By Trudie Mitschang
From the first time I heard it quoted, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the phrase “carpe diem.” Taken from a Latin poem, its simple translation is “seize the day.” I love the sentiment, but have always found myself frustrated by my inability to embrace it. In the middle of the muddle of motherhood, marriage and mortgage payments, I’ve yet to figure out how to avoid letting most days slip through my flailing fingers, much less “seize” them.
Then yesterday I came across a thought provoking anecdote by an anonymous author, and it gave me pause:
“While interviewing a woman who was terminally ill, the interviewer delicately asked, “What is it like to wake up every morning and know that you are dying?” After thinking for a moment, she responded, “What is it like to wake up every morning and pretend that you are not?”
It was one of those light bulb moments when I saw things from a broader perspective. We all know life is short, but few of us live as though we really believe it. When my mother passed away suddenly last year, I felt acutely the brevity of time and spent the next six months endeavoring to live more fully and devote myself to the things and people that I love. Unfortunately, creature of habit that I am, it was not very long before the endless “to do” list began swallowing up my best intentions. But despite my previous failed attempts, I think I am ready to stop living on autopilot and take some baby steps toward living more intentionally. Here’s my top five ways to begin; see if any resonate with you:
- Stop multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. That includes not texting a friend while lunching with a different friend; not checking email while my child is trying to tell me about their day; and really listening when people are speaking instead of thinking about what I want to say next.
- Call more; email/text/Facebook less. I am not a phone person and am inclined to shoot off a quick written note to stay connected with long distance friends. The reality is, hearing someone’s voice is a much more meaningful form of communication.
- Slow down. This applies to every area of my life. From racing down the freeway and congratulating myself for avoiding the speed traps, to inhaling my meals without really enjoying them, it’s time to resist the urge to rush.
- Accept disappointments. At 52, I’ve given up my plan for a perfect life and perfect family (frankly, I’ll settle for a good hair day). The reality is things often don’t go as planned. Case in point: at a recent amusement park visit, my family and I waited 90 tedious minutes for the must-ride roller coaster, only to have it shut down for repairs right as we were about to get on. As my kids watched for my reaction, I stuffed all the swear words tickling my tongue and laughed. Soon, they were laughing too, knowing that we had just added yet another good story to our vacation chronicles.
- Plan fun. This summer my daughter and I made a “summer bucket list.” Top picks include having a picnic at night (check), throwing a summer luau (check), and trying all 31 Baskin Robbins flavors (working on it!).
Seizing the day is easier if you let go of the idea that it must include amazing feats like skydiving, swimming with dolphins or bungee jumping. As I write this blog, I’m sitting in a dimly lit office cubicle, but I’m enjoying every word I type. One of last year’s IG Living essay contest winners, Michael Strausbaugh, summed it up nicely in his essay, Live Like You Were Living. After shunning ordinary activities for years because he feared getting sick, he says, “I would encourage people to appreciate the simple, the normal and the mundane. I still get excited when I go outside without a coat on!”
Tell us how you “seize the day.”