Carpe Diem is one of the few Latin phrases I know, and it has become something of a mantra for me. Literally meaning ‘seize the day’, it is taken as an instruction to make the most of the present (possibly with little regard for the future, but we’ll gloss over that!).
As my children were growing up, I used the phrase to encourage them to take advantage of opportunities that came their way. This rather backfired on me one day when they were in their teens and I took them to one of the ‘Go Ape’ tree-top adventure courses. Having booked in advance, we arrived at the centre and I went to check them in. The lady I spoke to was very friendly and asked me if I was going to do the course with them. Not being a fan of heights, I laughed politely and replied that no, I was just going to watch, thank-you very much; the thought of actually doing it terrified me! She said that if I changed my mind, there were plenty of places left in their particular group, and I would be very welcome.
Maybe something deep within me craved adventure - who knows? - but for some reason I regaled my children of this. “Oh, go on, Mum!” they said, “We’ll look after you!” I wavered. It would be nice to share an experience with them. Sensing my hesitation, with a little smile my daughter dealt the killer blow. “Carpe diem, Mum!”
Having now no way to back out, I capitulated. Wondering at my sanity, I went back to the reception area to admit that I’d changed my mind, and to be fitted with my safety harness. Then I joined the waiting group, as I watched my comfort zone disappear over the horizon, laughing hysterically!
My daughter and son were as good as their word; one in front and one behind me, they encouraged me the whole way around the course, as I tackled each obstacle. They didn’t rush me, but allowed me to go at my own pace, helping me to overcome my hesitation and fears. When I ‘froze’ and doubted my ability to continue, they coaxed and reassured me. Three hours later, as I whizzed down the final zip-wire and landed, none too elegantly, in the fifth pile of wood chips, I felt a huge mixture of relief, pride and exhilaration - I had done it! My comfort zone was waiting meekly at the bottom, well and truly beaten.
For the rest of the day I was on a ‘high’ of excitement at my completely unexpected achievement. I had discovered a level of physical courage I didn’t know I had, and shared a wonderful experience with my children. Carpe diem, indeed.
In the past few weeks, several people I have known well have passed away; not all of them reached old age, and the youngest was just 17. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us; every new day is a gift, and each today will only happen once. Time, and the ability to make the most of it, are precious.
So, carpe diem… and enjoy!