"Write it on your heart
that every day
is the best day in the year."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
Copyright © 2013 by Ralph Couey
Except identified quotes.
We're a week into the New Year, with all the hoopla and madness of the holiday season behind us. Christmas lights are going dim and coming down, the trees undecorated. The boxes of holiday cheer are being packed up and stored again until next December. Life is returning to normal, albeit with some new possessions to while away the hours of the rest of winter.
For many of us, we have acquired some resolutions, based on some perceived flaws or failures in the past. And like most other years, most of those resolutions, made with such fervor and promise in the early hours of 2013, will die a slow death over the coming weeks. Life will go on; we will go on without much dramatic change.
It's a sad thing to see those promises wither every year. It's bad enough when we break them to others, but it's far worse when we lie to ourselves.
As I've written before, I don't make resolutions until spring. The return of life to the world around me also sparks a kind of rebirth inside myself, the kind of budding optimism that makes change much easier to accomplish, at least for me.
A calendar is a handy item for keeping track of things. The year is divided up into weeks, months, and days all laid out in a handy grid format. Within those squares we jot notes to ourselves about meetings, appointments, birthdays and anniversaries. It's a kind of short-hand biography, and can provide and interesting window into the past. In the process of moving, I found a pocket calendar of mine from 1983. I was in the Navy at the time, and the entries brought back memories of those full days, from mundane checklist items to intriguing remarks like, "Pierside Hong Kong, 13:30."
Most of us live our lives by these gridded roadmaps, but time is also flexible. There are calendar years, and fiscal years, the schedule by which government and business run their lives. We like to think that time begins for us at midnight on January 1, but that's a choice we make.
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life" was a shopworn phrase from the halcyon days of the '60s. It was coined out of the idea that each morning, the sun rose on a starting point for whatever journey you decided to embark upon. Even though most of us look to that first square on the calendar page in the same way we treat the "Go" square on the Monopoly board, in truth, a beginning can be anytime you decide. Most people who set a date in the future, whether it be starting a diet, changing a job, or simply taking a new perspective, are merely putting off a day of reckoning. It's kind of an act of cowardice, if you will. Actually you can start anything you want any time you want. Tomorrow morning; tonight.
Or right now.
Very few of us actually get married on January 1st, yet that is certainly a date when our lives changed drastically. New jobs start when...well...the boss says so. Buying a home, a new car, starting a retirement account, those things happen when they happen, regardless of what the calendar says. So putting off needed change until a certain date rolls around only gives a person the opportunity to delay, or even opt out. And if we feel the gnawing desire to fix ourselves, then that's something that needs to happen in the very near term.
Last year, I felt that gnawing. I was getting over my last heart incident, and finishing up four months of physical therapy for a very painful pinched nerve in my back. I knew that these things would continue to happen as long as I didn't begin to take my health seriously. It was time for a change.
One morning in June, I woke up earlier than usual. I work an afternoon and evening shift, getting to bed around 2 a.m. I don't need to be to work until one in the afternoon, so my mornings had, up to this point, been expended sleeping in and attending to various medical appointments. But on that day, that particular sunrise carried the heavy feeling of decision. I packed up a bag of workout clothes and went to work two hours early. Once there, I changed and went to the gym. I started walking on a treadmill, gradually building up my stamina. Over the next 6 weeks, I kept pushing back my barriers, finally taking my exercise outdoors when the brutal heat broke finally in September. By Halloween, I was running, not walking, four miles each day. My heart got healthier, my mood brighter. The debilitating night cramps in my legs vanished. Best of all, my weight, which had stalled during my convalesence, began to fall off once again.
This was a major change for me. I never thought that my aging joints would permit me to run again, but with some schooling on stride management, I found that I was able to run pretty much pain-free.
Now, this wasn't about a New Year's resolution; nor was it one of my springtime resolutions. I just woke up one day and decided to do it. The same point of decision works for any of us, so long as we ignore the calendar on the wall, and heed the very real ticking of the clock. Each day we put off doing things better is a day that is lost forever. We can never get the past back; and promising tomorrows have a nasty habit of becoming irrevocable yesterdays.
Each day is a new start. Each moment is a waypoint of decision. We only need to recognize the power of the moment and seize each one before it recedes into the past. In that sense, today IS the first day of the rest of your life.
On your marks, get set.....