It has been some time since I last posted an article. I have been out of my practice, visiting family in Zurich and have not had the time to sit quietly and focus on writing something meaningful.
The solitary endeavor of keeping still to write goes against the natural interpersonal energy flow of excitement, movement and heightened activity when you are traveling and out of the usual routines. In fact, writing seems such a waste of time in such contexts, especially when you only have limited time to spend with loved ones who live abroad.
Experiencing the sense of limited time, re-connected me to my work with many of the clients who were in their 60’s and in the semi-retirement or retirement phase of their lives. During my consultations with these clients, I became aware that the retirement phase of life may confront one with a complex time-paradox. On the one hand there seems to be the feeling that there is so much time available since career activities have ceased and the usual routines of work are no longer there; yet concurrently there is the feeling that one is running out of time as the aging process unfolds. ‘Having too much time, yet running out of time’ was a paradox that most of these clients seemed to be dealing with (amongst other unique personal struggles).
There also seemed to be an added dimension to this paradox – that of wasted time and regrets.
I remember a client telling me about how and when he felt this paradox in its full intensity. It was always in the early hours of the morning when he could not sleep. All alone, in the stillness and quietness of the night, a reflective process unfolded. An internal panic got activated as he began to review his life that he had already lived (going back in time). As he did this he noticed all of the mistakes that he had made. He felt a lot of regret and had a strong need to correct the mistakes, yet these existed in the past and there was nothing he could do to change what had happened. The panic intensified when he realized that he had wasted so much time and that this was now lost time which could never be recovered. As his focus moved to his present circumstances he felt that he just sat around during the day doing nothing with all of the time that was now available to him. He had no meaningful present day activity, he was full of past regrets and as he looked forward, his future appeared to be bleak with reduced possibilities and limited time.
These intense feelings only abated and receded into the background of his mind when the early morning sun rays appeared to herald in a new day.
I don’t think that this internal reflective process is unique to those in their sixties. We have all experienced lying awake in bed in the early hours of the morning when we cannot escape ourselves and when there are no activities to distract us. During these times, we examine our faults, ponder our existence and the meaning thereof, attempt to resolve the conflicts that we have, plan how we can live more purposefully and think about how we can utilize our time more constructively. However, on a fundamental level, love and our relationships with others are usually on the center stage of this examination.
Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture, Maman, is being exhibited in Zurich. Maman is a huge spider that towers over those who walk past or under her. She seems to come from a different age. There is a weird beauty to her. As I encountered her, I wondered how long it took Bourgeois to complete her. What an amazing accomplishment!