Do you have something that you promised yourself you will tackle tomorrow? Will you start a new diet plan, or visit the gym you signed up for two months ago, and have not stepped foot in yet? Tomorrow, maybe you will get around to calling that out-of-touch friend who keeps popping up in your thoughts? Since you didn’t sleep well last night, tomorrow makes sense to start your job search. What about today?
The days and weeks go slowly and the years fly past us. Tomorrow never comes. The past and the future are hollow concepts. The time to take action is now. Today. The present moment is all we have and all we have ever had.
I have a game that I play when I find myself procrastinating too often. I visualize myself as a ninety-year-old woman in a rocking chair on the porch of our home in Maine, watching the wind blow the leaves backward on the trees in the yard. How will I feel about the past 90 years? Have I shared my love? What more can I give away? Have I allowed God to use me? Will I be at peace as I take my final breath?
After I do this simple exercise, sloth or fear or whatever is holding me back is gone. I become more afraid of sitting in that rocking chair filled with remorse. We regret the things we wish we had done, more than any of our perceived mistakes.
When I heard about the Stoic practice of memento mori, or “remember that you have to die” it gave language to my ritual.
“Memento mori is an ancient practice of reflection on mortality that goes back to Socrates, who said that the proper practice of philosophy is ‘about nothing else but dying and being dead.’”
Here is the link to the Daily Stoic describing this practice in detail:
A few nights ago, when I was turning off the lamp in our living room at 10:30pm, I noticed bright lights beaming in an apartment across our back courtyard. Pressing my face close to the glass, I saw a nurse talking on her cell phone. She was waving her free hand around animatedly as she stared out into the darkness between us. I noticed movement behind her and focused in on an ancient woman tossing and turning in a messy bed. Staring blankly out the window, the nurse continued her call for over thirty minutes. I watched from the bench, wanting to make sure the lady in the bed was ok. When the nurse finally hung up, she pulled the bed back together and tucked the lady back in. Relieved after witnessing proof of care, I left my perch to go to bed.
I woke up the next morning thinking about the woman across the way. When I was out later for an errand, I stopped by her building. I have a friend who lives there and vaguely know the friendly Irish super, Joe. After inquiring about the lady in the bed, I learned that she has no visitors but her neighbors handle her doctor visits and nurse schedule. I walked away feeling uneasy but understanding that there was nothing I could do.
I took action because I don’t see that lady as separate from me. She is me, and I am her if I live another forty years. The only difference between us is time. I hope someone asks after me if I am alone in a bedroom. That lady is all of us one day not too far off. We come into this world alone, and we leave the same way. Death is the only road out of life.
The next time I feel scared or tired, or when I come up with reasonable excuses not to do something, I will think of the woman across the courtyard. What does my soul need to do before I lie down in my final resting place? I want to give everything away before I reach the end of the line.
How can I make Everyday Extraordinary? Even more, than I think possible.
We are all masterpieces, and it’s wasteful not to share ourselves. Let mortality be your motivator. Commit to living full out right this second; tomorrow will never come.