Tempus fugit

150 150 Frances
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Dear Kristin,

I’m always shocked when autumn finally arrives–I mean, really arrives. When the chirps of the crickets and the cicadas grow few and far between, when it’s cold in the morning no matter how high the temperatures get later in the day, when I look outside at 7PM and realize it’s already dark.

I love it all so much–and wish that it didn’t go so fast. October is my favorite month of the year, and most years it only lasts a minute. It’s still fall on the other side–November is a truly beautiful month in North Carolina–but it’s different. The trees have dropped most of their leaves, the light thins out. In October, fall is in full bloom. 

October has always gone fast for me, but for the last few years, time seems to have sped up in general. I’m familiar with the theory that time is proportional–how we perceive time is linked to how much time we’ve already lived. When you’ve only lived for three years, a year seems like a really long time–a third of your life! But when you’re 59? A year’s just a fraction of your time here on earth. 

But there are also studies that show how, as we age, our brains process visual information more slowly, which makes time feel like it’s going faster. Some scientists suggest that time speeds up when fewer novelties punctuate our days. When you’re a kid, everything is new. When you’re heading into your senior years, not so much. I guess that’s a good argument for traveling and picking up new hobbies!

I hate this sense that time is speeding past so quickly–except when I’m in a stressful situation or dreading something coming up on my calendar (as you know, I dread most trips I have to take for work-related stuff). Then I think, “This will be over in a blink of an eye.” And it is.

I want to stretch October out. I know if I could slow my own life down, it would help, but somehow October seems to get busier and busier. Maybe once we retire, the days will stretch out again.

Speaking of retiring, I had coffee with an old friend on Tuesday, and it turns out she and her husband, both around my age, have retired. So many people I know are retiring early! Maybe it’s because they want to enjoy October.

How’s time flowing for you these days?


Dear Frances,

Time is funny, isn’t it? Remember when summer stretched out endlessly when you were a kid? And this year it was gone in a flash. I barely registered that it was September, and now here we are in October! What happened? (I do think that travel increases the speed at which I experience time.)

Like you, here in California, we don’t get the weather cues that fall has arrived, like other places in the country. Today it’s going to be 90 degrees, but I recognize the signs of fall because of the changing light and the fact that it’s been dipping into the low 50s and even 40s at night. The other day, it was 49 degrees when I left for my workout! We are now working out mostly in the dark, but I’ve been appreciating being outside to enjoy the sunrise those mornings.

Sunrise after workout

Not to get morbid on you, but the aspect of time I’ve been thinking about lately has more to do with how much time we have left. And how tenuous life and even health can be as you get older. As someone who survived being diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, I realize that diagnoses like that are so much more likely to happen as we get older. And how they can come out of the blue and change life as we know it in an instant.

This has been weighing on my mind because three people I know have lost their lives to cancer in the last month. And they were all in their 40s and 50s. It really makes me want to think about what I want to do with my “third act,” and now that life is not as busy, really enjoy the people in my life. I have heard really good things about the book 4000 Weeks (including from you), but I don’t think I can bear to read a book that is focused on how much time we have in our lives. Let me know if I need to reevaluate that.  

I’ve also noticed that now that I’m not driving carpool and heading out to sports and scouts four nights a week, I have a much lower tolerance for being busy. These last couple of weeks I’ve met up with friends for lunch or dinner just a couple nights a week, and all of a sudden, I feel like life is so busy! It reminds me of this inside joke Gary and I have about his parents telling us they couldn’t visit one month because one of them had a doctor’s appointment one day that month. I’m not too far from that now! One social meet-up a week is enough for me! (And I used to claim to be an extrovert! What happened?)

I guess my takeaway here is a reminder that life is precious and time is limited. I’m finding that there is a fine line between slowing down and wasting time. I’m all for keeping a clear schedule to have time to enjoy the people and activities I enjoy—but I constantly need to remind myself that there are better things to do with this one precious life than scrolling on my phone.


  • Robin Leftwich

    I join you in thinking more and more aabout how time is flying by. I really think that as we get older we realize we are not going to live forever. I’ve been thinking lately about how my life has turned out so different from what I always envisioned it would be. And no, retirement does not make for more time, at least for me! But then I think about how October is also my favorite month, and if October and autumn can be so delightful, so can the October of my life!

  • Patty

    I retired in my mid-50s and for me it was the best decision. I found new groups of friends, time for daily exercise and much creativity time! I am now trying to incorporate a few minutes of just sitting into my day. No phone, no book. Just think time or look out the window.

  • Theona

    I’ve always loved autumn, even when I lived in Florida. The humidity was less, the kids were in fall sports, pumpkin was in everything, and my birthday rolls around in November. As I near retirement, I look back at life and see so many wonderful things (family, grandkids, travel, etc.) that make me realize how rich my life has been. I don’t want to live fearfully in the last part of my life. I know where I will go when I die, but I want to live the last unknown number of years well. People seem to get busier with retirement. I want to savor my days and years and not be so busy that I don’t enjoy them.

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