How Long is Your Timeline?

By Janey Womeldorf

How Long is Your Timeline?

“I want you to draw a line,” the instructor said. “Write a zero at one end, and the age at the other you think you will die.”

I wrote 77.

I was taking a lifestyle-improvement class and the line represented our life’s timeline that you then divided up into seven-year periods. (There was lots of self-analytical blah, blah, blah after that so I won’t bore you with the task at hand which was to write in each seven-year window your proudest memory, unless that is, you’re either strangely interested or really bored, in which case go to, e-mail me, then go watch paint dry somewhere to get you primed for my response.) Anyway, math was never my strong point but even I knew that the number 77 would be easily divisible into 11 tidy, seven-year windows; so without giving it much thought, I ended my life at 77.

Driving home that night, anguish crept over me, and by the time I reached the house, all the positive energy that had embraced me during the workshop had vanished. I walked in the door and blurted out, “I don’t want to die at 77.”

After reassuring my stricken-faced husband that I really had attended the correct class, I explained about the timeline and how I came up with my “die” date; the more I talked, the angrier I became. There was just too much in life we had yet to accomplish and neither of us was ready for our lives to end at 77. So on that day, we made a decision and a pledge to each other: We would re-write our timelines and, quite simply, both live to 100.

I took that class over 15 years ago but our deal still stands; we’re even okay if our timeline turns out to be longer than one hundred years. (Of course, we probably won’t be able to accomplish any more “proud” moments to write in that next seven-year window, but I’m thinking that if we haven’t achieved them by age 100, we’re probably pushing it to think we can squash one in now.)

A 100-year timeline does have its advantages: Namely, middle-aged becomes 50. That makes my husband just middle-aged and me the spring chicken of the marriage. Admittedly, fall turkey is probably more fitting but either way, I embrace that I have yet to cross this celebrate-middle-age-with-a-colonoscopy milestone.

The other great advantage is that it forces us to prioritize health.

There’s no point living to the grand old age of 100 if you can barely get out of your rocker to search for the remote to turn up the volume because your hearing aids aren’t working properly and TVs don’t have buttons anymore. Nostalgic thoughts of how easy televisions sets used to be distract you as you search for the all-controlling, frustrating device. Aah, the good old days: One round dial on the right-hand side to change the channel, one for the volume, and a button for on or off. Of course, the fact that television sets were the size of bedroom dressers, and came with rabbit ears on the top is casually forgotten, as is the reason why you got out of your rocker in the first place and so you sit back down, only to begin the ordeal all over again a few minutes later, unless that nap kicks in.

Without doubt, the older we get, the more we realize how priceless good health is. Sadly, my husband and I have already witnessed the impact of declining health on other people’s lives and mobility. Our pledge to live to 100, therefore, has mandated that we invest now in our future health. Consequently, we watch what we eat, exercise on a regular basis, and stay active and young at heart. We took a cruise recently and were blessed to share a table with two inspirational, energetic, well-travelled sisters. They described themselves as young active seniors. We loved that description; we want that description. So to stay healthy, and more importantly, be active in retirement, the time to start taking care of yourself is yesterday. We even started flossing more.

Good teeth are just as important as good bones – maybe more; after all, you need teeth to eat, and I love to eat. Of course, there are always dentures but what happens if you take them out and can’t remember where you put them? Before you know it, you are sitting in your rocker, smacking your gums, grumbling at the TV because you can’t hear it.

My husband and I often joke that if living on our limited retirement income gets tough, we could always share a set of false teeth, and if we ever had a wager going for anything, the winner would get first dibs on the teeth at dinner. When we first married, the reward for any wager used to be something to do with sex; two decades later, it’s that the loser empties the dishwasher. Funny how things change – not that sitting back and letting your middle-aged husband unload the dishwasher isn’t sexy mind you.

Of course, good bones are essential too. Women especially, are prone to osteoporosis, which is why I believe an addiction to Starbucks is a healthy thing. I selflessly go to Starbucks everyday for a grande milky latte – it’s an investment in my bones. I remind my husband of this each time I reload my card. My daily fix may be pricey but it’s cheaper than Fosamax. I do order decaf with nonfat milk though – you have to if your timeline is one hundred years long. I just hope Starbucks delivers by then.

Admittedly my husband and I are not perfect. We don’t always do everything in moderation, and sometimes we have a glass or three too many, but overall, we stay committed. We constantly joke that in ten more years, we’re letting ourselves go.

I plan to let him go first though.

I want first dibs on those false teeth at dinner.

About this writer

  • Janey Womeldorf Janey Womeldorf once went to work wearing different shoes. She now freelance writes and scribbles away in Orlando, Florida. It’s probably best.

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