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Living in the moment, preventing regret, and appreciating life

This week I was reminded of something a former boss shared with me regarding appreciating wonderful things in life. At the time (mid-80s) my wife and I were living in the Cocoa Beach area, and had been introduced to a tiny restaurant called George's. It was run by an elderly French chef and his Australian wife, and while the decor was average, the food was amazing, his prices were low, and he cooked and served meals with his wife's help, which provided a wonderful experience. After taking us there, my boss told me: "When you find something special like this, take advantage of it as much as possible because it will not last." He made a point to eat there rather frequently, and at the time I didn't quite get it, even when the restaurant eventually closed.

However, I've tried to keep his advice in mind and be present, which has been especially helpful as a husband and parent. In fact, it's become one tactic in my goal of fully enjoying my daughter (now 6 years old) - that of protecting against regret, as much as possible. For example, I try to spend the maximum amount of time with her, even when I'm tired or bored or sick, so that I can't later say "Boy, I wish I'd seen more of her." OK, I know I'll still say that, but at least I can have a reasonable mental answer - I did live with her as fully as possible for me at that time in my life.

What brings about this reflection is the recent closing of the L.A. Burdick cafe in Northampton, MA, the small city next to my town. Briefly, my wife took me to the place after dinner one night, treated me to some hot dark chocolate and bon bons, and my life was never the same. (Hyperbole, you ask? Don't laugh until you try it yourself [1]! And yes, I do have a Chocolate file - but not an entire drawer. Yet.) Once I was hooked, I insisted we go there at least once a month (more likely once every week or so), and so when I saw the announcement last month that it was closing I was able to "make peace" with it relatively painlessly [2]. But I was glad I'd frequented the place as much as I did!

This reminds me of the classic You don't know what you have until it's gone concept popularized by Joni Mitchell:
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
There are lots of resources for mindfulness [3], and I'm less than a beginner. But I do try to remind myself daily how fortunate I've been - in friends, family, blog readers, work, and co-workers. And yes, there is life after Burdick (suggestions very welcome)...


Reader Comments (10)

Matt - We were talking about this very thing in Sunday School this morning. Martha was rushing around serving Jesus and her other guests while Mary was sharing time with Jesus ( [ Luke 10:38-42 | http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:38-42&version=31 ] )
It wasn't that Martha was doing a bad thing in preparing for and serving her guests, but she didn't realize how little time she had left to share with Jesus on this earth.

Excellent post!

May 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRicky Spears

Thanks, Ricky. I'm glad it hit a chord with you.

May 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Great blog, Matt. I have to add that for me I sometimes overdo it by "trying too hard" to avoid regret and that can take me out of the moment, too. A fine balance, but wonderful to hear you are so dedicated to cherishing your daughter. On another note, if you're looking for top-quality chocolate and you ever visit the west coast, try [ Chocolate | http://www.metroactive.com/metro-santa-cruz/02.15.06/dining-0607.html ] in Santa Cruz, CA. The European hot chocolate and truffles changed my life.

May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Hi there Matt,

Mindfullness is one of the great things that buddhism has teached me, so I can totally relate with you post.


May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRicardo

Excellent point, Lisa - thanks!

And the restaurant sounds wonderful - I'll definitely put it on my list.

May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Thanks for the comment, Ricardo.

May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hey, Matt, just ordered the Leonard book myself. I'd also like Don Beck and Chris Cowan's "Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, And Change", but that'll have to wait a bit. Ah, yes, Burdick's...the end of an era!

May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRainier

Thanks, Rainier. You've tried Burdick's, so I know you understand.

Thanks for the "Spiral Dynamics" recommendation - it's on [ the list | http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/registry.html/ref=reg_hu-wl_goto-registry/104-8085125-4087950?%5Fencoding=UTF8&sort=date-added&type=wishlist&id=IZZMVJXF5IQO ].

May 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

I loved the recommendation of "Mastery" by George Leonard. Tom Peters ("In Search of Excellence", et al) recommends it several times in his 50Lists books, and I've already put it on my Amazon wishlist!

June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Douthitt

Thanks, David. I agree - the book is excellent. I appreciate the connection to Tom Peters - Do you have a recommendation as to which 50Lists book to start with?

June 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

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