It’s so easy to look back and assume that life was easier, simpler, less complicated in the good old days. Not so. Granted, there was no snap-chat or Facebook, no Twitter or landlines, no 24-7 TV news or cell phones to mess with our minds. One could go for months, even years without seeing friends and neighbors. It often took years to learn a loved one had died or emigrated to another country, a volcano had erupted, or there was a pandemic racing toward them. There was no car to run for groceries. Food was produced and prepared at home. None of this flying half way around the world, or driving 500 miles in one day to visit the grandkids. Yet even back then life must have seemed as frantic as today, otherwise why would William Wordsworth have observed, “the world is too much with us…?”
I’m a fairly faithful reader of the “Dear Annie” column that runs in our local newspaper. I often read it for the laughs as I am constantly amazed by the letters she prints and how we mere mortals tend to be our own worst enemies. Most days the letters remind me of the definition of insanity AA uses: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, each time expecting a different result.”
At any rate, in this morning’s column, Annie printed several Henry David Thoreau quotes, one of which struck me as being pertinent and timeless, echoing the “one day at a time” approach that undergirds The 12 Step approach to recovery. “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment, “ Thoreau wrote, “Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
I hate to think how much time I’ve wasted standing on my island of opportunities wishing I were somewhere else, engaged in a more challenging activity, surrounded by different people, dealing with a different problem, even being someone else. Thoreau was right on when he said, “There is no other life but this.” All we ever have is now, this very millisecond, and our quality of life depends on what we do with the precious gift of now. The reading “Just For Today begins: “Just for today I will try to live this day only, and not try to tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for the next 12 hours that would appall me if I felt I had to keep it up for a lifetime.” Or as another AA reading, “One Day At A Time” concludes, “It is not the experiences of Today that drives men mad … it is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened Yesterday and the dread Tomorrow may bring. Let us, therefore, live one day at a time.” And, not just living, I might add, but living gratefully and gratefully living.