I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.” Maj. Gen. Neil A. Armstrong (USAF, Ret.)
My wife Carol and I are enjoying, with family and friends, Jimmy Buffett in concert at The Wharf in Orange Beach. Even though his origin as a well-known entertainer was in the early 70s, there are, surprisingly, many young people in attendance at this performance. I guess parents are passing on ‘their music’ from t. hat bygone era. One of Buffett’s best-selling songs, “Wasting Away in Margaritaville,” is familiar to most of us, even if this is not our type of music. I can attest to the fact that there are people – young and old – at this concert, who fit the lyrics in this song. (Some were already working on the conditions referenced in those words long before the music started)!
When we hear someone make the statement, ‘he is wasting his life,’ often what follows is a verbal litany of things that person is doing or not doing that are signs of a life being seemingly squandered. These comments may come from a parent or grandparent who is not happy with the current choices made by someone within their family. We all know people who are misusing valuable time and opportunities. Sadly, the concern can be expressed for someone addicted to drugs, and often whispered at the funeral of one whose life is snuffed out by a drug overdose is the lament . . . ‘a wasted life.’ We have all witnessed this human devastation, even If we are blessed to not have anyone in our extended family afflicted. Drugs are a rampant problem in our world.
Fortunately for most of us, ‘wasted’ is not an accurate appraisal of how we have spent our individual lives. Day in and day out, the majority of mankind invests time and money into some really good things. We pay bills, go to school, support non-profit organizations, attend church, and perform random acts of kindness. We are moving in a general direction that is good even if we do not know our exact destination.
Whatever we are doing, we love to spend time sharing with others the special stories of our activities. We tell them what we did and how well we did it . . . ‘How did our company ever survive before we came along? How will the non-profit make it if we are not there? There is no way our family and friends could do without our . . .’ – fill in the blank. We probably have answers to those queries. If not, we still want to finish the sentence because, deep down, we want our lives to matter. In our hearts we believe, we hope — we pray that we are making a difference. We want to know that our lives are not in vain. But, how do we know?
If we are not wasting valuable time, are we living the best life right now? Is today your best day ever? Probably not, because you can think of some special moments where everything that could go right did go right. What exactly determines our best day? Is there such a thing as the ‘best day ever’? Is it already in the past, or, is it at a distant future date?
In “City Slickers,” a movie about three city guys on a vacation cattle drive, the friends begin a conversation when one asks the other two, “What was your best day ever and what was your worst day?” Billy Crystal, one of the lead characters, responds that his worst day was waiting for test results following preliminary diagnostics for a lump found in his wife’s breast. The report was thankfully negative. A good ending, but in his thinking, this was his worst day. One of his friends had a different perspective, saying it really was his best day.
In the middle of our own journeys, it may be difficult sometimes to decide on what kind of day we have just experienced. Is it all about perception? Do actual outcomes determine classification? Or is there something much deeper? If living the so-called good life evolves into great days, what is the deciding factor?
Most of us work at improving our lives. Improvement has a specific significance for each individual – it could mean a better house, nicer car, or more vacations.
It could be growing spiritually, improving relationships or helping others that need our help. We want to enjoy life. We also want to make a difference. We want to leave a legacy. We want to matter.
Why wait? Well, there are necessary resources: money and time are the common ones needed. I would love to do all the things I desire to do. But, I can’t.
Because . . .
I have to work.
I do not have time.
It’s not the right moment.
I have to work because I need money to pay bills.
I can’t retire from work because I do not have enough savings.
I am retired but now I lack the resources
I can’t do what I want to do because . . .
Are you waiting for a future moment that is going to be great? The day you get your diploma? The day you finally get married to the love of your life? Life is okay now, but it really is going to be great when I can retire. When I get enough money. When I get the job that I really want. When I have the time. My ‘okay relationship’ with someone is going to be great when he makes a change.
Do you sometimes wonder if that ‘great day’ is just one small step away? It seems like it is almost just out of reach. Just one more raise and I can have that vacation, house, car, education or special thing I want to buy. Just one change in that person and our relationship will be great. A few more minutes in my busy day is all I need. One more thing and then I will arrive.
One day, my life will be great when . . .
If wasting life is at one end of the spectrum and having a full exciting passionate life is at the other end, most of us are somewhere in the middle. We sure are not wasting our lives. But, it could be a whole lot better. I just wish that money, time, job and other people would not get in the way. Does this sound familiar?
I finally get that new job, new customer or new relationship. Then to my surprise, it’s not quite everything I thought it would be. I may be thankful, but slightly disappointed. “Is this all there is?” Do you sometimes wish you could get rid of the conjunction, ‘but,’ in our sentences? The first half, which is great, is completed by the second half that starts with that three-letter word.
A common proclamation from people nearing retirement is how much they look forward to doing things that they did not have time to do when they were working. However, often we hear comments from the retiree like, “I am so busy, I do not have time for anything!” And we even watch as some people go back to work on a part-time basis. The work that kept them from doing all they wanted to do is now the work they seek on a smaller scale in order to make life complete. But, some day things will get right and then it will all be perfect.
Does it seem that life is sometimes backwards? Would it be nice if we got to do all the things we want to do early in life? If we had more money sooner while we are still young and can enjoy it? If we had more time? If the moment was right more often? If we always had the needed resources?
Life is short. Instead of being in the middle, would it be better if we just had a full life all the time? Is that possible? A good question to ask and answer is “What is a full life?” And, an even better question is, “What is your full life?” Is this a goal you can reach? Do you even want this goal? Can today be your best day ever?
I know that I am not wasting my life. I also cannot say that I am achieving and doing everything I want to do. But, there is one thing I can tackle that is within my reach and it makes great sense. I can focus and concentrate on a single day . . . today! I can make this day a great day in my life. I can do today what is possible based on my work, my responsibilities and available time. I can play the cards that I have been dealt, even with the difficulties I created. I can take what I have today and make it the very best day, working within the realm of my current circumstances. I can do this tomorrow and the next day as well. I will greet this day with excitement and passion because I will decide to make this day the best day possible for me! Does this make sense to you?
As I continue to enjoy great days, I will move toward having great weeks. I might even start seeing some great months. With a compass that is set on immediate time and place – today – I will even see a great year. And with a number of great years, a great life is within my reach. I am not wasting my life. I cannot do every single thing I would like to do using the time allotted in a single day and limited resources. But, I can accomplish what is possible for today. What is possible is also what will make this the best day.
The best day of my life is available to me today. It is a choice that I can make.
Even though I may never have all the desired financial resources, material possessions, vacations, retirement, legacy or wonderful relationships that I desire, I can still have a great day because today is now available to me.
I will not waste my life.
I will live it to the fullest.
I will live it one day at a time.
I will start today with the best day of my life.