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How to Save Yourself From the Tantalizing Lie of 'Later'

Allow yourself to make memories with the people you love, even if that rare night of shenanigans and laughter with friends is the reason you need that extra cup of coffee or fresh juice the next morning.
10/30/2014 11:57am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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The days have silent edges now that I've returned from my vacation in Hawaii. When I glance up from my computer, light spills between the blinds, casting the shadow of bars along my carpet in L.A. I'd forgotten the inordinate amount of time I spend in my apartment here. A restless yearning fills me, and a craving for a cinnamon latte from a coffee shop 2,500 miles away.

*

My last few weeks in Hawaii, I'd wake at 7 a.m. to the buzzing of a text asking me if I wanted to walk. I was the puppy wagging her tail to the intonation of syllables, throwing off the covers and brushing my teeth in puffy eyed slumber.

Twenty minutes later, a friend and I wandered through the forest under a canopy of trees, sharing conversations like games of marbles, clicking together the future and the past.

We'd end up at a mom and pop coffee shop relaxing in wicker chairs. Porcelain red mugs held foam in their wide mouths, an elegant pine tree design captured in the silky mix of espresso and froth.

We'd laugh till our cheeks hurt and traverse five conversations like race car drivers of words.

Every moment of my time back at home was spent with family or friends. I slept less than I had in months and was constantly on the go, yet I was incredibly happy and peaceful. I hadn't realized that a part of me had become a thirsty waterwheel and interaction and connection fueled the spokes.

*

Today, back in my apartment in L.A., I'm missing morning conversations with friends, and the hum of my body under the sun, in perpetual motion.

I close the computer and wander aimlessly through my apartment. It's past noon and I haven't yet brushed my hair or changed out of my pajamas. My thoughts begin to spin towards comparison, to every magical thing I could be doing if I were back on the island.

Then reality sinks in. The reason vacation felt magical was because time was a finite resource.

For the many years I lived in Hawaii, I didn't wake up every morning and take lavish walks through the forest, have coffee dates, or frolic around daily with friends. I'd often turn down 10pm invites to a friend's house because, "it was late," and I was settled in, watching a movie.

The difference in how I treated life was based on the resource of time. On vacation, time was limited so I arranged my life to be full. When I lived there, I became comfortable and lazy and told myself that I could do things later.

But "later" offers us a tantalizing lie. It makes us believe that things will always be the way they are, like a picture, frozen in time.

I think about a cinnamon latte and a late evening walk under the streetlights. What if those moments were the last time I saw my friend or my mother?

Years ago a friend drove me to my car after a seminar we both attended. Our conversation somehow veered towards pancakes and they knew of a great place that stayed open all night, suggesting we go. It was late so I declined, saying we could plan for sometime next week. They died a few days later.

I think about that moment sometimes, not in a scary or panicked way, but as a soft, loving reminder that time doesn't always do what we think it will do. Pictures change. Life, like a river, continues moving.

My vacation reminded me that time is finite, which is what makes it magical, and valued as a precious resource. "Later" tantalizes us with its lies, but only if we let it.

Instead we can listen to the soft and loving reminders:

Nurture connections, say yes to opportunities, tell people how they rock your world, take the first step towards that goal or dream, and put yourself out there.

Allow yourself to make memories with the people you love, even if that rare night of shenanigans and laughter with friends is the reason you need that extra cup of coffee or fresh juice the next morning.
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