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Living the Vintage Years: Treat every day as a gift since tomorrow is not promised

I recently heard some thought-provoking advice from an unlikely source: Willy Nelson, the folk singer.

In a song that I somehow had never heard before, he advised us to treat every day as if it were our last, because one day we will be right. His song was based on an old quote, but it still resonates today.

Most of us act as if we’ll live forever. We obsess about trivial annoyances, for example. We hold grudges. We plan ways to get even. Often we keep putting projects off for the future, without thinking we may not even have a future. I am as guilty of that aspect as everyone else.

More than three years ago, I began cleaning out the closets and bureau drawers containing my late husband’s clothing. That job is still incomplete. I got sidetracked and decided I would do it later. When “later” will arrive, I have yet to figure out.

The meaning behind the song’s message, however, goes much deeper than thinking we have all the time in the world to complete our chores. In my opinion, the valuable point of the adage is that we should not waste time ruminating about silly inconveniences or minor slights. Instead, we should be aware of each day and savor it.

Surround ourselves with the things and people we appreciate. Do the things we want to do today. Don’t put off travel or fun activities. Do it while we are able.

Buddha, known for numerous profound quotes, once said, “The trouble is you think you have time.”

I don’t want to die regretting the incomplete things in my life that I always wanted to do. I know I will die regretting some of the things I did in my life, but I think I would have greater regrets remembering what I always wanted to do but never accomplished.

Buddha’s teaching brings us back to the present. Living like it is our last day lets us experience being totally alive today.

I believe in living fully and striving to be the best I can be each day. I try not to worry about the past or the future. We cannot do a thing to change the past, and the future may never come. What is happening now is what’s important.

The words of Nelson’s song remind us to focus on what matters most to us - what makes us happy right now. Happiness comes from within.

Ben Franklin, a master of memorable quotes, once said, “Joy does not exist in the world. It exists in us.”

I think that is true.

As I pondered the words of the song, I came to realize I do not fully agree with its message. Perhaps that is because I am a person who believes in balance.

Yes, I am grateful for each day, of course, but I also have hope for tomorrow. I let go of the past. I learned from it, but I don’t live in it.

As for the future, I will always have dreams.

I once read an African proverb that said the poorest person in the world is not the one without money but the one without dreams. I guess that makes me rich because I want to live the life of my dreams.

If I were asked to revise Nelson’s song, my message would be: Live as if today is your last day, but be prepared in case you wake up tomorrow.