Scared to run out of time


Last updated 10/3/2023 at 10:48am

When did the choices get so hard with so much more at stake? Life gets mighty precious when there’s less of it to waste. Scared to run out of time. — “Nick of Time,” Bonnie Raitt

My wife was waiting in the Pine Marten lift line at Mt. Bachelor, watching a beautiful skiier glide effortlessly down the mountain. He rode up the chairlift with her, giving my wife the opportunity to ask him whether the 90+ patch on the shoulder of his ski jacket signaled a new clothing company? No, he replied proudly, he was 93-years old, with daily morning workouts at the gym keeping him fit. And, he was still capable of driving himself up the mountain to ski!

I turn 71 in December. I want to ski, hike, paddle, take bike trips, and camp, indefinitely, I want to earn my own 90+ patch for multiple outdoor activities. But I have no idea how well my body or my cognitive faculties will hold up over the decades to come. So I’m scared to run out of time.

My wife and I believe that at 68 and 70 we have to put continuous effort into staying fit for future adventures: We frequently exercise in the outdoors, perform specific exercises to keep our knees and backs strong and supple, and we also eat a reasonably healthy diet.

I also take medicine to control my cholesterol and other medication to regulate my thyroid function and my mood.

On a daily basis, my wife does her Sudoku to stay sharp, while I practice mindfulness meditation to reinforce attentional skills and improve awareness, regulate my mood, and control my anxiety.

For years my wife and I have loaded our 17-foot sea kayaks onto the roof of our Mazda — lifting, pushing, pulling, and hanging off the roof to tug them into position. Not smart when the risk of falls and fractures increases with age. Such injuries would really put a damper on our adventures. Recently we bought a kayak trailer to facilitate loading our kayaks.

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Other accommodations are needed to keep the bandwidth open for communication. With a pair of hearing aids, I no longer have to guess what other people are saying, and even my granddaughters’ high-pitched voices are discernible.

As Americans live longer, we are at greater risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., Parkinsons), dementia, etc., any of which may impact both our longevity and our quality of life.

Here is where a crystal ball would really come in handy.

If I knew that my wife and I would live long, healthy lives, earn our 90+ patches, I might not feel so scared of running out of time to enjoy the activities that bring me joy. I might not feel the same urgency to replace our pop-up tent trailer with a used camper van (my current obsession) so that we could camp during colder weather and take a cross-country trip.

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If I could foresee that by 80 we wouldn’t be capable of skiing and paddling, hiking, or taking trips, I’d try to pack more adventures into the next 10 years. I would advocate for dipping into our savings to buy new skis, new ski boots, new bikes, new paddles, and a brand-new camper van!

If I knew we would live into our 90s, but that one or both of us would be forced by health issues into years of living in a nursing home, I would agree with my wife to set more money aside to pay for future care, so that our children weren’t burdened upon our death with massive bills.

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Unfortunately, none of us possesses a crystal ball.

My wife and I hope that our healthy lifestyle choices will result in long and healthy lives, but no amount of exercise, healthy eating, or adequate sleep can guarantee such an outcome. There will always be some uncertainty about the future.

All my wife and I can do is try to maintain a reasonable balance between funding our adventures while saving against an unforeseeable future, hoping our bets work out.

Buddha reminds us of the inevitability of growing older, becoming ill, and dying. But he also tells us that accepting our state of impermanence enables us to overcome our fear of running out of time, so that we can live fully in the present moment.

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