two notes can elicit a feeling of dread and impending doom. The composer, John Williams, described the theme as: “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual relentless, unstoppable.” In his blog post, Alex Burns says, “The way the theme is used is interesting because it conditions the audience to associate the theme with the shark. This causes quite a stir at the film’s climax, where the shark appears suddenly with no musical introduction.”
Like the captains, I’m beginning to hear the steady, incessant beating of my life clock, tick, tick, ticking away the minutes, hours, days, and years. I suppose that, like the theme of Jaws, the cadence will increase in volume and intensity until the falling action, when perhaps without warning…one day, it stops. Rather than think of this unyielding reverberation with a sense of doom and possible regret, I attempt to use the constant ticking as a reminder that the clock eventually does wind down. I have limited time to check things off my list…do the things I want to do, see the things I want to see, and visit the places I want to go.
Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”John C Maxwell
When our friends were buying lakeside cottages, big boats, and fancy cars, Dave and I decided to use our money and time to travel. We had some marvelous adventures together. We walked in Red Square, floated down the Thames as Big Ben chimed ten, dug peat in a bog in Ireland, slept several nights in a ghost town in Utah, descended into the depths of a salt mine in Poland, and strolled through tulip fields in Holland. We had a wonderful time traveling together. Now, even without my traveling buddy, the world beckons me. There are still places I’d like to go; however, at the moment, the list of places I’d like to return to is longer than the places I yearn to visit for the first time, although the thrill of discovery and trying something completely different and exciting are solid motivators for adventuring into unknown territory.
There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.Nelson Mandela
There is a special kind of comfort in returning to the familiarity of a place I’ve loved. Even if I’ve been to the exact location several times, each visit provides new adventures and insights. The ancient castle may not have changed between visits, but I have.
Several months ago, knowing how much I loved to travel, my daughter suggested I make a list of the places I’d still like to visit and things I’d still like to do. So, when I recently told her of the plans I’ve set in motion for the coming year…a weekend with Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, tickets for Hamilton in Boston, time alone in the desert outside of Tucson, a week with my granddaughter in Amsterdam, a rental cottage on Lake Champlain, another season in Stratford and on Star Island…I had to laugh at her response.
“Why are you planning so much? Do you really want to take that many airplane trips in one year?”
“I hear the clock ticking,” I replied. ” I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to travel.”
“You’re going to wear yourself out. You don’t have to do it all at once.”
She doesn’t yet realize that along with the ticking clock, there is the matter of my vintage parts that are beginning to deteriorate. The engine has a strange knocking, the belts and gaskets are brittle, the accelerator is not what it used to be, and the exhaust system is unreliable, so while I still can, I choose to wear out rather than rust out. Cracks can form along the fan belt’s surface, and small chunks of rubber can peel or chip off even if the car is parked in the garage. Might as well keep it on the road as long as possible.
Yes, I hear that constant ticking, but perhaps instead of a clock counting down minutes and years, I simply hear the steady beat of a metronome marking the tempo of songs I have yet to sing.