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Live Your Life Now!

June 11, 2011

The Grass Roots

“When I think of all the worries people seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry to complicate their mind
By chasing after money and dreams that can’t come true
I’m glad that we are different, we’ve better things to do

Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey.”
(Live for Today, The Grass Roots, 1970s)

How many times have you heard or read something, somewhere that has mirrored the song lyrics above?  How about:

  • Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  (Charles Dederich)  
  • Enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think.  (Chinese Proverb)
  •  Live every day as if it were your last … some day you’ll be right. (H.H. “Breaker” Morant)
  •  As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do. (Zachary Scott)

“Hogwash!”, you might say!  It’s not that these quotes aren’t true, it’s just that it’s so damn hard to actually put the past behind, stop worrying about the future, and live in the ‘now’ – and still get all the things done that need to be done every single day.  Isn’t it?

Well, yes – and no.  It certainly takes some work!  I should know – I’ve been trying for the past year to do just that. And it’s TOUGH!

Eleanor Roosevelt On LifeIt was just over a year ago that I made the momentous decision to quit my job and pursue my dream of writing on a full time basis (for more on how that happened, see ‘Best Before’).  What I’ve learned from the process is that old habits really are hard to shake, and after almost forty years of living to deadlines, watching the clock, and following someone else’s ‘rules’, being my own ‘overseer’ isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  But I’m getting better at it.  Perhaps if I’d spent more time doing the things I’d wanted to do in all the years when I’d felt my life was spinning out of control, it wouldn’t have (spun out of control), and I wouldn’t be feeling so pressured to play ‘catch up’ now.

For the first five or so years of your life, you get to do pretty much whatever you want – there are some basic rules, but it’s a wonderful time to be alive.  You basically eat, sleep, and play. Cool.

Then you enter school, and life gets much more complicated – there are rules to be followed, concepts to be learned, steps to be memorized.  You have to get along with others, follow directions, and learn how to read, write, and do arithmetic.  And that’s just the beginning!

Fitting InSomewhere around the age of eleven or twelve, you begin the process of needing to ‘belong’ – first to a peer group, then to a single individual. You spend most of your time watching others, following their lead, seeking their approval.  Not only do you have to master more advanced learning skills (i.e., get through high school, then college or university), but you have to figure out how to attract a mate, and what to do once you do.

The next thing you know, you’re married (or in some type of committed relationship), working full time at some job you’ve ‘trained’ for, perhaps buying a house, and having children. There’s the constant struggle to ‘make ends meet’, and you’re in it for the long haul.  Congratulations – you’ve succeeded in doing what nature had planned for you from the start – propagating the species and ‘fitting in’ to the social order!

It isn’t until most people reach their mid-40s or 50s that they stop to wonder ‘What happened to my life?’ and ‘When do I get to do all the things I’ve always wanted to do?’  It’s easy to see where the whole idea of the ‘mid life crisis’ came from – after so many years of following life’s pre-set plan, we DESERVE to  be able to ‘live for today’!

I was fortunate to be able to leave my job ‘early’ (my husband earns a good living, we were completely debt-free, and I had a specific goal in mind for how I would spend all that ‘free time’), but most people can’t conceive of ‘dropping out’ before they reach the ripe old age of 65 (or more).  However, that doesn’t mean you can’t live your dreams in your ‘off time’ before then.  It just takes some planning, and a little getting used to, that’s all.

Abraham Lincoln On LifeSet aside for the moment the fact that you have to work, raise a family, pay your bills, manage your household, etc.  There are 168 hours in a week – surely you can find a half dozen or so for your dreams – can’t you?  It’s a matter of setting clear priorities.  It is really quite simple – take the time to take the time.

So – when are you going to start living the life you were meant to live?

I’m not suggesting you leave a lucrative (or much-needed) job, or sell your possessions and run off to some exotic locale, but why not – this week – find a small bit of time where you can dream – or do – the things you’ve always put aside ‘for another day’?  Life really is ‘too short’.  To wit:

  • For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. (Dr. Alfred D’Souza)
  • Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do?  Back off and take its picture.  (Russell Baker)
  •  The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.  (Author unknown, sometimes attributed to W.M. Lewis)
  •  To change one’s life:  Start immediately.  Do it flamboyantly.  No exceptions.  (William James)

In Dr. Seuss’s book ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go’ (which I used to read to graduating students), he writes about ‘The Waiting Place’ – which is where a lot of us spend far too much of our time:

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come,
or a plane to go
or the mail to come,
or the rain to go
or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

The Waiting Place: Dr. Seuss
Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite. 
Or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil
or a better break
or a string of pearls
or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls
or another chance. 
Everyone is just waiting. 

So, what are YOU waiting for?  Whatever it is, decide RIGHT NOW to get up and go after it – embrace a dream (or just something you really, really want to do) and do something about it NOW (even in the tiniest increments), before, like me, you start wondering how on earth you got to … the other side of 55.

Diane Ackerman: Width Of Life

  1. July 9, 2011 3:39 am

    I really need to make my bucket list. You have inspired me to atleast start it. I am 44 and don’t plan to retire. LOL

    • July 9, 2011 8:38 am

      I have no idea what I’d do it I “really” retired … there are still far too many things to do!


  2. maureen wall permalink
    June 19, 2011 9:39 am

    Here’s to the ‘width’ of life. This came at a good time in my life too. I’ll save this and read again and again. Thank you.

    • June 19, 2011 12:47 pm

      I’m pleased to hear that my words have helped others!


  3. June 18, 2011 8:52 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this posting. It has come at a time when I needed a kick-start to get on with my life now that I am retired and have a huge bucket list of things I want to do with the last one-third of my life.

  4. June 12, 2011 9:21 pm

    When I retired, I couldn’t have imagined the opportunities that would present themselves to me. Apparently, “Cuando plante rosas, plante rosales” by Amado Nervo…”As I planted roses, I was planting rose bushes.” I am blessed.

    • June 13, 2011 9:39 pm

      I have friends who are afraid of retirement because they can’t imagine what they’ll do with all that time. If only I had that problem. “Retirement” has turned out to be the best and busiest time of my life! Glad you’re enjoying it too.



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