I can’t believe 2016 is almost over. Time is racing by. There are only 10 more Fridays before Chanukah, and I want to shout, “Slow the world down, I need to hang around a little longer. I want to rectify some of the mistakes I’ve made and complete a lot of things I’ve started, but never finished. My garage is still jammed packed with things I can’t bear to part with, that need to be donated to a worthy cause or thrown out. But, until that time, our cars will have to remain parked in the driveway.
“There is still one more book that I want to write; several trips I’d like for Harriet and me to take; four grandkids’ weddings I want to attend and hopefully future great-grandchildren whose arrival I’d like to celebrate.”
Those are a few of the things at the top of my bucket list, so time really needs to change its pace. Or perhaps, I need to deal with time differently. I say “I,” and I’m aware I’m not alone. Many of my friends and patients have expressed similar thoughts, which make me think it’s essential for all of us to decide how we’re going to deal with the time we have remaining.
Before you can decide, you have to question if you want to continue behaving in the same manner you have heretofore. To make that decision, you might want to reevaluate what you’ve accomplished in the past and whether or not you’re pleased with it. You have to ask, “Am I proud of what I’ve achieved up until now? Was I sensitive to the effect I had on the lives of others? And, am I pleased with me?”
If your answer to any of these is “no,” be aware, you still have a chance to change it. How? By not squandering the knowledge you accumulated during your earlier years. By refraining from feeling sorry for yourself or lamenting how life has cheated you and by viewing your life experiences as valuable.
Whether your experiences were positive or negative, recognize their worth and share them. Dispense with feelings of guilt, shame or blame. The past is what it was. You can’t change it. But, you can learn from it if you make your primary concern your life in the future.
Jews, throughout the world, recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and observed Yom Kippur, the day when they are given the opportunity to ask forgiveness from G-d for their transgressions during the previous year. It is a time to atone for past sins and to wipe the slate clean – the purpose being to enter the New Year free of guilt and endowed with the opportunity to interact in the world in a more positive manner.
Christians do essentially the same thing at New Year’s Eve, and we all know how poor the results are for resolutions made at the beginning of January; most hardly last until February. Sadly, it’s the same for most of us. But, I’d like to change that by challenging all of you and myself, to use the gift of time we have been given in a healthier, more constructive manner.
Let me suggest seven steps that can help you to reach that goal.
• Take time to appreciate and cherish every day you have on earth.
• Accept yourself, despite your trepidations, shortcomings and perceived insufficiencies. Consider them a testimony to you’re being human. You are not gods, therefore, you’re entitled to make mistakes. Recognize that when you learn from them, instead of hiding from them, you will like you better.
• Share your time, thoughts, fears and shortcomings. Do it so others will know they aren’t alone, that they’re human as well and should be proud of who they are, not ashamed of themselves.
• Act, think and say positive things. See the good that’s in the world and recognize you are a part of it. It will help lift the spirit of others, as well as yourself.
• Reach out and share your person, your emotions and your good fortune. Feed the hungry, read to the blind, volunteer at a hospital or an old age home, or help out at a school. If you are unable to do so, ask for help, so you can give others the opportunity to assist you and, as a result, to feel positive about themselves.
• Be kind, considerate and aware of others – not just those who ask for help, also for those who suffer silently, whose pain is equally intense.
There is a saying, “The days are short but the nights are long.” Any one of you, who have suffered pain of either a physical or emotional nature, knows that well. When the daylight arrives, there are things to do, activities to participate in, and people to relate to. Conversely, when the light is gone, you are alone with only yourself, your fears and your hurts. Every minute can seem an eternity. The cure is simple: Fill your days with positive thoughts and activities in order to bring light to your nights and mitigate your pain.
What I’m saying is you can’t determine how much time you have left to live, but you can control how you live during that time. Your job, as I see it, is to not dwell on statistics or what other people say. It’s to recognize your life may be limited, but it’s very valuable.
So, don’t focus on your past or your end. Focus on the present and what you can do to improve the quality of the time you have. You might ask, “How can I not focus on those?” My answer is, years ago we had a friend who had a Scottie dog named Winston. He was old and ailing, so she took him to a vet, who said, “Winston is a wonderful dog and you’re obviously devoted to him, but I have to tell you that he only has a short time to live. I doubt that he’ll be with you more than another month or two.”
Needless to say, she grieved, though two years later, Winston was still around. He wasn’t quite as active as before, but he was still loving and alive. When asked how this was possible, she said, “It’s because Winston didn’t understand English, so he didn’t know what the vet said.”
So, my advice is, forget what everyone says about age and live your life to the upmost. Enjoy the time you have and share that joy with others. By doing so, you will enhance your life, as well as the lives of others.