“I wish I would’ve let myself be happier.”
I just heard about the study that a nurse, Bronnie Ware, did…she visited thousands of patients on their deathbed and asked them all what they regretted the most. The number one response was “I wish I would’ve let myself be happier.” That language struck me. Let myself be happier. People at the end of their lives have more experiences and more wisdom than we do, and that’s the number one thing they wish they would have done differently. It made me stop and think. What could happen if we allowed ourselves to be happier now? We don’t know how many years we have left on this planet, but we do have today to cherish. We could let ourselves create a happy moment today.
When I look back at my most cherished memories, they didn’t happen at big parties or fancy vacations. They were just moments. All the details didn’t matter. We were short on money & barely making rent some months—my circumstances weren’t “perfect”. There’s no such thing as perfect. And there never will be. They really need to remove that word from our language because what does that even mean?
Happiness comes when we slow down, look around, and appreciate the little things.
My kids didn’t know mom was stressed about money. They just wanted mom to play with them. I dream about our Saturday mornings back then when my little Brandon (who’s 17 now) would jump in bed with me and say, “What are we doing today?” I think our children are our greatest teachers, too. They don’t care what our circumstances are; they want to go play in the stream at the zoo for hours. Or gather rocks, or light a fire in the back yard. None of our favorite memories cost any money. We can still create and enjoy beautiful moments every day. We can let ourselves be happier even when we wish our circumstances were different.
My most cherished memories are lying in bed when the kids were on either side of me, and I was in the middle reading them a book. Or while sitting on the floor playing Five Crowns (the card game). Or the time we started a game of Monopoly on the floor in my bedroom—I swear that game went on for weeks! Brandon took all our money and crushed us both in the end. Or Leah trying to slide down the slide in her little pink panties but she couldn’t because she’d peed a little and her panties were wet so she couldn’t slide down. Then she took her panties off (at the park) and walked naked back into the house. I was going through my divorce at that same time, but I caught that moment on video and I’ve watched it a thousand times. Her little cute voice and her little butt walking into the house. That was the house that I lost. I went through divorce, bankruptcy, and foreclosure all at once. I don’t mourn losing that house. I remember our moments in it.
What are your most cherished moments of the last few years? Think about it for a second. Giving the kids a bath, or just sitting next to someone you love and looking out the window as the snow fell? (That’s how I prefer snow…watching it from inside while sipping hot chocolate!) Or when you tucked your daughter’s hair behind her ear after a long talk on a bad day and she finally smiled? I remember when Brandon took his own training wheels off his bike and said, “Look, mom!” And just rode down the street on his own! It’s just moments we remember.
We can create a new moment to cherish each day, no matter what is happening around us. Even if our finances aren’t what we wish they were, even as we’re going through something really challenging, like a divorce, or bankruptcy, or a pandemic. This too shall pass. We can choose one moment today to cherish, even through the toughest of times.
I still play cards with the kids. It’s one of the few things they actually want to do with me anymore! They’re teenagers! I cherish every time we sit down together as a family. It’s still hard for me when they go to their dad’s. I hate sharing. Maybe it’s because I have 10 brothers and sisters and I didn’t have my own anything. I had my kids almost 100% of the time for almost 14 years, and now I only have them 50% of the time. They spend a week at my house and then a week at their dad’s house now. I still cry every time they leave. When I had them 100% of the time, I wished I had a break more often. Be careful what you wish for. I don’t really want a break, in truth. It’s nice for a day or two, but then I wish they would come home. But, it is what it is. I can’t change it. And everything has an advantage if we look for it.
Our purpose in life is to be happy!
Because I will only have them for 7 days at a time, it forces me to be more intentional with the time they are with me. It helps me to remember to cherish them more and plan moments that we will remember, make sure we have dinner at the table, ask them if they want to play cards. I just kicked their butt again in Five Crowns. That game took over an hour to play! That’s one hour where we’re at the table. No phones, no screens. Just laughter. That’s my happy place.
What are your happy places? What if we created an intention to let ourselves be happier? Right now. If we got really clear about what that looks like for reach of us. What memories make you smile? Could you create something similar with your family right now? What if you made a small, quantifiable goal that you can accomplish today and create a moment you will remember? I think miracles could happen if we create the intention to let ourselves be happier. Just today. Create one moment to cherish.
Wishing you lots of love,
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