Throughout our life we encounter things that become part of us forever – a scene burned into our minds, a song which never leaves our ears, words that indefinitely stay on our lips. Erma Bombeck’s retrospective anecdote If I Had My Life to Live Over is precisely that. I first discovered it 14 years ago hung on the wall at my part-time job. I had never heard about it before and didn’t know who the author was, but it immediately made my eyes well up with tears. It seemed apparent that the person writing it had come to the end of their life and was realizing that, over the course of their existence, they made decisions which were now regretted and could never be remedied. Yet, that wasn’t true at all. Erma Bombeck died in 1996 at the age of 69 due to an unsuccessful kidney transplant, years after this was published (Wikipedia). I like to think that her self-awareness at the time this was quoted taught her to live the remaining years of her life to the fullest, and any regrets she had upon passing were consciously and willingly made by her.
If I Had My Life to Live Over was Bombeck’s answer to a question posed to her on December 2, 1979. In her column she wrote “Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything. My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.” (Snopes.com)
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.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained, or the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
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 sat on the lawn with my grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television and more while watching life.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil, or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
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.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.” There would have been more “I love yous.” 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. Stop sweating the small stuff.
Don’t worry about who doesn’t like you, who has more, or who’s doing what. Instead, let’s cherish the relationships we have with those who do love us.
In addition, I cannot go without mentioning Nadine Stair, for whom I cannot find any further information other than that, at the age of 85, she gave her own introspective answer to the same question.
If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax, I would 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.
You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments, and 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 had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
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.