Carpe Diem — But Don’t Feel Guilty When You Don’t

I’m not a mother yet, but something about this Huffington Post article made me stop and pay attention. Perhaps it was something in me that recognized I likely would share these sentiments in a few short years. There was something else there, too, though. No, I’m not a mom, but I’ve had chapters in my life where my lack of a constant “Carpe Diem” mentality was something that made me feel guilty.

“Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong,” writes Glennon Melton.

I felt similarly, for example, while teaching English in Malaysia. There I was, living in a country few Americans ever get to even visit, spending eight months immersed in a new culture, and traveling nearly every weekend to do things like scuba dive off the undisturbed Malaysian coast. Yes, I was incredibly fortunate to have such an experience, and I was very aware of that throughout my time in Malaysia. Still, many days were tough, and sometimes homesickness (or culture-sickness, more accurately) got in the way of me fully carpe-ing the diem. And so I, like Melton, felt guilt, and wondered if I was doing something wrong or if I was missing some critical piece of understanding of or connection to this all too fleeting experience.

I still feel that way now some days. After all, my life is really, really good. I’m young and healthy, newly married to the love of my life, with a wonderful job and an incredible family. But some days I forget to feel thankful, and then, inevitably, feel guilty because I forgot.

Melton writes: “My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.”

I worry the same thing. Not, of course, in relation to being a mother (though I’m sure that worry will come in time), but instead in relation to life in general. I want to look back on my life, decades from now, and see that I have taken chances, seized opportunities, loved people well, explored the world, worked hard, and laughed every chance I got. But instead, some days I find myself longing for tomorrow and failing to even notice — much less savor — the today.

And that is why, even though it may seem like a bit of a stretch, I was able to relate so strongly to this article — though in reality it wasn’t meant for me at all.

Even still, Melton’s words resonated: “…when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think – how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth?”

That’s me, too. Surrounded by love, peace, warmth. And safety, and acceptance, and trust, and honesty. And so I’ll try not to chastise myself too much when I forget to be thankful and, instead, hold on tightly to the countless times that I do.

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