In my early twenties, I came across a poem in a gift shop in Savannah, Georgia. I bought the book and decided that I wanted to live the way the 85-year-old author would if she could live her life over.
These are her words:
If I had my life to live over again,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d limber up.
I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances,
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would, perhaps, have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.
you see, I’m one of those people who was sensible and sane,
hour after hour,
day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments.
If I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else- just moments,
one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute.
If I could do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had to live my life over,
I would start barefoot earlier in the spring
and stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances,
I would ride more merry-go-rounds,
I would pick more daisies.
– Nadine Stair
As young as I was, I understood the wisdom in her words. I recognized my own tendency to carry a parachute in my purse “just in case.” I knew I worried too much about the future and too little about making the most of the present. I didn’t eat enough ice cream and I was terrified of making mistakes.
The fanciful imagery of her words reminds me of giddy laughter, fireflies, and long, lazy naps with the cat. Over the years, I thought of how those images juxtaposed against the harder realities of life – loneliness, loss, and suffering so painful that we can’t imagine anything as hopeful as a daisy. What Ms. Stair wrote was a reminder to make beautiful moments right now regardless of our circumstances.
Her words had such an impact on me that I wanted them to be my life’s anthem. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that as much as I knew there was to learn from her experiences, my own mistakes – not hers, would be my greatest teacher. Had I known that I would have welcomed failure with the abandon of wild horses. I would have known that someone else’s words, no matter how perfect, can’t be my anthem – that can only be sung in how I compose the notes of life’s moments. I would have seen the wisdom in her words and looked inside myself for my own. I would have understood that her wanting to do life differently was merely a longing for mercy. It is on this truth that everything hinges. Regardless of age, mercy is the great do-over that lets us begin again. Whether we want to pick more daisies or plant a garden, it’s by recognizing the mercies available to us to make moment upon moment matter that we can write the poetry of our lives without lament.
May yours be epic.
Maybe it’s because I am on the cusp of an empty nest but it also seems like many people I know are reconsidering how they want to live. What do you want life to look like for you? What mercy can you give yourself that would make this possible? ~ love, Lara
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