For those of you under the age of 40 (yea, I can say that now), you may not know who Erma Bombeck is. She was a humorist and newspaper columnist from the 1960s through the 1990s. She wrote a column after she found out that she had cancer entitled, “If I Had My Life to Live Over.”
In the piece, she talks about all of the little things that she took for granted that she would embrace if she had to do it over. Two of my favorite lines are, “I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage,” and, “I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.” Well, my children have four legs and fur, but I still love how she articulates “seizing the moment.”
I think about this piece very often when I catch myself becoming overly concerned about the superficial at the expense of the deeply meaningful. When I come home from work, I’m greeted with the unconditional love of my two dogs, Hattie & Ivy — 120 lbs. of unconditional love that is. As soon as I walk in the door, they’re bursting with so much excitement to see me that they just about knock me down.
At one point in my life, I might have pushed them down to protect my clothes from ruin or moved before they could get their fur all over my black pants. But, in the past decade or so, I’ve really come to live by the sentiment in Erma’s poem. Paw prints wash off, fur can be swiped clean with some tape, but it’s hard to reclaim a gesture of love that has been denied. So, I’ve just resigned to the fact that everything I have is covered in fur transferred to my clothes with affection. But, besides the words in Bombeck’s column, another wise woman influenced me so deeply with the simplest sentiment.
When I first moved into my house about 9 years ago, I also moved in some new bedroom furniture, a 5 year old dog, and a puppy. That puppy was my Hattie. She was four months old and into everything. Not six hours into the move, and Hattie had chewed the leg of my brand new bed almost all the way through. She was more diligent than a beaver building a new home. I was pretty upset, and then I talked to my mom. Her words are as crystal clear now as they were then, “Sweetie, it’s ok, that’s just a memory scar.” “A what?” I asked. “The bed is just a thing. It doesn’t love you or provide the affection you get from your dog. And, long after Hattie’s grown to be a loyal companion, and even when she’s no longer with you, you’ll look at that imperfection with fondness and love, and you’ll feel blessed to have the reminder.”
I cried with deep appreciation and admiration at her compassion, and my perspective changed forever. Now, I shrug off the chewed socks and fur covered cloths, and seize the precious moments of pure love.
Let tiny, sticky hands hold your face; burn the candle you’ve been saving; wear the ‘special occasion dress’; and play with your pooch ’til your yoga pants get furry.
Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine.
– Your Charmed Yogi