You see them on the side of milk containers, or on the tops of canned goods. Over-the-counter medicines and treatments have them, too. The "best if used by" date is when the manufacturer has determined that a product is past the time when you should consume or use it.
The cynic in me says those dates are designed to get us to replace a perfectly good product with a new one. I know when we cleaned out my dad's apartment after his passing, we found things in his medicine cabinet that were years too old but still worked for him, and had nothing to do with his cause of death.. So, I fudge a bit. A can of mixed fruit probably won't kill me if the date was five months ago. But, after a nasty experience with turned milk, that date I follow.So, here is a random thought: what if humans had a "best if used by" date stamped on our can (butt), or somewhere on our body? How would that affect how we spend our days?
I like this question because there is no correct answer. In fact, the question is answerable only in the abstract. To decide what I would have done differently for the past 73 years or what I will do in the time remaining if I learned when I was going to expire, is simply an interesting mental exercise, isn't it?
Another version of this would be, "what would you do if you knew you had one year to live?" My answer (and more importantly, yours) gets to the heart of what we have decided is important to us. It helps us clarify what we have learned that makes our life worth living. With an expiration date, we have no more fantasy about the lie we tell ourselves that "there's always tomorrow" or "I have all the time in the world to do that."
If I had an expiration date or just discovered my "best if used by " stamp what would I do differently? A few thoughts may get you to ask yourself the same questions and entertain us with your answers. Of course, how long in the future I have until I expire affects my answers. So, just for sake of argument, let's assume it is 5 years in the future:
* My to-do list each day would probably look different.
* I would see some of the sights I promised to see "someday."
* I would cut back on computer time.
* How I spend my retirement money would change.
* My spiritual life would likely deepen and strengthen.
* I would leave a book of my life lessons for my children and grandkids.
Because this is just a fantasy (I hope!) it is hard to say what else might be on this list. But, the last item jumped out at me as probably the most important.
Of more lasting value may be what I can pass on to my kids and their kids. Like you, I have had my troubles. I have been fired, seen the dark side of some financial reversals, watched a business I built fail, had family members die, and struggled to be the kind of husband I promised to be 46 years ago.
Even so, I take the Satisfying Retirement title of this blog very seriously. If my life hadn't been one of learning and growing, solving problems, and moving forward my retirement wouldn't look like it has. If my health and finances hadn't held up so far, there is little doubt I would be different.
There should be some life lessons that someone else in my family can benefit from. I feel obligated to tell them what I know to spare them as many stumbles as possible. I would spend some of my remaining time writing down what I have learned from this journey that has been my life. Hopefully, I would honestly detail my failures and missteps as much as my successes. In that way, the things I have learned would not stop when I reached my due date.
I should quickly add I do not want to know my expiration date. If a fortune teller wants to read my palms to check on my "Life Line," I will politely decline. If some fancy DNA test says my odds are 72% I will live until I am 84, that's great, but it isn't gospel.