Sunday, July 8, 2012

Searching for Serenity: Why Not Now?

Not long ago I was reading a book that included a list of life regrets written by Erma Bombeck, a popular newspaper columnist, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There are actually multiple versions of this list circulating on the internet (some of which are attributed to different writers), but the overall message is the same. Here is an excerpt from one version:

“If I Had My Life to Live Over”

“If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
There would have been more "I love you's".. More "I'm sorrys" ...
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute... look at it and really see it ... live it...and never give it back.” -- Erma Bombeck

Things like this really make me think – not because they are oh-so-true or because they remind to take my own life a little less seriously, but because I find it sad that so few people ever find themselves in a truly carefree, regret-free, loving-every-minute-of-every-day place in their lives. Instead, we tend to plow through life complaining about the weather or the traffic or gas prices. We worry about what other people think of the condition of our homes or the size of our butts. We stand in judgment of others’ political views, religious beliefs, and life choices while turning blind eyes and deaf ears to our own contributions to the world’s problems. We choose anger and resentment over forgiveness and compassion, and we fear uncertainty more than we trust life. Then one day a terminal illness or tragic loss stops us in our tracks and the only thing we can do is look back and say, “I wish I would have…”

Unfortunately, by the time we get to “I wish I would have,” wishing is all we’ll ever be able to do about it. I don’t want that to be me. I don’t want my wake up call to come at the end of my life, and I certainly don’t want to sit down one day and write a list of all the things I wish I had done. That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why I’m putting so much effort into reprioritizing my life and growing a more positive mind. And that’s why I’m willing to talk about it so openly. I hope it holds me accountable to my commitment to this change and I hope it inspires someone, anyone, to join me on the journey.

It’s never too late to change your perspective on life, and you don’t need a personal tragedy to kickstart your desire to do it. Every day is a new opportunity to banish the underlying worries, fears, judgments, and frustrations that undermine your ability to live fully in the present moment.

So why not start today? Try to worry less about stained clothes and messy hair, even if you’re out in public. Support your child’s goals, even if they’re not what you had in mind. Sing your way through a traffic jam, even if you’re running late. Let your kids play with fingerpaints and play-doh, even if the table is oak and the carpet is white. Forgive your brother, even if you think he was wrong. Let your guard down, even if you’re afraid. Dance in the rain, even if it’s your wedding day. And start taking your life from “I wish I would have…” to “I’m glad I did…”

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