When days become so busy that we are often scheduling out our lives months in advance or constantly putting things off until the next day or the day after that — especially regarding self-care — it can be easy to forget that the plans of tomorrow. . . may never come.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my father’s untimely passing a few years ago was to never put off for tomorrow what you would like to do today. My father had a rough upbringing. His family lived in a tiny railroad-side apartment in Manhattan where he shared a small room with two sisters and the family washed their dishes in the bath tub that was located right next to the kitchen. At 19 he was drafted to Vietnam and after surviving the horrors he undoubtedly faced there, he put himself through college at NYU while working night shifts. He was determined to make his life better.
He was the hardest worker I have ever known, often to a fault. His stress levels were always very high. He exhausted himself, thinking that one day he would live the care-free, relaxed life he always wanted to live after all of the effort he put in. He worked himself from the bottom to the top, making quite a nice salary by mid-life, and saving every dime in between. But guess what else happened mid-life? He suffered a seizure one day and four months later, he succumbed to a brain tumor that he never expected to have.
All of those plans for retirement and for “one day” were snatched away; those would never be moments that he would have to enjoy. Those were moments, put off for the future, that would never come. I cannot say that all of his hard work and stress were wasted, because he of course provided for his family as well, but those plans he put off for himself —those plans would never play out for him.
Though tragic, this event struck something in my mother (who shared a similar difficult upbringing and equally stress-provoking work schedule). She, too, had worked her whole life from a young age and finally thought to herself — Why am I doing this if only to miss out on the future benefits of my hard work?
So, at 61 years old, she retired. She no longer put off her future plans. She traveled to Italy, to Ireland and throughout the east coast where her family resides, taking time to visit with loved ones. Her days now are spent doing what she wants to do rather than what she feels she has to do. She volunteers and contributes her time to matters close to her heart and activities that reward her soul. After working her way up the ladder her whole life to a prestigious, full-time role (and a lot of running around as a mother of two), she finally reaped the benefits of the years of hard work and selflessness that she had put in to her “one day” savings account.
This is not to say that everyone can and should quit their jobs and run around the world on whatever money they have (though that is perfectly fine to do if you would like), but there is a lesson to be learned when we hear a story like this one — and that is to stop putting things off for the future as if the future is guaranteed. The future is never guaranteed. The only guaranteed time we have is this exact moment we are experiencing right now.
You can put off seeing your terminally ill relative for a few months, but you may never see them again. You can put off that family trip for five years, but you or someone in your family may never get to enjoy it. You can put off getting healthy and might end up with even more serious health issues as a result..
What matters to you today? What is something important to you that you have been putting off? Is it something that you can realistically do sooner? If it is, why are you waiting? What are you waiting for?
We have so many opportunities in the here and now to use the time we have for things that best serve us but can find a million excuses not to take action based on reasonings we formulate in our head. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in a few months, or years. . . or. . . eventually.
Never count on tomorrow. Count on today. Count on this moment you have, right now, to recognize what you have been putting off and make an effort to appreciate and enjoy your existence today rather than suffering today to enjoy it tomorrow. You are worthy of enjoying the present moment instead of hoping to enjoy the future. You are worthy of taking time off when you need it. You are worthy of treating yourself and taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves to you sooner rather than later. You are worthy of happiness and contentment and experiencing it right now rather than later. So don’t wait — do it today.