In her 1998 song, “Life is Sweet,” Natalie Merchant warns: “Life is sweet/And life is also very short.” Who knew the wonderful Ms. Merchant would be on the same wavelength as the Hermits of St. Paul of France?
These Hermits, a.k.a. the Brothers of the Dead, were a religious order in the 1620s. In their official seal, they included the credo “memento mori.” Those Latin words translate to “remember that you must die” and became widely known thanks to the Stoics of Ancient Rome. The phrase is designed to keep one humble and serve as a reminder to seize the present moment before it’s too late.
They told you life is hard.
It’s misery from the start.
It’s dull and slow and painful.
I tell you life is sweet.
In spite of the misery,
There’s so much more.
As Natalie continues to remind us, much of life is based on our choices and our perceptions. Our existence will take on a new flavor when tinged with the reality that we can never know when it will end. Having trouble getting started on that new workout regimen, job search, or writing the great American novel? Feeling stuck about letting someone know just how much they matter to you? Any of these moves and countless others could be kickstarted by a memento mori reminder. Or, as Marcus Aurelius wrote: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
I can already hear some of you sighing about how depressing it is to contemplate mortality. Hence, if a rock goddess, a Roman emperor, the Brothers of the Dead, and a young Robin Williams aren’t enough to inspire you to “remember that you must die,” how about a web-friendly list?
9 Ways to Seize the Day
Wake Up Early
Our news feeds are flooded with memes and posts about the joys of sleeping late — and there can be a time and place for that. However, to make any particular day count, you have to live as much of it as possible. This starts with an early start.
Self-care helps create a better version of you. This version is well-positioned to seize opportunities and appreciate each moment. Your self-loving basics include:
- Regular sleep patterns
- Daily exercise and activity
- Healthy eating choices
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
- Some quiet time/solitude
- Staying connected with others seizing the day
Talk Back to Your Inner Critic
That internal monologue is a thief. It steals your joy, steals your gratitude, and it will also steal your day…if you let it. Push back against your inner critic. This means rejecting the negative self-talk and resisting the urge to speak negatively about others.
This can cover a lot of ground and, of course, is based on the resources at your disposal. But keep in mind that help need not be defined solely in material terms. For example, there may be no greater form of support than offering someone your full attention.
I’m not talking about an “official” game that takes place in a predetermined location at a predetermined time. Engaging in a non-competitive form of no-win play is a healthy outlet for any human being seeking to embrace life at this-very-moment, e.g. the imaginative, creative, bond-forming approach to play chosen naturally by children.
Like tip #4, this one also covers a lot of ground. Your self-expression could happen in the name of art, justice, personal integrity, and so much more. Use your voice. Share your vision. Stand up for yourself and others. Tell someone you love them. Since everyone is subject to the whims of memento mori, we’re all living on borrowed time. Make the most of it while it lasts by not keeping your thoughts, ideas, and emotions under wraps.
Write a Daily “Headline”
Many years ago, I started this nightly ritual. After laying down to sleep, I mentally recap my day. The idea is to formulate a single headline that best encapsulates the unique experience of living through 24 hours that I will never see again. It’s also an excellent way to decide if I’ve had a day well-seized or need to recalibrate in the morning. Speaking of which…
Each morning, wipe the slate clean. The accomplishments and the failures of the past do not need to shape this new day. Do not rest on your laurels. Do not dwell on your mistakes. In the words of Gautama Buddha: “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Remember That Life is Sweet