If I Had My Life to Live Over
In 1992, Sandra Martz’s book, If I Had My Life to Live Over, I’d Pick More Daisies, was published. It’s a collection of essays and poems by women who reflected on their lives and the choices they made. I had just turned 30 years old and had my second child. I had everything I had dreamed of when I was younger. I was married to a man who was my friend. We had two children together, careers, and a home. But something inside me, some incessant feeling, kept nagging me. It was the question, “Is this all there is to life?” I thought, “There must be something more.” I had ignored it initially, chalking it up to my perfectionistic tendencies and insatiable quest for more. The question would go away temporarily, but then return. So, when I saw Martz’s book, I pulled it from the bookshelf, and I bought it.
I wanted to learn pearls of wisdom from women who were 10, 20, or 30-plus years older than I. I wanted to know what they had learned about life that might help me think differently about mine and help me avoid mistakes I may regret later. Plus, I loved the title. The stories and poems covered life experiences, from childhood to old age.
The poem that has stayed with me the longest is by Nadine Stair, an 85-year-old woman at the time, whose poem inspired the title of the book.
Here is an excerpt:
If I Had My Life to Live Over
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.
Then in the last stanza, she writes…
If I had my life to live 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.
What I learned from this woman who was 55 years my elder was that life is made up of moments, and when I miss the moments that matter, the moments that bring me joy, because either I’m playing safe or busy living a composed, planned life, then I miss living what “Life” is trying to give me. Life is being in the moment.
Fast Forward – because “the days are long, but the years are short.” Thank you for that, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (another book that came to me at the right time in my life).
I am now an emerging minimalist. It’s been about two years now. My life is way simpler and more minimalistic than it was. I credit the pandemic for my need to purge anything that I no longer need, use, or like. In one of my purges, I got rid of a lot of books. Books that I was gifted or bought, but knew I’d never read and books that I’d read and that had served me well, but I knew I wouldn’t read again. Martz’s book was a casualty of my purging.
I thought I was done with the question. Now, almost 30 years later, I’m divorced from my friend, my children are grown, wonderful adults, and I have a career that I love and a dog that is my constant companion. Life is good. But the question has returned – “If I had my life to live over…”
It feels different this time. I think it has something to do with my birthday coming in a few months, the two-year anniversary of my brother’s death this past week, and my recent promotion at work at a time when I thought I might start preparing for retirement. “Have I made the right decisions with my life?” Nadine Stair is in my ear – “Be sillier.” “Don’t take life so seriously.” “Take chances.” Really, what I believe the message to me is, “Do what makes you happy.”
This week, I reordered the book, and I’ve decided I’ll keep it. I suspect that I’ll be going back to that book for inspiration time and time again.
Until Martz’s book arrives, I reached for Erma Bombeck’s If I Had My Life to Live Over. It seems we women have this question in common. Here are three of my favorites from her list.
I would have talked less and listened more…
If I had my life to live over, I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth…
There would have been more “I love you’s”.. more “I’m sorry’s” ….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…
So now, here are a few of my If I Had My Life to Live Over pearls:
If I had my life to live over,
I would spend more time with my mother, getting to know her as a woman, and soaking it all in.
I’d pay more attention to the stories my grandmothers shared about their lives
and I’d commit to memory their recipes.
I would continue practicing piano and learn to be a better swimmer.
I’d speak several languages, travel the world, and learn its people.
I’d dance down the soul train line whenever I got the chance.
I’d dare myself to throw away the plans, take more chances, and break more rules.
I would abandon dogma and get to know God earlier,
and I’d trust the voice inside me.
I’d wake up to the reality that I am enough.
If I had my life to live over, I would embrace every day because, “There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.” (Alexander Woollcott)
Your turn. What would you do if you had your life to live over? This question is not one of regret, but one of empowerment. The past can inform the present and inspire the future.
Please take a moment to listen to this meditation by Vaz Sriharan, Self-Compassion & Creation. It’s just six minutes, but it’s a nice finish to this reflective article.
Affirmation from the meditation:
“I trust in my decisions. I offer my gratitude for all lessons learned, and all the lessons I’m yet to learn.”
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story