My To Do List: Enjoy the Day

I spent the morning texting with a friend in the States recently. I have the kind of phone plan that provides unlimited text and data between Mexico and the U.S. and Canada, so I’m able to indulge this modern addiction from my current home in Central Mexico at no additional cost.

Eventually we’d run the gamut of texting small talk. Weather, spouse, daily agenda. Soon we’d either have to get specific about exactly what each of us would do, where each of us would go, and what each of us would eat today using only our thumbs—or end the session as quickly and cleverly as possible, which is what we did.

But the last question and response stuck with me. My friend had asked what my plans were for the day, and my desperately clever answer was, in reality, neither desperate nor clever. It was absolutely true.

I was going to enjoy the day.

I knew this as surely as anyone can know anything about the immediate future. Anything can happen at any time of course, but barring a meteor strike or an alien invasion, I was definitely going to enjoy my day.

The sun was shining. It shines most of the time in the Mexican highlands. The air was warm and clear. It’s warm and clear here most of the time.

And I had lots of things to do, but no particular order to do them in, and no particular deadlines for any of them.

There were some things that needed to get done. For instance, my wife Suzan and I had to get in a long walk and eat a couple of times and score a bottle of wine for the evening.

And there were a few things that would be good to get done today, but if they didn’t get done until tomorrow, the world wouldn’t melt. There wasn’t going to be a blizzard or a tornado to prepare for. We don’t need a car, so nothing car-related was on the agenda. We don’t need a furnace or air conditioning, so I didn’t have any filters to change or servicemen to call…or even bills to pay.

The cleaning lady had just cleaned the place stem to stern two days ago and would be back next week. We don’t have any grass to mow, and if we did, the cleaning lady knows a gardener who can take care of it every week this year for less than the cost of a high-end lawnmower.

But there was an open stage at a local restaurant coming up, and I could definitely stand to brush up on a few songs for that. And there was a curry recipe I wanted to try if I found the ingredients I needed. And Arturo, my shoeshine guy, would be down on the plaza, so I’d probably get my shoes shined.

I realized that, because I was living in Mexico and the weather was perfect and the cost of living was low, the most important and pressing issue each time I woke up in the morning was to enjoy my day. The only things I absolutely have to do on any given day are things I’d do anyway simply because I enjoy them.

I know some people, such as the friend I’d been texting with back in the States, who define their lives by their occupation, by the number of important and necessary things they can pack into a day.

I know just as many people—hundreds in and around my little town in the highlands of Mexico, in fact—who have managed to disentangle their idea of themselves from what they did or still do for money. Thanks to the lifestyle here, they no longer are their jobs. They are themselves.

Not all of them are retired, but all of them have chosen to live where the weather is fine and the prices are low. And with the lifting of the constant pressure to perform, provide, prepare, and prove themselves in harsh and competitive environments, their view of the world expands, slows down, moderates, calms.

It has become their most pressing and important purpose in life to enjoy the day.

Honestly, this drives some people crazy after a lifetime of “productive” work, but this eventually turns out fine, too. In my little Mexican town, the North Americans who just can’t slow down keep themselves feeling productive and useful with community work…volunteering, teaching, you name it. If they see a need in the community and have the skills to address it, they dig in.

I think that’s great.

I also think it’s great that this place I’m living in makes it possible for other people to quit defining themselves by what they do. They no longer say “I’m a pilot” or “I’m a nurse” or “I’m a writer” or “I’m a volunteer.”

This place makes it possible for a lot of people to simply say, “I’m going to enjoy the day.”

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