The hourglass is almost empty.
L. Frank Baum – The Wizard of Oz
The literal translation of the German word torschlusspanik is door-shut panic. It is an anxiety that time will run out before we can achieve our life goals. The word was first used in reference to young women who were nearing an age where they were no longer considered marriageable and then, more recently, to women whose biological clocks were winding down.
I associate torschlusspanik with a middle aged angst and aging in general. In my view, time is not the Wicked Witch of the West with hourglass in hand and we are not the terrified Dorothy Gale, rather I envision the word written on a neon Post-it note from the universe reminding us that there is still time to realize our dreams.
It is true that what was once a life of limitless opportunities and horizons has become, for many, a life in which many doors have been tightly shut. Bucket list items such as trekking deep into darkest Africa, skydiving, and earning a Ph.D. in the Icelandic language may no longer be realistic for many reasons. However, there is no need to panic as the door is still wide, wide open to many possibilities.
There are countless other wonderful activities that we might chose to make the most of our remaining years that do not require us to be alone, spend inordinate amounts of time and money, travel or even to be in perfect health. The point is, torschlusspanik can keep us fully engaged in our lives – lives filled with beauty, passion, pleasure, curiosity, and gratitude for all that is still available to us.
I remember what my father said when he was about my age now, “I’ve had a great life. If I were to die tomorrow, I would have no regrets. It’s just icing on the cake from here on out.”