My mother said at some point late in her life, “The weeks go by faster the older I get.” An interesting, recent psychological study confirms her feeling and has a bit of wisdom for each of us as we age.*
We remember things in such vivid detail from our youth because every experience was new and unique; they imprinted themselves more strongly on the brain. Over time we develop habitual patterns of doing things. We have fewer new experiences to refresh those neurons. What we do routinely, we take for granted. “When we go to the same places and do the same things, we don’t make distinct memories and time seems to fly by.”
The key to a happy life at any age might lie in what my father said, “You’ve got to have something to look forward to.” To the degree we lose our optimism and hope for a better future, we quit looking forward to things. With nothing to look forward to, life becomes a blur of sameness.
To the degree I look forward with hopefulness and optimism, I draw life to me like the next breath. There is nothing good in hopelessness and pessimism. In these days of negative bombardment, choosing between these two mindsets is the simple but difficult choice I have to make.
I want to remember the good from the past. I want to be present in the here and now. I want to look for and find something new each day. Do I stray from this intention? Of course. We’re all like ships at sea, rarely on a perfect course, but bound to move toward our destination.
And what is the destination? The destination for me is primarily a pattern of thought, a way of looking at the world. If I choose to be focused on what’s not going well, my life will slip by unnoticed with a constant buzzing of anxiety. As I coax myself to appreciation of the good things in my life now, I use my time wisely. I allow myself to stay in the flow of life: breath in, breath out.