(originally published 4.1.2008)
I want to share with you a letter I got from a woman who listens to my radio program:
Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with a serious, progressive, degenerative disease, which will eventually end in a torturous death. That's the bad news. Now for the great news.
I believe this may be the best gift I could have been given. Thanks to you and just the title of your book, "Stop Whining, Start Living," I realize I have received knowledge most people never get-that is, that this is my best day. I will never feel better, so I CHOOSE to live it thoroughly, and wring out every last drop of love, laughter and giving that I can. Tomorrow, I will CHOOSE to do the same.
You can't imagine how energizing this is, to know that each day is the best day of your life.
There is an old Rabinnic story lesson that Satan's most potent weapon is to let humans believe they have "all the time in the world." That's because when we feel that time is limitless, we tend to put less value in each moment...in each day. When we don't value the moment, we don't tend to make the best, most noble decisions, and instead, follow our impulses - thereby making our souls more "available" to Satan, as the story goes.
When I received this letter, I was truly and deeply impacted. I wondered at first, as I suspect most of you would too, if I could dig that deep into myself to pull out that perspective and live it. I then realized that this woman's thoughts would be in my head for the rest of my life, and would inspire and guide me if I have to face imminent and painful mortality. My final reaction, with a slap against my own forehead, is that we need to live each day with her mentality.
She isn't ignoring or denying her disastrous fate. She is CHOOSING to live each day in order to make it the best she'll ever have. In her case, it's literally true. For you and me, it is figuratively true, and therefore, wholly dependent upon our choice of mood and behaviors.
Her letter is at the philosophical center of my book, "Stop Whining, Start Living." It humbles me to be reminded of my own words by people who are struggling more than I. I am reminded of the values I hold most dear, and which help me survive the nonsense and villainy that tempt every day's despair. Purpose is the antidote to despair. And teachers need to be reminded of that, too.