Time’s Winged Chariot

Life’s too short: a philosophy that fits neatly on a t-shirt and that resonates easily for anyone asked to drink cheap wine. Life’s too long: that takes a little more space and effort to explore.


Life’s too short.

It must be true.  After all, I’ve read it on any number of t-shirts in catalogues: Life’s too short to drink cheap wine, beer, bourbon, or coffee; too short not to eat chocolate; too short, it turns out, even to wear ugly shoes.

I’ve heard it at work, too.  A colleague fusses about something or someone and we say, You’re right.  You shouldn’t have to put up with that.  Life’s too short.

So it seems we’re generally agreed: Life’s too short.  

As a sexagenerian, I certainly hear “time’s winged chariot hurrying near.”  I’m not at the end of things, but I feel as if I can see it from where I’m standing.  I still buy green bananas, but I may never buy another house.  Not quite ready for the Lodge, I still expect that the next stop is likely a condo.

Not done travelling by a long shot, I know that I may not have time to circle back to some of my favourite places.  Not ready to stop learning, I reluctantly acknowledge that mastering Spanish just isn’t going to happen.  As for simultaneously improving my super-basic French, hah!

So, cheap wine aside, I get this business about life being too short.  How then, is it also too long?

I’m not certifiably old yet, and still my lifetime of memories turns up some impressive numbers.  Fifty-some years of wishing I could dance or play a musical instrument or speak another language really well.  Forty-one years as a parent; thirty-eight years without a living grandparent; twenty-two years in a profession I fell into.  (Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.  Or out.)  Fifty-five years of less-than-fond memories of dentists; twenty-one years of physiotherapists.

If I had understood ‘back when’ just how long it was going to be, would I have made different choices?  Put in the effort early on Spanish?  Spent more time with my grandmother when I still could?  Been more intentional in my choice of work, a more patient parent, or a more responsible patient?

For the things I’ve done, to myself and to others; for the things I didn’t do, for myself or for others; for the things that just happened to me, life being life: for all of these, I’ve lived with the consequences for a long, long time.  And there’s no end in immediate sight.

If life were only too short, it wouldn’t much matter what I did to, for, or with it.  The problem is that life’s also too long.

Too long to be self-absorbed, or afraid to try things. Too long to take my family and friends for granted; too long to fail to turn acquaintances into friends.  Too long not to floss or exercise regularly.

Yet life is also surely too long to wallow in regrets; too long to be miserable in my own skin; too long not to be better for seeing the beauty around me.  Too long not to get the most from, and be grateful for, every bloody moment.

Too long, as it turns out, to get your entire philosophy from a t-shirt.

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14 Comments

Filed under Mortality

14 Responses to Time’s Winged Chariot

  1. Jim Robertson

    Well said Isabel !

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Many thanks. I think it’s a middle-aged point of view (not to put it any higher!). This might be why parents are so concerned about decisions their teens and young-adult children make – they know first-hand just how long the consequences last.

  2. John W

    Isabel, I already own a condo! Does that really mean I am old!

    • Isabel Gibson

      John – Well, it might! But you know what I’m talking about (or I presume you do, at your age) – the surprising sense of doing some things for the last time. Very odd.

  3. Your concept of gratitude in the moment resonates: I have known very humble people, some with grave afflictions, who somehow lived their lives completely, not by being perfect in every moment, but by strewing little gifts of themselves along their toiling way that made others grateful and therefore better able to stay their own course.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – Yes, we all might well aspire to being a help rather than a hindrance to others on their path – and as you point out, it needn’t be by actively helping others or fixing their problems, but “just” by being the best we can be. What’s that old Sunday-school song – “So let us shine, you in your small corner, and I in mine.”

  4. Neil Asbil

    You put into words so succinctly the thoughts that more and more I seem to catch crawling around my mind when it decides to go for a wander!
    Well said.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Neil – Thanks kindly. Me, I find I feel better once I get them out of my head. (I used to have a button that said, Does the noise in my head bother you?)

  5. Jim Taylor

    Been there. Still doing that.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Still getting the ideas out of your head, you mean? Yes, I sometimes wonder how people manage if they don’t write. Of course, maybe they talk to their friends…

  6. I heard a good line on a terrific British Series running these days: Last Tango in Halifax. It was one woman talking to another. “Don’t be depressed. It’s a waste of time.”
    T-shirt worthy?

    • Isabel Gibson

      Barbara – That is a good line – if only clinical depression were amenable to logic! But for the rest of us who just get a little blue now and then, it would be a good wake-up call.

  7. Kate

    Nice!
    Guess I had better get off my duff and start learning to play music as I have wanted to!!! No time like the present.
    I always like your articles, Isabel 🙂

    • Isabel Gibson

      Kate – I don’t suppose you’re spending much time on your duff, with three little kids in the house. But you’re absolutely right. Do it now, and think of how many years you’ll be able to enjoy that skill!