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‘Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow, but Never Jam Today’

Updated on December 5, 2019
Stella Kaye profile image

Stella is interested in philosophical, social and religious concepts and has written several articles on this subject

Today is Here - Use it

‘Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow - but never jam today.’ Anyone who has read Lewis Carroll's ‘Through the Looking Glass’ will perhaps be familiar with this quotation which hints at how easy it can be for us to disregard the present when memories of the past and hopes of future events preoccupy us. The quotation is about unfulfilled promises. It can apply to promises you've made to yourself or promises others have made to you. My father would always say 'a promise is made to be broken' and anyone can see the unfairness in that.

When we're young, it's perhaps easier to put things off; after all, we have all the time in the world, but as most of us reach middle-age we find that time is a much rarer commodity than we previously thought. We soon begin to realise that we have more yesterdays behind us than tomorrows in front of us and when will we get that jam?! Will we ever have enough time be able to do all the things we desire and see all the places we want to visit when our day to day lives are so busy and complicated?

When I was young and impressionable an older friend of mine often used to say:

‘Yesterday has gone - forget it.

Today is here - use it.

And tomorrow may never come.’

— Anon

Jam Today?


Her advice was by no means original but it was the first time I'd heard it and coming from an older person I looked up to, I thought it was. Original or not, what a wonderful precedent to live by. My friend died in her early fifties, her life cut short by cancer and I've never forgotten her sensible advice, especially now when I'm fast approaching the age she was when she met her untimely end.

Most people tend to live in the past or hope for a better future while completely overlooking the present. We are all products of our past but we should not allow bad past experiences to hamper future progress.

I firmly believe that if you take each day as it comes and do your utmost to make some progress then tomorrow will bear the fruits of today’s actions. We must be productive today if we desire a successful tomorrow. The past, present and future are linked by progress.

I have a ninety-two-year-old mother; whatever we talk about she ends up reminiscing about the war years as those times were the most memorable in her life. I bring her a supply of wartime novels which she is always eager to read at the rate of three per week. She met a lot of interesting people in the war and in spite of the terrible situation of living in London during The Blitz, those years were still the best in her life. She was twenty-two when the war broke out and wasn’t going to let something like a global conflict spoil her youth. Several close friends and loved ones were killed in armed combat and workmates were blown into an emergency water tank, some lost their lives and others their limbs. My mother felt guilty because she survived those years unharmed: ‘Well, apart from cutting my hand on a broken cup when I worked in the buffet on Waterloo Station,’ she’ll frequently tell me. She suffered a nervous breakdown due to the loss of her fiancé in Burma but still came through it all physically unscathed. She lived those war years entirely in the present with only a vague hope of an uncertain future but they were still good years engraved on her memory.

It’s so easy to wish for better times when really we should appreciate what we have right here and now. Look out of the window; marvel at the sunrise or the sunset, wherever you are in the world. The green of the grass and the blue of the sky are so very beautiful.

People nowadays are too busy to concentrate on anything for very long; we can be so taken up with the basics and trivia that accompany everyday life that we often fail to enjoy our lives to the full extent.

My friend was right; try to live in the present, not dwell on the past too much and don’t be too concerned about a future which may never arrive. If there is somewhere in the world you want to visit, don’t procrastinate too long.; if you live long enough, the time will come when you are too old and frail to do the things you have put off. There can be nothing worse than reaching the end of your life and regretting the time you have wasted and the things you have postponed. By all means, plan for the future you desire but have a contingency plan lined up if those plans do not reach fruition.

My mother has no regrets; she has done everything she has wanted to do and has been everywhere she has wanted to go. ’If death came for me now,’ she says quite chirpily’ I’d just get my slippers on and go.’

There is a lesson to be learned from people like her who adopt a positive attitude about past, present and future.


Is it better to live in the present and enjoy the 'here and now'?

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Don't Get in a Pickle if You Don't Get Your Jam Today!


Living in the Present

Jam Today

© 2015 Stella Kaye


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