Do you recognize this number? It’s the result of multiplying three numbers that everyone, since their childhood days, are familiar with.

60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours = 86,400 seconds. This number represents the day we wake up to, expecting a full day’s worth of wakeful activity plus the sleep time when we close our eyes that night.

Time is short. Let’s do a simple pen and paper exercise. If you like, you can consult your calendar, your journal, your social media postings, etc. Pick any recent past month. Write down your key moments and experiences during that month. After completing this, scan your list and writings. Highlight those moments and experiences that ‘strike/impact’ you. The realization slowly dawns on one, that key moments and experiences don’t occur in bunches. That sometimes, we fall prey to ‘sleep walking’ without full awareness. Now, we generally live our lives as though we had decades in front of us. A decade is only 120 months. And given our pen and paper exercise, doesn’t it now feel like we don’t have unlimited runway to live out our dreams, our passions, our aspirations?

Time is passing. Time is fleeting. That means it passes very quickly, and it doesn’t register. It’s like sand in an hourglass, the seconds drip non-stop, passing through our fingers. We fool ourselves. We use a motorized lawn mower thinking it ‘saves’ us time. We hire gardeners thinking it ‘buys’ us time. We multiplex and juggle several things, thinking we can ‘make up’ time. All these are illusions, time continues to pass. The paradox of aging is that when we were young, time seemed to drag. The days were so long. When we get older, the closer we get to the end, the faster it seems to come.

Remaining time is unknown. There are many who did not wake up this morning. There are many who will not go to sleep tonight. Nothing is certain. When we reminisce too much about the Past, we live there. When we plan and project too much about the Future, we live there. Breathe and live in the Present.

Time cannot be recovered. We lose things, and can regain (repurchase, rebuild, etc.) them. Time passed can never be regained. No one can turn the clock back.

We intellectually understand all the above. But whether this understanding wakens us up to live consciously is the first question. Let me plant the following imagery in our minds to raise our awareness:

Picture an hourglass as vividly as you can. In the morning, as one wakes up, there’s a huge heap of sand at the top, representing your waking hours for the day. Then, at various points in the day, picture the same hourglass but with proportionate sand left depending on time of day. Thus, mid day, perhaps there’s only 60% left. By late afternoon, there’s only 30% left. As you turn in for the night, there’s enough sand left for your usual bedtime cycle (e.g. reading, time to drop off to sleep).

The second question is how do we live the day, so that at the end of it, we can say, ‘Today was worth the living I put in and got out’? What will work for an individual depends on one’s personality, one’s desire and one’s current circumstances. Consider the following as provoking your own ideas and plans.

Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” outlined Habit 3, “Put First Things First”. Determine the big rocks and put them in the beaker first. Then, the small pebbles. Then the sand. Finally, the water. This approach packs the beaker the fullest with the set of materials. Change the sequence, and you get a less optimal packing. Determining the big rocks is best applied over a long time frame (be it for the year, months or weeks). Then, it breaks down to the various days. Say, I want to repair a relationship with someone close in 3-6 months time. I may then figure out a progressive set of out-reaches, and then plan that over the days to come. There will be obvious open slots as this effort is fluid and dynamic.

As retirees, on non-vacation days, it’s a mix of both planned and spontaneous activities. Our passions include hiking, exploring, reading. Spiritually, there’s praying, scripture and contemplation. Nurturing relationships and staying connected. Indulging in some entertainment.

Writing this surfaced something for us. Perhaps at the end of the day, we should have an explicit dialog with each other. Perhaps lead off with the question – What should we be greatful for today? Cultivating such an attitude cannot but lead to a better tomorrow.

Kicking Off A New Year, 2019

No, I am not going to talk about New Year resolutions. Not that they aren’t a good thing. Even though most do not check off 100% of their fine intentions come December 31, it’s an exercise that does help at some level. Kudos to those who preserve at this.

Rather, it’s reflecting how the arc of one’s life journey has been so far, and the progress towards one’s North Star(s). I will share two of such Stars.

Before getting to that, here’s my mechanism. I have created an xls that has tabs for each year. And in each tab, I outlined the core goals in my life, most of which are aligned to my North Stars. Some goals do reflect my human reality, e.g. centering on physical health. My goals stay fairly consistent year to year. What changes are the targets or milestones for that year.

If you journal a diary, then, consider scanning your writings/entries, and pulling out the key moments and experiences that you wish to build on for the New Year. You can always synthesize the micro into the macro, as there was an inner compass within you when you pulled out those key moments/experiences.

