Keeping Life in Focus

2007-august-cindy-larry-visit-036“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote is taped inside my planner. I cut it out of a greeting card someone sent me once upon a time just because I liked it and wanted to believe in it. And some days I really do. I look at it often. It’s a gentle reminder, like a tap on the shoulder or a nudge to try and keep what is important in life in sharp focus.

I have these thoughts now that I am older about what I haven’t accomplished – you know the ones you get when you feel like all you’ve really done is be someone’s mother and you haven’t done the best job at that either? You get those annoying Christmas letters from old acquaintances who have to tell you about getting their master’s degree or their latest greatest promotion and their kids are all speaking French or playing the freakin’ cello. Those letters always make me feel like I should have done more, I should have been more by now, you know- solve cancer, raise money for the poor, get a Ph. D in being too nice!
I recently reconnected with some old friends from my newspaper days and was amazed how much their careers had grown. One is having a book published, one is teaching journalism at a college, one is a news editor at a major daily.  Before I knew it, my “what-if” ball was rolling. I began counting my missed opportunities, listing off bad choices and lost ambitions.  And my what-if ball became a what-if snowball. But reality catches up with me quicker than it used to and I put the brakes on.  I have learned to be still when I’m troubled and it always pays off.  My friends careers were going well, that was true, but time had not stood still for me either. My friends were commenting on my beautiful, large family, asking me when I had started doing yoga, marveling at my knitting hobby and saying things, like “I wish I had time for that.” And I listened with different ears this time.

I may not have a book being published or a fancy title and a fancy job, but I am accomplishing all kinds of worthwhile things.  My children are my greatest accomplishments and they teach me to see the world with fresh eyes every day.

So, I will continue to appreciate the small stuff, to bloom where I’m planted. I will strive to brighten the corner where I am.   And mostly, I will try to be gentle with myself.

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3 Comments

  1. The Vinman said,

    February 21, 2009 at 1:45 am

    I am sooooooo thankful you shared this! I have struggled with taming the “what-ifs” over the years, and sometimes about our lot not to have children. But you so eloquently sum up the other side of the coin!

    Someone once told me, “Always remeber, one person’s fantasy is another’s problem.” Somehow, it stuck.

    • trudyboom said,

      February 21, 2009 at 1:46 am

      Amen to that Vinny!

  2. Kathy said,

    April 11, 2009 at 3:16 am

    This one really hit home.
    I bought that same card. I love that quote. It reminds us of all the ways we touch other people’s lives. It reminds us to give ourselves a break.
    In many ways, I never thought my life would be quite what it is today. I too am grateful for sooo much and try to remind myself of that often.
    I can stress on what could have been. I can do that really well. But then what can you do about it? Feel good knowing that you made the best decisions you could and move on.
    The older you get the less you know, the more you realize that everyone deserves a second chance; no one is perfect. there’s something to love in everyone if you look hard enough; it’s not all about you; and what’s life but to be lived; take some chances; laugh.
    You’ve always been able to help with the last one!


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