Leave it to the Germans to capture a whole thing about life transitions in one word. The idea of leaving the workforce and entering a new phase of retirement life brings excitement and can trigger feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. In Germany, this feeling of urgency is known as Torschlusspanik or “closing gate panic.”

The term, Torschlusspanik originates from medieval times when gates of walled cities were closed at night for safety purposes, leaving those who arrived late stuck outside the city walls. The German word describes the urgent fear and panic of not making it to the other side in time.

My husband says the term describes how he feels about traveling since losing dear friends who were healthy, active, and kind and still lost the cruel health roulette.

I’ve talked to others who experienced it in mid-life as they transitioned between careers or relationships and remember students who experienced it in grad school as they hurried toward their new professions before wasting any more time in academia.  It’s that feeling that you must get to all the places you want to go and reach all the goals you want to achieve before they slip past your outstretched hands.

I wonder if it’s wired into our DNA. For my five-year old grandson, it looks like he’s already trying to impose order upon his desires.

For nearly a week before he arrived for a Beaufort visit, he was anxious that I not might recall all the things he wanted to do here and in the exact order he wanted to do them. He called me on Facetime, to make sure I was paying attention while he dictated his to-do list:

The downtown Waterfront playground, Pigeon Point playground, climb to the top of the observation tower at the Sands in Port Royal, visit the alligators at Port Royal Sound Wildlife Refuge, go to Hunting Island, order ice cream from Stellers and pizza from the Hearth and go on bike rides -in between all the things.

In his child-like version of “Torschulusspanik,” my boy asked me to make sure the basketball court was assembled, and his favorite popsicles were hidden deep in the freezer under a bag of vegetables, so his grandfather didn’t find them before he arrived.

Once his “plan” was agreed upon, he relaxed and went back to “counting sleeps” before the trek to Beaufort began.

While contemplating his mini version of gate-closing panic, it occurred to me that it starts early.  The intense need to maximize the minutes before all the minutes are gone and it’s time to load up the car to return home.

I can spot closing-gate panic in others, but I don’t feel it so much myself. The whole “bucket list” scenario springs from the self-imposed urge to mark off a list before “kicking the bucket.”

So, I try not to get too bogged down in that.  And yet, there is an almost primitive feeling of worrying about time rushing by in this stage of life. It’s not nearly as important to me that I see an elephant in its natural habitat or view the Acropolis or experience Hamilton on Broadway as it is that I have the health and means to plan and execute such monumental moments.

It feels like I am more of a small goals kind of person that derives small pleasures from nearly mundane moments.

Some of my small goals include reading the literature I somehow missed along the way, but it’s balanced with a newfound, Did Not Finish policy in which I give myself permission to stop reading a book that fails to inform, entertain, or delight. I can watch one lame episode of a popular Netflix series and decide there are better ways to fill an evening. I am beyond thrilled when the painted bunting couple visit my bird feeder but don’t feel the need for a competitive list of birds to see before I die.

I love to lose track of time using YouTube tutorials on beginning watercolor painting, but don’t dream of selling a painting or having a show.

I love making banana pudding from my go-to Paula Deen recipe but don’t feel compelled to excel at actual cooking.

I really want to get stronger and be more fit but am so content to walk/run and listen to a good book on tape that it’s hard to find the energy to do better.

My husband likes to achieve things and his travel list is grouped by places we need to travel to while we still have our health and energy. I’m happy to go along for the ride but I don’t feel as rushed about it as he does. If I don’t get to see my elephants, then my painted buntings, Beaufort dolphins and Port Royal gators are a source of delight that fills and thrills me.

When you love and lose friends before their time, it becomes a cumulative sense of loss. I want my friend to have her beloved husband at her side for one more sunset, one more anniversary and even one more shared laugh. The longing I feel about my friends who have died too soon is more about missing them and less about stirring up things I must accomplish before my time is up.

I say that, and yet I want to see what my characters do in the book I’m not yet writing or how I run in a 5K I’ve not yet trained for. I want all the time in the world to hide popsicles and visit playgrounds and meet not yet born grandchildren. I want endless romps on the beach with my granddog Happy, another mother’s and father’s day with my parents and years and years to watch my three beautiful grandnieces grow up into the strong women they are destined to become. I want my two-year old grandson to always call me “My Mimi,” even when he’s old enough to be embarrassed by the endearment. I want to see our country unite over something that’s not a tragedy but is the shared joy of freedom and opportunity for everyone.

I know the gate will eventually close, but I’m not worried about reaching for it with empty hands. I’d rather leap over it or duck under it or maybe even just gently close it behind me.

I hope that’s not too little to ask.