My first Star is my spiritual faith and discipleship. In 2018, I learnt that 100% Belief does not necessarily translate to 100% Trust, both being different sides of the Faith coin. And Trust is not just accepting that events occurred as God Willed or Allowed.

100% Trust means “I am ready to do whatever God asks of me.” 100% Trust means believing and sensing that God is always with me. 100% Trust means believing and accepting that God works all things together for my good.

Thus, in 2019, I will be working on that 100% Trust. It means looking at every moment, every event, every trigger, as an opportunity to discern what God asks of me, and to do it, with the conviction He is always with me and together, He and I can handle anything. A simple daily ‘get out of bed’ prayer is, “Lord, nothing will happen to me today that You and I together, cannot handle.”

My second Star centers on our adult children. It’s natural to de-emphasize parenting when adult children have left the nest and are living on their own. But we have experience, distance and  wisdom born from scars that actually place us in positions to discern and provide that parental guidance, even to our adult children. As we evaluated each child’s life stage and circumstances, we could easily identify that one aspect that we as parents could assist our child in their journey in 2019. What a privilege to be able to continue this journey with our children.

There’s much to look forward to in 2019. We have a Holy Land and second Camino pilgrimage planned. We are going to re-connect with family far away. We are enjoying the new friendships. A toast to all our readers, that we live and love more deeply in 2019.

the future

Our Nutritional Journey

There are a couple of well known sayings, that have their own adherents. The first camp, ‘Lives to Eat’ while the second camp, ‘Eats to Live’. We may not consciously deliberate whether we belong to one specific camp or perhaps, both feet straddle the two camps. But this orientation/bias does rest beneath our consciousness (in our stomachs?) and can oftentimes be apparent through our dining and eating habits.

We have dined and enjoyed tasty fare over the decades, from the multi-cultural cuisines of Asia, Europe and cosmopolitan fare across Americas. However, as we age, another aphorism comes to mind and even, to the forefront, ‘We are what we eat’. The quality of our life is directly related to our health, and what we fork/spoon into our mouths. Thus, for us, it’s only natural that we begin to shift more weight (pun intended) into the second camp while we continue to balance and straddle both camps. Like many, we want to push back against the saying, ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too!’.   😊

Evolving our nutrition was less triggered or motivated by any particular serious health challenge, but more by our increasing knowledge of how our nutritional choices directly impacts our overall health. Our son, Matt, had periodically gone through weeks of food cleanses but when he informed us that he had decided to go fully vegetarian, that got our attention. He pointed us to several documentaries, that were extremely persuasive – ‘Forks over Knives’ and ‘What the Health’ (available on Netflix and YouTube). We also came across ‘Life on us’. Viewing these documentaries was like falling through the rabbit hole in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. We couldn’t continue buying, cooking and eating the same basket of foods pre-documentaries. One cannot un-learn what has become known (unless one has amnesia!).

So, we began this journey. We started reducing/eliminating meats. And this decision was AFTER I had bought a ceramic komodo, planning to barbecue, grill and roast meats over charcoal last summer! Hosting a couple of BBQs last summer helped to de-stock the meat cuts in our freezer!

We went gluten free. And interestingly, I enjoyed the toasted udi’s gluten free bread more than the whole grain wheat breads. The stomach felt ‘fuller’! We stopped eating simple carbohydrates, processed foods. We had never taken sugar with our beverages for many years, but understanding that our body couldn’t naturally process lactose, we eliminated diary (milk, cream, cheeses, etc). Net, our nutrition is basically pescatarian. However, we do make dining meal exceptions, especially when we are out with friends, traveling or celebrating.

Desserts deserves its own mention. This is a very American/Western meal tradition, as most Asian meals at home will not include desserts. We had our dessert favorites, and fortunately, we had usually shared in the past as we found the American portions too large. But with this nutritional change, it was relatively easy to eliminate this too. What helps me to turn down the dessert is the realization that the calories gained from that 3-5 mins of dessert delight will require 30 mins of rowing, or 15 mins on the Stairsmaster to work off! But, this is a confession – when I am back in Malaysia, I treat myself to the local desserts. That’s my other leg in the first camp (‘Live to eat’) yanking at me.  😊

Finally, what are the benefits? We have both lost 10-15 pounds. We feel just as energetic and full of life. We are much more active during the week, and do not tire out. For Joon, some of her nagging health concerns have been greatly addressed.

We are looking forward to our golden years!

Feb 10, 2018

Taken on 10 February, 2018

Let the swinging 60s begin.