Don’t look forward

CandleI have an old friend, Nancy*, with whom I’ve kept in touch over the years, although not so much recently.

Nancy spent the last ten years of her working life in a job she disliked. She  had a calendar upon which she quite literally ticked off each day taking her closer to retirement at 60. Then she would have the freedom to do what she wanted and enjoy life with her husband, children, grandchildren and friends, spending the pension to which she’d contributed more over the years than she could easily afford.

She made elaborate plans for the travels she would take, the hobbies she would start, the causes she would get involved with. Notebooks full of plans. Not just wishes and dreams, concrete plans, with dates.

Just under a year ago, Nancy hit her sixtieth birthday, packed a few things from her desk into a cardboard box and left work for the last time with a spring in her step and a sigh of relief that now she could begin to enjoy the sweetness of her life and plans.

Today, Nancy is in the last days of her life, having been diagnosed with a particularly virulent cancer two months into retirement.

Why am I telling you this?

Because we all need a reminder from time to time to appreciate what we have while it’s here.

I like to make plans (I wrote recently about doing a year-end personal review), but it’s crazy to rely on them as more than a guide to what we want to do. Otherwise we let today slip through our fingers.

Live in the present, informed by the past and with a flexible eye to the future – what better resolution could there be for the coming new year?

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you, don’t go back to sleep


See you soon

I won’t be back here at Pilgrim’s Moon until the beginning of 2013, so I wish you a very happy festive season, and thanks to all my readers for all the wonderful comments and support.

 *Name changed

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15 Responses to Don’t look forward
  1. claire
    December 22, 2012 | 8:33 pm

    Good point, Tess.
    I also feel that the future is created every day with what I do, choose, think. So today is really truly important 🙂
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    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 1, 2013 | 10:41 am

      Thanks Claire, completely agree with what you say about the future being created each day.

  2. Juno
    December 22, 2012 | 9:09 pm

    Life is what happens NOW. Not when you have passed your exams. Not when you have the perfect job. Not when the kids are finally at school. Not when you’re finally retired.


    It’s so important to remember that.

    My plan for this year was only that it should be better than the last one. I desired healing and happiness and peace of mind. And all in all, that’s what I got. I’m so grateful.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 1, 2013 | 10:42 am

      Juno, delighted that you got what you desired.

  3. Barbara
    December 23, 2012 | 12:06 am

    So true! My mum, at 50, noted how many of her older colleagues either died or were widowed shortly after retiring. She and Dad started going on holidays abroad and doing things they really enjoyed, including joining a bowling club. Sadly, Mum died before she turned 63. Dad is now 90 and still enjoys the memories of those adventures – and regards the bowling club as having been a life saver for him.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 1, 2013 | 10:42 am

      Barbara, sorry to hear you Mum died so young, but lovely that your Dad has those memories.

  4. Tenar
    December 23, 2012 | 8:26 pm

    Your story, Tess, reminds me of myself at one time, when I got caught up in the money invested in a pension, how much profit or loss. I had no control over what happened to the money, it was deducted from my paycheck automatically. I just accepted the results as they were printed out on a report each month. Watching the ups and downs in the account was intriguing, like riding a canoe over the rapids or something. I can relate to your friend counting the days, not necessarily as futility, no matter the ending, because it can be a special joy just to imagine one’s future in retirement, a way to compensate or relieve the stress of a robotic work week.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 1, 2013 | 10:43 am

      Tenar, really interesting perspective, thank you, and I love the image of the account like a canoe over the rapids.

  5. Jane
    December 24, 2012 | 1:56 am

    I’m so sorry to hear that, Tess. It’s hard to lose an old friend. I hope she found joy in making her plans and filling her notebooks over the years. Sometimes, that’s half the fun.

    Have a blessed and beautiful holiday!

  6. Lesley
    January 16, 2013 | 4:46 pm

    My mother was the opposite. She was convinced she would only have a few years, 4 at the most, before she ”popped her clogs” as she put it, once she retired.
    My Mother and father travelled extensively in retirement, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sorento, Capri, Spain, Portugal, Majorca and the United States.
    Spent all their retirement money on things mum wanted NOW
    Both her and my father are still around today at 83! , both a bit frail, a bit the worse for wear.
    The money has gone but they manage(just) and have good memories and still keep in touch with some of the people they met.
    My husband complains to me that they haven’t any money to make life a bit easier now.
    But I still think they wouldn’t change what they did and am glad for them.

    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 20, 2013 | 7:00 pm

      Thanks Lesley, and I think your mother’s view is just right – good for her!

  7. Beth (Delighted Muse)
    January 21, 2013 | 2:46 am

    This story was very powerful to hear, thank you for sharing it.

    I’ve just started reading the book “The Power of Now” and learning to meet my goals by being as present as possible. I’m a huge planner with anxiety over missing opportunities or letting time pass by, and the anxiety ends up taking up more of my energy than the actual work I’m planning! Being in the moment and enjoying whatever I may be currently doing imbues life with such vibrancy.
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    • Tess Giles Marshall
      January 21, 2013 | 5:42 pm

      Hi Beth, thanks for your comment. That’s such a great insight about the energy eaten up by anxiety. I’ve not yet read The Power of Now – perhaps it’s time!

      • Beth (Delighted Muse)
        January 24, 2013 | 12:23 am

        I started with the audio book from iTunes and it was much easier to get into the book through that, as it’s narrated by the author and written in kind of a dialog format with questions and answers. When I picked up the paperback later it seemed to ‘sink in’ more 🙂
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