Turn Over A New Leaf, Today is the Day
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Read this in less than four minutes) Not long ago, I saw a great poster. It made me smile and I wholeheartedly agree with what it said. Across the sumptuous photo of autumn leaves radiant with color were the words, emblazed in flowing script, “September is my favorite color.” I can’t get enough of her intense blue skies, low humidity, cool starry nights and palette of ochre to crimson to russet to claret. It’s a feast for all my senses! I wrote the same words on my little kitchen chalkboard but when the calendar turned to the new month, I simply erased September and wrote in October. Because if I’m honest, October might be my favorite-est.
Lots of people I know join me in saying fall is their favorite season. I’m dumbstruck to hear others say, “Not me, man! It’s just a sign of what’s coming next, winter! Ugh!” I can’t imagine how anyone could think that way, it’s so sad! And other times, when I see the splendid days of fall hurrying past, I feel a wistful pang and I get it. Time is flying by and too soon it will be winter.
October is a favorite for our family in part because my husband and our first granddaughter share a birthday. We’ll have a big all-family celebration later, but this weekend, it was just the two of us celebrating “Papa’s” special day. The weather was perfect and we spent part of both weekend days enjoying the outdoors at a favorite spot, a little lake nestled in a forested area with gently rolling trails and great views. I found myself wishing I could freeze time. Haven’t we all had that thought?
And then it struck me. For all the glorious autumns and beautiful frosty winters and tender green springs and bright summer days we live, deep down we all know that at some point, the seasons will continue to roll around but we will no longer be around to experience them. And that can make us feel very sad. Almost immediately, though, another thought hit me like a bolt of lightning. We always have a choice in the way we view the passing seasons and our life.
I’ve lived long enough to be in the autumn of my life now, and I’ll be honest, I’ve often found myself dreading winter. But today, in that moment of clarity, I realized how wasteful it is to spend even a single beautiful day I have right now thinking about what might come next. And that, my friend, is the choice we are free to make at any point in our life. To live in the present moment, making the most of each day we are given. We can make the dozens of micro-decisions we encounter every day to do what Matthew Kelly calls “the next right thing” and by answering the question, “is what I’m doing with this day bringing me closer to becoming the best possible version of the person I have been created to become?”
In the overview of our system, Worthy Values First, I wrote this isn’t a modern concern by any means. The sense of dread that life is flying by too quickly is universally human. The key to greater satisfaction and fewer regrets in life is to understand that a life well-lived is long enough no matter the number of years it contains. It begins with the daily choices we make.
About 2000 years ago the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote a surprisingly timeless little piece called On the Shortness of Life. He began by saying, “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested”. He maintained “Life is long enough if you know how to use it.”
So, how will you choose to spend your days? I hope you begin to see today for what it is, a day unlike any you will ever again experience and a fresh opportunity to become an even better you. American author Annie Dillard summed it up nicely when she wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”