When you’re young, it’s easy to put things off to some unspecified future time. After all, when you’re younger than 40, you probably have more future ahead of you than you have past or present. It seems like there’s a lot of room in that attic for storage of dreams. But as we age into the right side of 50, the amount of future time left to us begins to shrink to a point where the idea that putting off things (such as pleasure) to a future time is no longer a viable plan. Those of us in the 50+ club have to live in the present.
I was reminded of this in church, of all places, as I attended services this week. While there’s some silly stuff in the Bible, there’s also a lot of wisdom. In fact, there’s a whole book in the Bible called “Wisdom.” And there’s also a book of Proverbs. It seems to me that a lot of the purpose of the Bible was to write down the collected wisdom of the herd. Unfortunately, some of the thoughts of the lunatic fringe made it in as well.
Anyway, the Bible reading was from the Gospel of Matthew. The evangelist quotes Jesus as saying to his followers: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” (Matthew 6:34.)
And if I was in a more evangelical kind of church, I would have shouted, “Amen.” But Catholics aren’t into public displays of emotion and so I remained silent. But it seems to me that these are words to live by for us over-50 folks. We need to be present. We need to not put off anything we can enjoy now to the future, because the future is growing short, and what there is, is not guaranteed.
Now, I know that Fleetwood Mac urged us to “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” But the message of that song was not to dwell on the past because “Yesterday’s gone …” It’s the same sentiment that Little Orphan Annie expresses in her “Tomorrow,” where the sum will come out. It’s okay to look to tomorrow optimistically; it’s wrong to worry about it.
Recently, I was looking out at the backyard of my mother’s house in suburban New Jersey. Suddenly about 10 deer appeared, all foraging for food in the snow. Sadly, this has become an all-too-common sight, as human developments have encroached on traditional deer habitats.
But these deer live day to day. They don’t worry about tomorrow. Finding food today, and staying warm is their focus in these winter months. And it occurs to me that our cave-dwelling ancestors did likewise. They may not have lived as long as we do now, but I’ll bet they enjoyed every minute they had when they weren’t working to feed and clothe themselves.
I know that some people can’t help worrying about tomorrow and everything else. Will the 401(k) be enough to live on? Will Medicare allow me to see the doctors I want to see? Will I be able to stay in my house? But even those people can resolve to enjoy today, and be present enough to notice the details like the beautiful scene the snow has created in the trees, or the rosy cheeks on a three-year-old playing in a park on a cold winter’s day. Being present means enjoying what is before you, and not thinking about what’s next. Because tomorrow will take care of itself.