It's A Gray Area: Make the most of life and smile

As hard as it is to believe, the year 2012 is now upon us. And I am only just now about ready to face the Y2K problem!

But with the sobering understanding that time will continue to fly by, I now ask you: Knowing what you know now, if you could have given yourself some advice 10 years ago about how best to live your life, what would it have been?

My answer would be to quote Col. Potter from an episode of "MASH:"

"If you ain't where you're at, you're no place."

I would tell myself to try to make where I'm at to be as good a place as it can be. Every day.

Taking this thought to heart, that means that even if you or I are sick, in jail, in a hard marital relationship, in a demanding or, even worse, boring job, or are a single parent with all the demands that situation can entail, each of us should bear in mind that there are literally millions of other people all around the world who would do virtually anything to be in our situation instead of theirs!

In addition, one of the saddest things I can think of is when people who are on their deathbed look back at their lives and regret not having done a particular thing, or, even worse, regret something they actually have done. So if that is where you are, do what you can to realize your desires, on the one hand, and undo the things you have done wrong, or, at least, make amends for them, on the other. Don't wait, do it now.

The best way to accomplish the goals or changes you have decided upon is to announce that intent publicly to your friends and family. More than anything else, this will help you follow through, because in many ways it will be too embarrassing not to do so.

Looking back over my life, the thing that I would regret is never having learned to play the piano well enough to accompany myself when singing. So I hereby announce to you that by the end of 2012, I will be playing the piano. You can also accomplish your goal, whether it is to quit smoking, go river rafting through the Grand Canyon, raise beautiful roses, or write that book that has been in the back of your mind for years. But don't forget to announce that decision publicly, like I just did.

And be liberal on the subject of what is reasonable, and what is not. For example, many times when it has come up that I was in the Peace Corps, lots of people have told me that they always wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer. So I tell them that it is not too late. In fact, probably now that they have more skills and life experiences, they would be much more effective and receive even more gratification from the experience. But mostly they always respond with some form of reason why they can't do it. I disagree. They are just giving rationalizations.

Similarly, several times people have told me they would like to have gone to law school. Then when I say they still can go, they say, "Oh, but I'm 42 now, which would mean that I would be 45 in three years when I graduate." But how old will they be in three years if they don't go to law school?

In summary, we should enjoy our lives while we have them and make the most of them. We are not in this life for long, and our time will be gone before we know it.

That great coach John Wooden helped give us the best direction when he said, "Make each day your masterpiece." He went on to say that we should live each day as if we would die tomorrow, but to immerse ourselves in education as if we would live forever.

Words to live by.

The Rev. Richard Kannwischer, who is the head pastor at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, recently preached a similar message, and then went on to say that if you really are enjoying your life, don't forget to tell your face! Namely, smile more. He is right, don't hold it in. It is amazing how beneficial a smile can be — both for the giver and the receiver.

So happy New Year! Let's all make it a year to remember. This is the day that the Lord hath made — not tomorrow, and not yesterday. So take advantage of each of your days left to you upon this earth to realize your dreams and minimize your regrets.

Let it be so! Life is good!

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the composer of the high school musical revue "Americans All," and can be contacted at

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