For Some Things, It Is Too Late


I read a thoughtful article in last month’s Oprah magazine: “To-Do List, Or Not To-Do List?”, by Martha Beck. In it, Ms. Beck examines the experiences that “waste our time and drain our energy.” Naturally, I’m interested, as I am a compulsive list-maker as well as an occasional time-waster.

Ms. Beck’s thesis: it really is too late for certain mindsets, and for activities that rob us of the opportunity for happiness. While we make our to-do lists, whether literally or hypothetically, let’s sort out the fruitful activities from the frustrating ones.

It’s too late in our lives, for example, to live for “ego candy”: that’s anything we do simply for status or accolades. Oh, yes, I have done this: chosen something on my to-do list just because it will elevate others’ opinions of me. The author advises us to apply the following test to any experience we think we “should” have (for me, to read War and Peace, e.g.):

Would I want to have this experience even if no one else would ever know I did? Would I be thrilled to do this even if everyone I know thought is was stupid?
No War and Peace for me, not this lifetime.
It’s also too late, the author says, to “turn toxic people into healthy ones.” She advises us to spend less time with the “Lucy’s” who inevitably pull the football out from under us, and more time with those who show love and support.
My favorite “it’s too late” is: “It’s too late to feel guilty about enjoying simple things.” If meditating, playing with the cat, or reading thrillers brings you joy, do those things now. Our bucket lists don’t have to consist of all Important Things. Reading blogs, for example, or staring at the ocean are among my great pleasures, and it’s too late to feel guilty about them. Why not be happy now? It’s not too late.

Have a glorious Tuesday,

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  1. It is so silly to feel guilty about simple pleasures, but we're programmed to. By our mothers, right? Seriously, all of those wonderful, simple little things I never want to take for granted, especially after the last year. Even cleaning out the beloved cat's litter box is a pleasure…lol.

  2. Stunning post Patti and I wish more people would realize that life is simply too short. I have chosen to stay as far away as possible and as often as possible from two direct family members because I find them to be toxic and there's no helping them because they seem to be happy there … so sad.

    I have 'to-do' lists to remind me that I can't just have pleasure all the time … lol … otherwise I'd be reading blogs, taking zillions of photos and petting my kitties all day long. However, I refuse to feel guilty for living my life the way I want to and as others think I should.

    Happy day to you dear Patti.

    Simply Sassy Style

  3. A beautiful post Patti. I would never have started blogging if I had relied on the opinion of others. It brings me great pleasure to have found people such as yourself.

  4. Hi Patti!

    More and more i do things to give me pleasure- I try not waste time on stuff i hate or have to do – Be happy now! totally agree!

  5. Since I developed fibromyalgia 4yrs ago, I no longer have an elaborate bucket list. Just walking two miles/day and doing my daily chores is a huge accomplishment for me. It has helped me develop an appreciation for the simple things in life.

  6. Being content with small pleasures, recognising that you cannot change other people's behaviour, doing what you love because you love it, not to gain external reinforcement – these are all great ways to live life, Patti! I still want to tackle some Russian literature though, just to be able to say to myself that I tried! I feel the same way about Moby Dick…
    As well as the "life's too short" mantra, I try to ask myself whether the thing I'm stressing about will matter next week, next month, next year. If I can admit I probably won't care, won't even remember, or will laugh about it in the future, then it's wasted emotion to be anxious or upset about it now. Keeps things in perspective! xxxx

  7. Amen to every word you just posted. Thank you for this incredible reminder, especially with this busy month ahead of us. What joy it would bring to so many of us if we simply chose to spend TIME with loved ones and friends rather than crazily rushing around to buy and spend.

  8. Gosh. I never read Oprah's magazine. Maybe I should. Great advice. I need to get rid of those negative energy people in my life. Hmmm…I need to find a gentle way to say"buh bye!"

  9. Great points! I have learned to drastically alter my self expectations due to some very significant and impactful life changes-chronic illness and divorce- and it's a challenge because we live in a world that really values business and constant doing, going places and having projects. It's still a daily challenge to allow myself to just be. And I could not get through War and Peace either, though as an Eng Lit major I always thought I should.

  10. Couldn't agree more. Energy is wasted on guilt.

    Also life really is too short. Funny that it often takes us getting older to realize that. I never gave it a moment's thought when I was under 30. Now that I'm over 40 and especially this year with all the health issues it is on my mind all the time.

    I hope that she said doing housework was on the "not-to-do" list. LOL


  11. thank you for this post, Patti. My retired about 6 months ago, and I was getting frustrated about all the things we weren't doing. Until my dearest friend asked… you really want to do that? Or do you just think it is expected of you? A light bulb went off in my head, and I have since been enjoying our quiet, content life. We LIKE to read, garden, cook, ride bikes, walk, exercise at the Y. I sew, he golfs. "It's too late to feel guilty about enjoying simple things." I love that. thank you.

  12. What an interesting article!!! And I had to laugh because war and peace is on my list too!!! It's been on my bookshelf for 10 years!!! Have I read it? Nope!!! I do still want to because I want that feeling of having conquered such a weighty tome but I am sure that I just want to show off that I've read it, somewhere in my subconscious!x

  13. Yay mysteries and sci-fi! I like cozy mysteries i.e. Dorothy L Sayers and her modern peers. I like sci-fi by women like Louis McMaster Bujold (she's amazing) and also the more original (not cliched) fantasy i.e. Patrick Rothfuss.

  14. Before you give up on the Russians, try 'A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch' by Solzhenitsyn. It's a very short easy read and manages to make its points in a really mild but really effective sort of way. It just covers one day in a gulag but it's not a drepressing read at all (unless you actually think about it later). I'm not really selling it, but trust me, it's an amazing, amazing book!

  15. I'm glad this post was on your to-do list, because it made me very happy. So much of my life is spent on tiny pleasures that I have felt a bit guilty at times, but now I will remember your wisdom and continue to be happy now.

  16. Great post! A few years ago I realized based on family history I was probably half way or so through my years here…it was the eye opener I needed. I give myself permission to just be who I am….I figure anyone who doesn't hang around wasn't around for the right reasons anyway.

  17. What a great post. As I get older, I am becoming more aware of living in the moment, appreciating being alone and grateful for what I have. Thanks for a wonderful post.

  18. My favorite phrase is LIFE IS TOO SHORT…my students often quote me as saying LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO DRINK OUT OF PAPER CUPS!! I gave up on War and Peace a long time ago! Good thoughts, Patti!

  19. What great advice! And FYI–I read War and Peace a few summers ago and found it really repetitive. Another reason to strike it off your list!

  20. I'm with you. "Life is too short for…" has become my mantra. I also no longer feel guilty about my vintage collecting habit. I've decided that it is one of my greatest joys in spite of a lack of space in my apartment. So instead I'm focused on ways to manage and organize and not on feeling guilty or that I have to give it up entirely.

  21. Great and thoughtful post, Patti! Ha, I love that you are ditching 'War & Peace'. I'm with you, life is too short to put myself through a novel like that, especially after all I had to read in college (I was a lit major). I read 'Crime & Punishment' a long time ago and I think that's all the Russian literature I can handle in this lifetime. After reading this post I think I'm gonna go play with my cat Tippi for a few minutes!

  22. Great post, Patti. I agree with you – although sometimes when I'm not really doing anything productive I do feel guilty… But then I remember that down time is also necessary and forget about it ๐Ÿ™‚

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