I attended a friend’s funeral today. He had only been 56 years old. It seemed unbelievable to me that someone so young could be dead. Yet, as I listened to his friends speak of him during the service, they described how he had lived his life to the fullest. He’d raised a wonderful family, served his country and traveled the world. Then, he had retired early and moved to his own, private "ranch," complete with horses and cattle. His fight with cancer had been a long one, yet during that time of introspection he realized that he had done what he had wanted to do with his life. No regrets of "what if" I had done this or that?
I left the funeral realizing just how rare a person he might have been. For many people I run into, I hear a constant theme of "someday, when I have time," or "I wish I could travel more," or "I don’t have enough time or money." My own father retired, then spent two years working on remodeling a house. Although he enjoyed the puttering and creating something with his hands, by the time he finished the project, Alzheimer’s disease had begun to sink its teeth in him, and the time which he and my mother could have spent traveling the world together, disappeared.
So the question remains, "If not now, when?" No one is guaranteed tomorrow. If you don’t do something that’s important to you in life now, then when will you? And furthermore, what’s stopping you?
I know so many women, in particular, who put everyone in their lives first and themselves last, hoping that "someday" it will be their turn. For example, perhaps they are in a job that they don’t enjoy, but it brings in good money. Although they could perhaps go back to school and might have to tighten the family budget for a year or two, or maybe Johnny has to pay for his own guitar lessons during that time, the caretaker role constantly wins out, and the mother’s needs drop to the bottom of the pile, essentially "locking" them into their box.
I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities or become so egocentric that you ignore the needs of everyone else in your life. However, what I am saying is that if you don’t take care of yourself first, at some point, it may come back to haunt you. How?
In my travels speaking about living "Out of the Boxx," I meet a lot of people. and am constantly amazed at their stories. One woman was a survivor of a "Shindler’s List" type Nazi work camp as a child and still feels responsible for taking care of everyone else in her life but has never felt comfortable taking care of herself and suffers physical symptoms of stress because of it. Several single women talk of putting their children through college and working two jobs to do so. Although they are proud of their accomplishments and their obvious "love" shown through these acts, some of them feel much resentment and anger simmering too. The building frustration might lie underneath the surface, where few will see or understand it, but the body will eventually find an outlet. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, emotional stress – you name it, our bodies are glad to accommodate.
Do you believe that lack of time and money holding you back? Believe it or not, these are simply excuses. If a person wants something badly enough, they find a way! Lack of time and money give us a safe "out" for things that may seem like too much work to try or too big a risk to take, even though we may "wish" for the outcome.
Of course, there are risks in life. For example, leaving your current job to try something new might seem incredibly scarey but the freedom, happiness, and potential for advancement at another company might surprise you once you get there.
Or perhaps leaving your family to go on a week’s vacation by yourself might seem "weird" to others, but maybe it’s a gift that might yield some time to take care of you for a change. Just think of the things your family might discover about all you do, when you aren’t there to do it for them. You might come home and find out that you are more appreciated than ever.
"If not now, when?" I keep coming back to that question. I thank God that my friend lived his life with that philosophy. Do you? If so, good for you. If not, why not?
Mary Jo Fay facilitates a seminar called "Living Out of the Boxx," in Cozumel, Mexico each month. She can be reached at 303-841-7691, or www.outoftheboxx.com.