I’m going to tell you a short story about a woman I knew.
She was the hardest working woman I had ever met. She always picked up overtime at work and never really made time for the things she enjoyed because, as she put it, “I will do everything selfishly once I retire.” Granted, she was only a few months short of retirement when I met her.
She would talk about her grand plans that would come to fruition in sixty short days. A huge family reunion, a life lived in an RV traveling the country with her spouse, and “indulging in great makeup and comfortable clothes.” Her dreams for her future always left me wistful. I’m years away from having that kind of freedom and lifestyle.
During the last month of her career she pulled double shifts and was saving up a lot of cash. She had avoided using any vacation time because the payout upon retirement “will be huge,” she said.
She died suddenly, one week before her last day at the office.
It hit us all hard, of course, but what I couldn’t help but focus on were the last years of her life.
She avoided vacations. She worked herself sixteen hours a day and missed dinners with family or friends. She didn’t make time for anything that could’ve been construed as self care. She was saving money and working hard so that she could live the good life, someday, in the future.
If you died today, what are the small things you gave up that would have made your day to day just a bit brighter?
I’m not talking about lavish vacations or expensive homes. I mean little tiny things. Fancy things. The definition of “fancy” is different for everyone. My extravagance begins and ends with cozy sweatshirts and Color Street. Maybe yours is diamonds and the latest technological gadget. It doesn’t matter.
I used to have this habit of buying things I absolutely love and cherish . . .and then wouldn’t use them. I saved them for “special occasions.” And because I’m a mom of toddlers and a nurse I rarely, if ever, had reasons for wearing the dress, using the perfume, applying the makeup, or putting on the dangling earrings.
All of those things make me feel so good! I didn’t want to waste them on a Thursday. But what if tragedy struck on Friday?
I am guilty of keeping lotions and potions high up on a shelf gathering dust. When I have a reason to crack them open a few years later (no exaggeration there), they smell TERRIBLE. Small creature comforts don’t wait for you to realize that every day is a reason to feel good.
The day after my friend died, my wife and I started using the phrase “remember her.” We use it as a reminder to ourselves that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and foreboding joy is the ultimate way to waste a life.
I wrote this piece to encourage you to live your good life now.
In the small ways that you can, every single day. Whatever the thing is that brings you happiness (as long as it’s legal and doesn’t hurt others, obviously) is what you should do. When I wear my “nicest” sweatshirt (we all have one, right?) I feel great. If I feel like wearing a dress and it’s only a rainy Saturday at home, I wear the dress. It isn’t wasted. Because if it makes me feel good that means that I am good for others. Happy mama, happy kids, happy wife.
A sweater. A lotion. A pair of earrings. A run. A good book in a quiet room. A coffee with extra cream. A walk alone. Sending the kids to grandma’s so you can binge watch television shows all day. Taking a thirty minute shower. Painting your toes a summer color in the winter. Wearing your fancy shoes. These are all small things but they are so important!
Don’t save things for a special occasion. Don’t wait until you lose ten pounds to go swimming. Don’t escape the frame when someone takes a photo. You get one life. And you only get it one day at a time.
I always felt pressure when I read the cliche Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last. “I have so much to do if it’s my last day,” I would think. Now I understand that the phrase doesn’t mean cram everything you love into one day. It means do little things that bring you joy every single day. Over and over again. Until you realize you’re living life to the fullest.
Friends, live each day like it’s your last.
But pay your bills and use birth control just in case.