I came across the following poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson this afternoon. It’s familiar, though I hadn’t read it in years. I rediscoverd it in TREASURES FROM THE SANCTUARY FOR THE SPIRIT, a little book a friend in England sent last month to lift my spirits during those dark days before surgery.
To laugh often and love much,
To win the respect of intelligent persons and
the affection of children;
To hear the approbation of honest critics
And to endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;
To give one’s self;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exultation;
To know even one life has breathed easier because
you have lived
This is to have succeeded.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What would I do differently if I could live my life over again?” I’ve been thinking about that this afternoon, considering what I would change if I could — not those choices having to do with marriage, career, children, that sort of thing — but, as in the Emerson poem, those things having to do with my heart, soul, and spirit. Here’s my list (so far!):
- I would laugh more.
- I would love more, and more intelligently.
- I would better appreciate beauty — in other people and in nature.
- I would try harder to discover the best in others.
- I would give of myself more often and more completely. (Though as I heard Anne Lamott say the other night — writers can be such divas! With this in mind, I would remind myself more often it’s not really all about me.)
- I would be quick to forgive, and even quicker to ask forgiveness.
- I would plant a flower garden, but not a manicured patch. I would let it go a little wild.
- I would learn to quilt.
- I would have greater patience with myself.
- Then I would learn to quilt.
- I would run barefoot along the beach, along the lacy edges of the water.
- I would run barefoot through damp, fragrant grass, twirling and turning cartwheels. (A difficult thing for a post-menopausal, but, hey . . . I’d be contributing to the first item on the list for those who might be watching.)
- I would take more time to play, and I would sing very loud and with great joy.
- I would get a tattoo. (Not really, just thought I’d throw it in to scare my mother.)
Obviously, I don’t have to wait until the end of my life to look back, wishing I could change a few things about how I lived. I can begin right now.
Laughing, loving, giving, gardening . . . running, playing, singing . . . to add to that which makes up the whole of me.
What’s your list?