Thoughts on turning 50

If life is measured simply in time, then I’m more than halfway through mine. But I don't really see it that way.

Time is relative: we’ve all experienced that. Some days drag on for eons. Others fly by. Some moments we revisit in our memories, so we get to live them again. Sometimes we even waste time… but what does that mean, anyway? To “waste” time implies that we should be filling our time with something else, something better. I’m actually a proponent of wasting time, in moderation. You can’t careen ahead full-speed all the time; sometimes you have to stop and just be.

One reason I like watching animals in the wild is that their sense of time is different from mine, and I take comfort in that. A blue heron waits in the shallow water with absolute stillness until a fish swims by. A baby fawn stays hidden as long as he has to, waiting for his mother to return from foraging. A barnacle sits cemented to rock for years on end, reaching out to grab its microscopic dinner from the water each time the tide drifts in. Those animals are living according to their own sense of time that has nothing to do with hours or minutes; rather the sunlight and tides and seasons and the movement of other animals.

Me, I feel like I’d do better in life if humans weren’t so bound to clocks and calendars. When time is measured rigidly, I’m not the best at managing it. I’m known to be a procrastinator, in fact. But I prefer to think of myself as a heron, standing poised and waiting for my fish or idea to swim along, so I can strike. It’s those moments of silence, the stillness before the action, that we humans don’t always appreciate.

When we measure time in minutes, we naturally feel a responsibility to fill every one of them. I prefer to think of time as something less exact. Think of a turtle sunning herself on a log. That turtle doesn’t have anything resembling a schedule. She will stay on the log as long as the sun is shining, and as long as she needs the warmth. She will slide into the water when a boat passes by too close, or maybe when the shadows have grown long enough to block out the sunlight. She doesn’t contemplate how many minutes she’s spent soaking up the heat of the sun; she just knows when it’s time to move on.

The older I get, the more I want to be on turtle time.

They say 50 is a huge milestone, and I suppose it is. If you divide the years into seasons, then I’ve lived 200 seasons on this earth. I don’t remember all of them. My earliest seasons are lost to me, but I’ve seen the pictures of the chubby baby I was, sitting in a wheelbarrow with a dog. Doesn't everyone have a baby photo like that? Life has come full circle, because I’m now a chubby middle-aged woman, and I’m still sitting with a dog. I always have at least one dog in my lap when I write, but I can’t tell you the last time I was in a wheelbarrow.

But where was I going with all this? Oh yeah. I’d like to be on turtle time. Maybe this year will be the year I stop wearing a watch and start measuring time by how long the shadows are. I’ll count sunsets and moonrises and watch the passing of the seasons, and stop paying so much attention to the ticking of the clock.


  1. Beautiful Reflection. I, too, want to be on Turtle time and allowed myself three weeks of island bliss in the Caribbean. Here, they do Turtle time so much better. Annoying when a landlord tells you to be at the house at 2:30 and then doesn't show up with the keys until 3:15, but I'm feeling so much more relaxed about it then I would have felt back at home. I have a few more months until I join the 50-club, being a 1972 child myself and can relate to your story. Happy birthday and enjoy many more seasons, on Turtle time.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Edith, and for the birthday wishes! 50 is great so far - you won't be disappointed. And I'm so glad you can relate to the story. I've been feeling more relaxed ever since I wrote it. Yay turtle time!


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