By Mindi Rudan
You know that old adage “Life is short, eat dessert first?”
Well in a sentence, the consensus of experts in 2023 is: THAT just might be the best advice / mantra to actually live by.
HAPPINESS DEPENDS NOT ON YOUR NUMBER OF FREE HOURS but on HOW YOU choose to spend whatever time you have….
What struck me uncharacteristically silent was when a friend whose mom had recently passed gave me a tissue wrapped gift of an incredible designer scarf. It was brand new, painstakingly and lovingly wrapped and most obviously never used. My friend told me her mom had a lot of fine, beautiful things but rarely used any except for “special” occasions.
It reminded me of when my grandma Rose passed away. I was there when her apartment was emptied, as the green silk sofa she was so proud of was being removed by the charity it was donated to. It was 30 YEARS OLD and as new as the day she bought it. They had removed the clear PLASTIC slipcovers my grandma kept on them. (THOSE she replaced a couple of times). Those took the brunt of any wear the silk sofa might have gotten, just not sure my grandma’s butt ever felt how silky soft her sofa was. None of us did.
My mother got a dose of that “delayed gratification” syndrome and at the beginning of her married life had the “good dishes” only for holidays, the desserts we weren’t allowed to eat because her “Mah Jong” ladies were coming, or the tablecloths that were for “company.”
Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, according to “experts” is the “resistance to the temptation of an immediate pleasure in the hope of obtaining a valuable and longer-lasting reward in the future.” In other words, delayed gratification describes the process that we undergo when we resist the temptation of an immediate pleasure in preference or hope for a later reward.
OR SO WE THINK.
But does it really? Does using a scarf you love only on special occasions bring greater satisfaction? Does exhausting yourself with chores before you sit on a lounge chair with a book you have been dying to read make the book better?
Later in life my mom FINALLY used the “good dishes,” daily, wore all her beautiful things instead of saving them for “special,” and stopped putting off her joy in the now for some “redemption” of bigger joy later.
“Mah,” I’d beseech her, “FUN, stuff, pleasure” are not like Plaid Stamps that you paste in a stamp book and redeem “in the future,” for a nicer blender or toaster. “Enjoy your LIFE NOW!”
And finally she did. As odd as it was in the last 16 years of her life after my dad (and her mom) had passed, my mother FINALLY gave herself “license,” to live fully in the now. She didn’t save endlessly for “future” trips, and pretty jewelry. She bought what she liked AND WORE IT TO PUBLIX, or on the many trips she did finally take to see sights she had only read about.
Isn’t there always something to do BEFORE you get to doing something you really want to be doing?
For many of us (me included), it’s like there’s this nagging guilt maybe that whispers in our ear, “get the dog groomed, throw in some laundry, make room in the fridge BEFORE you go out to the lunch with friends.” It’s like there’s countless chores to accomplish BEFORE we allow ourselves to get to the good stuff like happy hour with friends, reading a book, binge watching Netflix, sneaking out to a movie or just eating on the good dishes?!?”
Where does THAT come from? And is it valid or does that kind of thinking actually KEEP YOU FROM enjoying your life? And while the flip side is (to me at least) even more terrifying: we all know or have known the endless surfer dude who has nothing, does nothing and just lives to pleasure himself “catching the wave,” on a moment’s notice. That’s horrifying too.
Are we secretly afraid that if we don’t clean the fridge for two months, we’ll turn into surfer dude?
It would seem that an easy fix was to requisition more hours in a day so we could find our “perfect balance” between the “gotta-dos” and the “wanna-dos.” But that ain’t happening anytime soon unless of course FACEBOOK comes up with a new matrix for what constitutes a day.
When I read a book by a Ph.D. the UCLA Anderson School of Management professor turned author Cassie Holmes entitled “Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most,” my gotta dos and wanna dos slid nicely and peacefully together. Holmes’ popular class teaches business graduate students to think of time — NOT MONEY—as life’s most precious resource.
When our little chihuahua Kitty got gravely ill in Sept. 2021, 3 vets suggested euthanizing. She had gone blind, barely could walk without falling down and crashing into walls, was rocking back and forth like she was drunk, ate only from our fingers and paced almost 24/7. On the day my husband Hank and I thought all 3 of us couldn’t live through another day, Hank made the dreaded decision that come tomorrow morning we would have to put her down, I was up all night, just left of hysterical and when the sun rose, I knew I could NOT do it. She was eating and trying to survive. THAT DAY I put aside everything in my life that wasn’t a survival necessity (he basically did too), and decided if she’s still fighting so are we. And that day she was finally diagnosed almost 3 MONTHS after this nightmare began. She had Cushings disease. With my research background I read everything I could in between pacing with her. One of my BFFs found us holistic “calming” drops that we got within 24 hours of diagnosis. One of the best treatments is also complete rest so the adrenals can calm and the “patient” can possibly heal. So as Type A as I am, I CHOSE to sit next to that 9lb dog IN BED almost 14 hours a day and just keep her calm. We carried her to bathroom, fed her from our fingers and let EVERYTHING ELSE in our life (except our other pets) languish.
What? Me not clean up my kitchen every morning? Not trim the garden, not clean out the fridge+++? To say things piled up would be an understatement, but within the first week of sitting still—her sight started to come back, within a month she was walking on her own and able to use a wee wee pad. Two months more and she started SLEEPING AT NIGHT.
It will be TWO YEARS this September and what did I learn? The people who loved me didn’t care if my garden was wildly overgrown. The refrigerator still kept things cold even if it took 5 minutes to “find” where the jelly was. The pantry was still operable even if all the pasta wasn’t on the same shelf with their boxes reading in the same direction.
During her recovery (she’s 90% her but now spoiled rotten), I watched a dozen U-tube videos and started to make wreaths so I could sit next to her but still feel a little useful. 300+ wreaths later, KITTY can walk, see and eat on her own and MOMMA’s got a bona-fide side-hustle!
I read magazines that piled up, binge-watched TV series and movies I had wanted to watch for years but was too busy “accomplishing” to allow myself to.
But I also learned a very valuable lesson: I didn’t turn into the surfer dude because everything wasn’t “just so!” Life was still valuable and worthy and yes, gratifying even when my life overflowed with unfinished projects.
Today, I’m grateful— WE are so so grateful that our “DEMANDER & Chief” (her new nickname) is still here, still doing so well against all odds, but also for the epiphany that that dire time taught us: finding balance between what has to be done and what you want to do is achievable. It always was, like Glinda the Good Witch in the “Wizard of Oz,” told Dorothy: “YOU’VE ALWAYS HAD THE POWER MY DEAR, YOU JUST HAD TO LEARN IT FOR YOURSELF.”
Cut yourself a break. Make that lunch date; let the clothes wrinkle in the dryer; feel the silk fabric on your butt; wear that exquisite scarf and yes, eat dessert first (hopefully on the good dishes!). LIFE is short; grabbing for a little more gusto and opting for a little less grind, WON’T cramp your style. It might just give you a whole ‘nother lease on enjoying the life you’ve got!
Tips on Recharging and Renewing YOURSELF
Mindi Rudan is a writer, former publisher of PARKLAND / CORAL SPRINGS Life, Coconut Creek Life and BOCA Delray Life magazines, a pet mom, event planner and now crazy wreath maker. You can follow her on FB https://www.facebook.com/mindi.rudan?mibextid=LQQJ4d.
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