I’m currently serving on the leadership team of a 21 day virtual coaching intensive. A colleague read a poem in our team meeting last week, and it moved me so much, I wanted to share it with you.
When asked “How would you have lived your life differently if you had a chance?” Nadine Stair, an 85-year-old woman, from Louisville, Kentucky, said this:
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 live
sensibly and sanely hour after hour,
day after day.
Oh, I've had my moments,
And if I had it to do 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 people 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.
***In this stay at home moment, we’re all spending more time turning inward, examining our choices and how we live. Reading Nadine Stair’s words, I feel the sting of her regrets mixed with my own. I’m thinking of the many, many times I’ve hesitated for too long to speak up, or raise my hand, or shine, and the moment passed. Or stayed silent or stayed home when my heart really wanted to come out and play. For what? Is what I’m asking myself. What am I waiting for?
What I really want to tell you is this: I’m coming out of hiding, and I’m bringing you with me. (Unless you have other plans, but… really?)
This means speaking up, getting messy, and using this life as a laboratory to experiment with joy and meaning and creativity and play. I don’t want to wake up at 85, look back and wish I’d lived differently, and I know you don’t either.
It’s safe to say that Nadine Stair is no longer alive, but she’s left us with an incredible reminder: No one needs to wait another minute to start living out loud and on purpose. Meaning planning less, loving more, dancing in the street. Meaning getting into the kind of trouble that makes for the best stories, the ones you get to relive and laugh about for years to come. Meaning yes to ice cream, yes to morning sex and mistakes and yes to that opportunity in disguise. Quarantine or no, we don’t need to carry everything that’s been given to us. We can set it all down, leave our shoes at the shore, and run free. The ocean is calling, and, if we’re quiet enough to hear it, so are our souls. So instead of looking back and counting our regrets, how about we start today by answering Mary Oliver’s question: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” And what’s one tiny thing you can do with that right now?