Saving the best for last…

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” Pablo Picasso

My dad just forwarded me an email sent to him by one of his former employees.  It was a chain email, but she added the following preface:

When I worked in Boston, I had the most amazing boss.  He use to tell me to do stuff other than work, to which I always replied, “I’ll get around to it.”  One morning I came into the office and on my desk was a cork and brass coaster with xoxoxoxo on it.  I asked if he knew what it was.  He said it’s your………… “round to-it”.  It wasn’t xoxo, it was…… to it to it…….. (written in a circle it looked like xoxo)  Thank you, Barry. After 11 years, my tea still sits in this coaster.  When you read the rest of this, you’ll know why I’ve written the preface to it.  I like to think that I now “get a-round to it!”

I’ve been suffering writer’s block this afternoon, partially because I feel overwhelmed by all the things I’d like to get around to today, but when I read my dad’s email, the block evaporated.  In the chain email, it says, “We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect.” For example: I’ll go on my dream holiday when I have enough money; I’ll write my book when the kids are older; I’ll have people come to stay when we live in a bigger house; I’ll change jobs when we’ve paid off the mortgage; I’ll patch things up with my (insert family members), when they come to their senses…

The problem with these promises is that they are easily made and broken.  I’ve mentioned before the book 5 Wishes by former Stanford professor Gay Hendricks, in which he advises one to stand at the end of life and look back.  What do you want to see?  What do you wish you could say you had done?

Eat cake

My incredible sister has recently lost weight without specifically dieting.  I asked her how she did it and she said 1) yoga and 2) instead of saving the best for last (something that is deeply ingrained in both of us), she started eating what she really likes first.  That way, when she’s full, she doesn’t mind stopping. If you save the best for last, you always feel like you need to finish everything else, before you have what you really want.  When applied more widely, this is not a recipe for a happy life.  I’m no irresponsible hedonist, but I have no regrets for the things to which I’ve treated myself now and then…

Recently, a friend called to ask my advice.  Her friend was going on vacation and didn’t want to go alone, so she offered to pay my friend’s way.  My friend, we’ll call her Yolanda, really wanted to go, but felt guilty accepting the “charity” and worried about the extra money she would spend.  Yolanda, I said, Yolanda, who benefits if you turn down this gift?  Your friend, who clearly wants you to go?  You?  What’s the point of feeling guilty and indebted about a present freely offered?  Go!  The experience will mean more to you in the long run than the money you’d save.

Carpe Diem

Zachary Scott said, “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.” I do not regret a dime of the money I spent to go with my dear friends to Egypt; I do regret feeling I didn’t have the money to stay on with them for the last leg of the trip to Sharm el Sheikh.  In my mind, I can’t account for the money I didn’t spend, but I definitely remember the experience I didn’t have.

What do we have at the end of our lives?  Memories.  Would we prefer memories of the places we’ve been, the people with whom we’ve spent time, the things we’ve tried to do?  Or the cubicle in which we dutifully sat, day after day, and the missed opportunities.  Looking back, there have been so many times I thought I couldn’t afford to do something (or that I didn’t have time, or felt I needed to be at work, or believed there’d be a better chance down the road) and have therefore said “no” when I desperately wanted to say yes.  But, the handful of times when I splurged for myself have been among my very best experiences!  It makes me realize the “no’s” did nothing to add to my life.

So often, I put limitations on myself and my happiness… “I can’t afford,” must be one of the most frequent thoughts in my mind.  However, looking back, I’ve always been able to manage even the things I thought I couldn’t – so what does that tell me?

“There’s no time like the present,” trite but true.  And there is no time, but the present.  So, what are the things we’re “saving for later”?  What can we do right now…  Book the holiday?  Quit the job?  Start the book?  Call the friend?  Make up with the family?  Give up the cigarettes?  Take up the hobby?  Go to the museum?  Take the child out for ice-cream?  There’s time, there’s opportunity right now to (at least) start anything we really want.  “Later” is just an excuse to waste time…

At the end of my life, I don’t want my memory to replay the same day over and over.  I want new challenges, new places, and to know that I took advantage of opportunities, particularly to be with friends and family.  I don’t mind if, at the end, there are things that didn’t work out quite the way I hoped, but I don’t want that to be because I didn’t try or because I was saving the best for last.

“Seize the day, boys.  Make your lives extraordinary.” Dead Poets Society

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Meghan,

    You nailed it again! I always say that our stories (i.e., experiences) are all we have and that, in many cases, when things go perfectly, our stories aren’t as good as they may otherwise be. A friend’s daughter had a wedding outdoors on the bay. She didn’t realize that it was the same day as some humongous fishing contest. The ceremony was continually disrupted by loudspeakers announcing the size and weight of the most recently caught fish. At the end, when the announcer realized he was competing with their wedding, he invited the newlyweds to come up and have their photo taken with the winning fish. This photo was in the newspaper the next day. Which story would you rather tell your kids: (a) Our wedding was lovely and everything was perfect; or (b) Mommy and Daddy had their picture taken with a prize-winning fish on their wedding day?

    • HIlarious! I know which one I would more likely be telling! I’ve tried to make a good story out of all my life’s mishaps… and there have been plenty! 🙂

  2. Very good points Meghan! We really must give ourselves permission to do the things we can do today, because someday, it’ll be too late. And why miss out!

    This is interesting and gives me something to think about, AGAIN! Thanks!

    Christine

  3. Saving the best for last has certainly been an unwritten rule and silent maxim in my life! I’ve been doing that since I was a kid – a plate of vegetables and meat means I eat the meat last coz its tastier!! But as I grow older, I realise I do it out of fear that I wont be able to handle the things I want most out of life. It’s an indirect way of shortchanging myself. Now, I have to revise that and begin choosing what makes me happiest no matter the cost.

    • Hi Rosemary! That’s exactly what I was talking about… I’m working through the same thing myself! Thanks for the comment!

  4. Meghan –
    I say that ALL the time to people, especially my kids! I believe in making memories, not plans to make memories. Along these lines it’s why I prefer to fly versus drive somewhere: I never drive if it takes more than 4 hours in the car because that is time wasted from having fun and making memories at your destination! Who wants to spend 12 hours driving to Florida? I’d rather fly there in 2 and spend the next 10 at Disney World. Memories, not regrets, for me!
    Thanks for your post. I will definitely keep reading!
    Jennifer

    • Fantastic Jennifer, thanks! I’m sure your kids would prefer Disney to the car, too!

  5. Meghan,
    Very well written. Life is all about the journey and if we are putting off our journey, what do we have left? This was a good reminder. My father used to say very emphatically “Just get on with it!”. I try and do that in some small way every day.

    Suann


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