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“DO BETTER TODAY THAN YESTERDAY”
by OPOVV, ©2020
(Mar. 4, 2020) — It’s the end of a balmy day as we stroll down to the docks where there are fishing boats tied up and in front of one sits an Old Salt — Navy peacoat, white beard — whittling away and talking to a small crowd. Let’s listen in, shall we?
“We make memories, is what we do. Some know what they want; most don’t have a clue, but this I’ll tell you: bad choices have consequences that last a lifetime. A bad decision based on being impatient just isn’t worth it, even if the rewards are instant gratification. The stolen candy bar or a secret rendezvous; a reckless act or the disrespect of a stranger is what we become, even if we think we’re not. The misplaced feeling of being benevolent can readily result to being taken advantage of.
“It must be satisfying to be right. Me? I’ve never been right in my life and the times that I thought I was, well, each one turned into a life-changing disaster, believe me. Lots of impulsive decisions based on faulty information, some real and some imagined, but most likely caused by either not setting a course or, having set a course, not keeping a true heading.
“Like the thought of quitting drinking anytime I wanted to never materialized until one night I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like myself: I wouldn’t tolerate a liar, so why should I tolerate myself? You can run but you can’t hide, was my conclusion. So earlier that day I bought a twelve-pack and I was standing in front of the ice chest thinking about the eleventh of the night and then it hit me: I don’t like myself. I mean, if I have that eleventh beer I’ll most certainly have the twelfth, like it was a command and not the act of free will.
“So I stood there reviewing my life and it was then and there that I decided to live my life as if I was reading a book: chapter by chapter. I knew what was on the previous pages: not only did I read them; I lived them, but it was the ensuing chapters that I was most interested in: what happens tomorrow and the tomorrows after if I keep on a stormy heading? Thing is, I knew the answer: there it was, right in front of me, the rest of my life as if it was written in stone.
“Come to think of it, it was written in stone: ‘R.I.P.’ No worries; yesterdays like all of the tomorrows; a safe way to live; an easy out. So that was the night when I closed the last page on alcohol and haven’t had one since, decades ago. Cigarettes soon followed, I’m proud to say.
“Have I improved? Not one bit, but at least I no longer blame the drink and drugs for wrong decisions, now, can I? Now I have to face all of my mistakes all by myself. I can say that I seldom act on impulse, or not as much, which is the truth. And my retirement money has gone a lot further since I no longer drink, smoke or take drugs. You could say I’m high on life and if I met Jesus today I could at least look Him in the eye and say that I’m sorry for having wasted a life but at least I’m doing better than I was thirty years ago.
“And that’s the best any of us can do: do better today than yesterday. But don’t feel bad about failing: we all fail, each of us in thought or in deed. You can’t do better than the Golden Rule; none of us can. But that’s not to say to go through life with blinders on or allow oneself to be taken advantage of, which puts the blame on us for allowing the bad behavior of the other person: we are, at least in that way, our brother’s keeper.
“What I mean is you wouldn’t invite a person to your party knowing that he’s a mean drunk, now, would you? And you don’t want to hang around with people who are on their way out or on their way down; it just doesn’t pay. I say beware of those who preach ‘freedom for free’ when in fact freedom’s cost is always measured in sacrifice and blood, and if anyone tells you something is ‘free’ you’d be wise to figure they’re lying to you.
“I’ve been lied to; I put my faith in everything and everybody but myself, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this life it’s that if you don’t have it together — you as an individual — no one can do it for you. You can’t lay the blame for ignorance and stupidity at any other’s foot except your own: you have to take responsibility for your own life and to blame others for your own failings is nothing other than lying to yourself, and we can’t have that, now, can we?”
“I Believe in the Man in the Sky” (2:16)