Jim Duffy: Despite mum's cancer and cousin's murder, life is a treat

It can be hard not to worry about the future, but we should try to live in the moment, writes Jim Duffy.

BBC Breakfast host Bill Turnbull, who has revealed he has prostate cancer, always struck Jim Duffy as a very decent man and a fair journalist (Picture: PA)

It has been quite a busy week for me with some random things happening locally and beyond. I was saddened to hear about Bill Turnbull and his incurable prostate cancer diagnosis. Mr Turnbull, a well-known former BBC Breakfast presenter, always struck me as a very decent man and a fair and reasonable journalist. I still like his show on Classic FM.

My old mum, who is also dying of cancer – pancreatic cancer – has had a tough week as she struggles to eat and keep any nourishment in her tummy. It’s a particularly nasty cancer. But, she is doing her best and has lots of family and medical support. Then I learned that one of my cousins was murdered in Paisley. A sad end to what was a lovely wee boy, whom I remember going fishing with when I was younger. Add to this the allegation that Russia has been assassinating former UK spies, now living here in Blighty. Finally add that my cabin fever is over as the Beast from the East has departed and I can leave my cottage, where I was somewhat cocooned.

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But, despite all this, I am feeling chipper. Why? Because it brings into focus how lucky I am and that every day we are alive is a treat on this Earth.

Like you, I have heard the expressions like “live for today”, “one day at a time”, “don’t live your life in the future” and many other pearls of wisdom. But, as human beings living in this tech-driven age, we always seem to ignore this. It seems that we are always planning for the future, while failing to acknowledge that today is special. I am very guilty of this and it has caused some stressful times as I worried about what would come my way or how I could shape events that may never happen. Philosophically, I wonder if it is part of what we do as human beings. Or, on a more post modern note, have we been programmed to worry, fret, plan and hypothesize about the days and weeks and months ahead?

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If I think about it, it all started as a child and I bet you remember this also. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was asked. Really, why can’t you just let me be a kid? If you think and reflect on it, all you wanted to do was play football, go fishing or go to the Scouts. I don’t know what girls wanted to do, so I’m not going to make any assumptions. But, I’m sure there were key activities you each liked and enjoyed.

School and schooling was a big factor in shifting our mindsets from living in the now to living in the future. You will remember being told that if you don’t stick in at school, then you will amount to nothing. Passing exams was key to future riches.

Jeepers creepers, what a thing to say to a child who does not have the cognitive capacity to fully appreciate what you are saying, but all the same must now feel what “worry” is all about. I had the additional suffrage of religion, where I was told that if I was not a good boy, then I would go to hell when I died. Not great considering I liked to steal chocolate biscuits from the tupperware tub that my mum hid in the strangest of places.

Then there was the pressure of getting a girlfriend. As a teenager stuff happens to you and there is the need to feel attractive to the opposite sex (I do accept that any sex is acceptable today and a normal relationship is simply a loving one). But, I was blessed with spots and acne. It was torture trying to look good, when other boys had lovely skin. Just think how this made me feel. Luckily I was able to overcome this with my character and force of personality. Thank goodness beauty is in the eye of the beholder, eh?

So, as you can see, from such an early age we are conditioned to worry about the future, what jobs we might get, how much money we might earn and what level in the gene pool we will attract to partner with. When amalgamated and rolled up into life, I can see why I was so prone to living life in the future, while not appreciating the now. You may recognise some of this in yourselves. But, recognising it is one thing. Not letting it creep into your mindset and psyche to influence you and others is another matter. Today, I ask that you think about your own mortality and of those around you. How can you tweak how you think to enjoy the day and the weekend? After all, we cannot get these days back. I’m not going to worry about the Russian influence on the UK. I’ll let Boris Johnson do that. I’m not going to worry about whether I get prostrate cancer. But, I’m definitely going to listening to what Bill Turnbull says about it and act on his counsel. I’m not going to worry – too much – about what I can do for my mum or how long she has to live. I’ll just enjoy some quality time with her over a cup of tea at the weekend.

Living for today for many of us is actually quite difficult. But, I guess some of the greatest philosophers, thinkers and influencers all took time to observe the “moment”.

I hope you and your families can observe some moments this weekend. It will be well worth it.