Taking it One Day at a Time

Taking it One Day at a Time

This is a “poem” that I encountered through Alcoholics Anonymous. No, I haven’t been in the program, but my grandfather was an AA member from the late 60s until his death.

While the Serenity Prayer is very widely known and many of us in our family pray it daily, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow is what I read when I really need to regain perspective or overcome particular stress or adversity.

I’m not just reproducing it here, I am also providing a novel typography, at least from what I’ve been able to find on the internet.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

There are two days in every week about which we should not worry,
Two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is Yesterday,
With its mistakes and cares,
Its faults and blunders,
Its aches and pains.
Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday.
We cannot undo a single act we performed,
We cannot erase a single word we said.
Yesterday is gone.

The other day we should not worry about is Tomorrow,
With its possible adversities,
Its burdens,
Its large promise and poor performance.
Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control.
Tomorrow's sun will rise,
Either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds—
But it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow
For it is as yet unborn.

This leaves only one day: Today.
Any man can fight the battles of just one day.
It is only when you and I add the burdens
Of those two awful eternities—
Yesterday and Tomorrow—
That we break down.
It is not the experience of Today that drives men mad,
It is the remorse or bitterness
For something which happened Yesterday
And the dread
Of what Tomorrow may bring.

Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time.

Reflections

Tomorrow’s Sun Will Rise

Every time I read this, I remember the first time it was read to me. Even though it was called Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, I was surprised when the first day not to worry about wasn’t an actual day of the week, like Sunday, but was Yesterday. So, in addition to all the wisdom of the poem itself, whenever I read it I get to remember and partially re-experience my surprise and joy at finding my assumption wrong. And what is a great poem but some text that brings you joy, memories, maybe some humor or wisdom (or both), and feels new whenever you read or hear it?

As for the typography, if you haven’t seen other versions of this text, it is usually presented as paragraphs, with the DAYS IN UPPERCASE. I think that the approach I took, breaking it out verse-style, makes it easier to consume and also helps to highlight the key points, such as:

  • All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday.
  • Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow // For it is as yet unborn.
  • It is only when you and I add the burdens // Of those two awful eternities— // Yesterday and Tomorrow— // That we break down.

The first case is an example of how the “versification” helps a key sentence really stand out. The second and third help emphasize key parts of a sentence, they way a familiar reader might when reading out loud.

Finally, I think it is interesting how the stanzas, as I created them, for each of the days are 9, 10, and 11 lines, respectively. So that combining with the first two lines of the poem and the final line, there are 33 lines in the poem. Noticing that, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t see a better arrangement of the stanzas that would make the number of lines the same across the three days, I felt good about keeping it as it is.

If you haven’t read Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow before, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have, I hope you found my “versification” helpful in either finding new meaning in the words, or remembering what meaning you took away from it the first time someone read it to you.

Sean Kennedy

The creator of "Whatever The Heck That Means" can usually be found with his wife and younger son in their adopted home of North Carolina. (His older son is now an adult and away studying mechanical engineering.) From there he is the Founder and President of Simbiotrek (sim-bē-'ä-'trek - https://simbiotrek.com), and makes occasional digital imprints on LinkedIn (https://linkedin.com/in/seanpk) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/AkaMacGyver).

2 Comments

Desiree Posted on9:00 am - February 17, 2022

I absolutely love this, Sean! I have always found you as a very insightful and caring person. As someone who suffers from anxiety and constant self doubt – the creepings of past decisions, conversations, and actions… at times, do haunt me. I love the idea of living only for today – whilst keeping the serenity prayer at the forefront of my mind. Thank you for posting this!

One last thing, Bill Belichick has been known to have said, “To live in the past, is to die in the present” I feel this sums things up pretty well. <3

    Sean Kennedy Posted on9:52 am - February 17, 2022

    Thank you Desiree *blush*

    You have always struck me as a strong person, so whatever habits you already have for dealing with your anxiety and self-doubt, it must be having some effect. I am so glad to hear that you now have another tool in your toolbox!

    While it was much easier to simply appreciate the Stockdale Paradox intellectually, having to live it has also showed the value of it. I’ve internalized it as, “You must confront the brutal facts of your current reality while never losing faith that things will turn out in the end.”

    I think you might like this post too: https://wthtm.com/poems-and-personal-things/anchoring-core-values/89/

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