the calendar’s relentless progression: autumn leaves

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The latter part of September perpetually hosts the first day of fall—a time of moderating weather, heavier work schedules and looking ahead.

During one’s teens, 20s and even 30s, this annual period typically seems full of hours and days, its farewell comfortably in the distance. Yet into the 40s and 50s, those selfsame hours appear ever briefer, ever more precious. As much as the numbers themselves do not change, our perception of them moves ever faster. While not able to slow the calendar’s relentless progression, making the most of each 24-filled gift basket goes a long way in mitigating it. This applies to finding fulfillment in work and career projects, to spending dedicated time with family and friends, to enjoying vacations and travel, to lifelong learning.

Writer and BBC broadcaster Claudia Hammond’s book, Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception, takes a fascinating and colorful picture of how we respond to time within a kaleidoscope of scenarios. Its chapters—“The Time Illusion,” Mind Clocks,” “Monday Is Red,” “Why Time Speeds Up As You Get Older,” “Remembering the Future” and “Changing Your Relationship with Time”—help to put the perpetual questions that most of us eventually ask in context, and is yet another reminder that perception governs so much of our activities and responses.

Key societal yardsticks may well be useful but end up being narrow by themselves. Increasing the size of bank accounts is nice, easily measurable and offers life-experience options that may be unattainable otherwise. Yet how do we put those monthly statements to use? Are we building and building with little enjoyment of the house itself? Are we looking beyond ourselves, vis-à-vis how we can make a positive contribution to our communities? Are we nagged by ongoing questions of whether we’re doing all that we can? Are we focused on one goal above or to the exclusion of others? These questions may well be difficult to answer, but the results of such serious queries may well include achievement, contentment, gratitude and humility… a lifelong process.

As September eases into the past, it remains ever helpful not to regret its passing, but to ask if the most was made of its time. If the answer is less than it could be, to implement meaningful changes then makes September’s empty pockets anything but wasted and unproductive. Why not actively pursue those changes? Autumn leaves all too quickly.