Don’t Delay the Happiness

September 9, 2019

As a family doc, I am acutely aware of the stages of life each of us eventually go through.  I counsel young sleep deprived parents of a colicky baby.  I reassure the parents of teens pointing out that their irresponsible child will go to college, go to work and become a success.  I help 50-year olds survive their mid-life crisis.  I also work with the elderly helping them through an assortment of losses and eventually death.

Knowing what’s coming really doesn’t help. I really expected that I would skip this stage of life. Instead, I become more like my father every day.  My dad started life as an optimist and ended life as the world’s greatest pessimist. I think Parkinson’s and the unavoidable, degrading losses of motor function does that to you.  At least I haven’t started reading the obituaries yet.  He started his day looking at who died.  Of course, the internet and Facebook bring that info to your desktop in real time.

Yes, I’m in the “Golden Years.”  I’ll share a little secret with you.  They are golden years because you need gold reserves to pay for your medications, nursing home and funeral.  Are you depressed yet?  Are you ready to exit my blog and do something else?  Read on.  I promise it will be worth it!

Here’s my gift.  I’ve often told my patients that the devil exists, and his greatest accomplishment is the concept of tomorrow.  By giving us tomorrow to worry about, save and plan for, the devil ruins today.  Today is the only thing we really have.  Don’t waste it.

They say, “No one knows what the future holds.”  I do. For most of my patients, it holds regrets.  Most of my patients put off happiness and work their lives away so that “one day” they will be secure and realize their dreams.  Don’t wait for “one day!”  It may not come.

I am amazed at how bright I was in 2011.  It’s as if I could predict the future and left myself notes in the form of my blog to help guide me through rough times.  Below is an article published August 26, 2011.

Last night, I watched “The Big C”, a TV show about a woman diagnosed with an advanced stage of melanoma, a nasty skin cancer.  The show follows Cathy, the main character, through the various stages of dealing with a life-threatening disease.  The show is funny and sad, uplifting and depressing.  Living with and dying from cancer is often a rollercoaster ride.

In last night’s episode, Cathy, while counseling a friend, remarked, “Don’t delay the happiness!”  Too often, we delay the happiness while dealing with today’s stressors and tasks.  We promise to get together with friends and family.  We promise to call mom and dad.  We plan to run away from it all and be selfish.  We will do it all, one day.

Sometimes, there are no more “one days.”  I have seen patients die for no reason.  One day they are here, the next day they are forever gone.  “Don’t delay the happiness” is sagely advice.  One thing is for sure: today is your day to find happiness.  Today is a good day to make that call, see that friend, and make definitive plans for your runaway vacation.

Yes, you have to work, to make a living, and provide for yourself and your family.  Yes, you are a responsible individual who others rely on.  Yes, you have a list of problems a mile long.  You also have time to count your blessings and you need to make time to do something nice for you and your special ones.  Recently, I wrote about regrets.  Don’t set yourself up for regrets.

Most of my patients are so focused on retirement that they forget to live.  Don’t live to work; work to live.  Your job tomorrow, and every day, is to find happiness.  Happiness is best when it happens spontaneously, but life’s complexities means that finding happiness often requires some work.  Work hard to be happy and then share it with others.  “Wellthy” is not just about being physically healthy; it is also about being emotionally happy.

Horace wrote, Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero – “Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.”   Yes, you have to plan for the future, but not at the cost of the here and now.  

I wish you many years of happiness and no regrets. 

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