Yesterday, I did something I rarely do. I completed all of the items on my “to-do” list. Granted, some of the items included: eating bacon, drinking water and sleeping. Nonetheless, I did not have any carry-overs. I always have carry-overs. I am a procrastinator. I put off the things I don’t really want to do. I am a genius at making excuses and justifying and copping out of my obligations. I am a master at making myself feel better about my mediocre performance. Well, yesterday that changed. I did what I said I was going to do…and not all of it was fun.
A couple of things inspired this productivity: The first was heat. I was feeling some serious heat about WHEN certain tasks would be completed. And, trust me, my wife can really stoke a fire. It gets hot around my house when she ramps us the bellows. Even with my expert excuse making capabilities, I was running short and time was running out, so I did what I knew I inevitably must do anyway. The next thing that inspired me to move was an idea that I encountered at a seminar last week. This idea was about “someday”. Being a procrastinator, I have clung to the idea of “someday” as my life raft. “Tomorrow”, “later” and “at some point” are analogous to “someday”. The trouble with these ideas is that they exist only as ideas. They are fantasy. They don’t exist in the real world. There is only today.
This fairly abstract concept took some time to get through my gate keepers which insulate me from acknowledging my failures. Eventually, this idea became comforting. Allowing that someday doesn’t exist creates some urgency in “doing something” today. I am prone to lean on “someday” as validation for what I haven’t done yet. However, “I will do it” is NOT the same as actually “doing it.” This is a dangerous habit and it has not served me well. I have missed opportunities and compromised my success in important ways. I have undermined my good intentions and capacity for delivering on them through simple inaction. I am not proud to write these words, believe me. But, being an excuse making human being, I can always forgive myself and I do.
I forgive myself because the idea of today being the only day that counts is not new to me. I read a lot. Some of what I read is important books written by important people (whatever that means). In reading these books, once in a while, I will stumble across a profound thought that I recognize as a familiar friend. Occasionally, I find that a smart person will share an idea that I thought, on my own, at some point in my life. It is here that I live in the company of giants. I have independently thought important thoughts and, because of this, I must be important, too. Sooooo, if I can think the same important thoughts that people I admire think, then by extension, I can achieve what they achieve. This only difference is “doing” it, whatever “it” is. This comforts me. I am not a lost cause. There is hope. And that hope is today.
Many, many years ago, I used to carry around a little notebook in which I would write down quotes and/or book passages that I found interesting, inspiring…or just funny. While weeding out some of my excess junk, I stumbled across my little notebook in a thread bare box of miscellaneous old photos and beer coasters. In my little book, I found some jewels. Most of the time, I kept these words as my little secret treasures, unless the rare opportunity to impress a weird chick with a quote might get me some action presented itself. Again, this was exceedingly and painfully rare (honey…sweetheart). But the words still live as a time capsule to what I was thinking back then.
One particular quote from Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” strikes me as appropriate to my new way of thinking and demonstrates that it is actually an old way of thinking. The quote is: “So (what) if your life trades its seventy years for seventy hours. I have that value now and am lucky enough to know it. And if there is not any such thing as a long time, nor the rest of your lives, nor from now on, but there is only now, why then now is the thing to praise and I am very happy with it.” Granted the circumstances were different for the character in this context. He was going on a mission to blow up a bridge that he knew would likely result in his own demise. So, while this is not a small distinction, there are still parallels to be drawn.
We are all facing an “imminent” demise. We don’t know when it will be, but it will be, certainly. This is why “someday” is a dangerous illusion. Postponing life today is postponing life and sometimes never getting around to living it. Now is the only thing we have. Today is the only palette we can paint with. We cannot paint with tomorrow. We can only act today. Today is the only day we have. It is only here that we can do anything about our lives. This being so then today is the thing to praise….and I am very happy with it.
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]