Monday, May 19, 2008
"Let's Pick More Daisies"
Not long ago, my friend Marilyn came to me complaining mournfully. “I’m so miserable,” she said. “I am trying to become the best person I can be. I take night classes, I attend lectures. I join organizations and clubs, all of them offering to help me improve.”
But instead of feeling better, my friend felt miserable.
"I feel lonely. I am more unhappy than ever.”
I sat her down and told her of a poem I love. Actually I know it by heart, so I recited it. It’s by Nadine Stair, and it is called “If I Had My Life to Live Over.” It goes like this:
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 be less hygienic.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less spinach.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
Of course you can’t unfry an egg, but there’s no law against thinking about it. Oh, I have had my moments, and if I had it to do over again, I would have more of them, a lot more. 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 it to do it over, I would travel lighter than I have. I would keep later hours. I would have more sweethearts. I would fish more. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would go to more circuses. 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. In a world in which practically everybody else seems to be consecrated to the gravity of the situation, I would rise to glorify the levity of the situation. For I know now that laughter is wiser than wisdom. If I had my life to live over, I’d pick more daisies.
John, my housemate had a similar story. It went this way. “I hold a steady job, I’m productive! My mother would love me now. My days are spent on the job, nights, I take courses to improve my skills and on weekends I practice sports to improve my body.”
“Am I overdoing it?” he asked mournfully. “Because I sure miss my evening beers with my friends. I miss my time at the local pub.”
Then I heard from my cousin Gina, who is only 21. She is new to the eight-to-five world but already disillusioned about life. She works amidst hundreds of driven people in a mega- corporation.
She is surrounded by individuals whose families are breaking up around her every day. She invariably hears about the spouse who is faced with a divorce, the parent who sees the child turn sulky and rebellious, a teenager already an embittered human being. Gina tells me these people are so surprised. Stunned even. Why? Why? They say. I have tried. I have tried to be the best person I could possibly be, to improve myself in every area. And it doesn’t seem to work.
All of us have similar stories. We know so many people who are not happy. People who struggle to “succeed” in becoming that perfect person. Except in the process we forget to acknowledge what it means to be human, the foundation that holds our lives into a meaningful whole, without which our most intimate needs are not met.
So often we are failing to find satisfaction. Why? Because, at work, digits become more important than the people we work with, their feelings. In moments of personal trial, or illness, or the loss of a loved one, we tend to be afraid—lest we get behind—to take the time we need to mourn, to recuperate, to heal. We hear people say, if I had it to do over again… But that’s depressing. Why wait to do over again! Why not live right now? Today?
Well, so, inspired by the words of Nadine Stair, which I circulated among my friends, we got together, Marilyn, John, Gina and me, and we organized a picnic. We decided not to wait for the sunset of our lives to look back in retrospect. We decided to start today, to let those dear to us know how much we care. We started right away, to live life as though this might actually be the last day.
Camincha is a pen name for a writer living in the Bay Area of California.