Be sure to experience every moment

I grew up happy. Playing with real dolls and paper dolls. Going to the circus. Riding my bike. Attending Sunday School. Riding our pony. Reading. Taking all-day fishing trips with my family.
Breakfasts in bed and birthday parties were special times. And school was the most fun of all.
Yes, I grew up happy and I want to live happy now. Growing up happy was my parents’ responsibility. Living happy now is my responsibility.
I was very glad when a friend gave me a book by Anna Quindlen, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life,” because of the topic and because of the author.
Quindlen’s column “Public and Private,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, was one of my favorites and I was sad when she left to write novels. Best-selling novels.
Now I had her book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life.” Just what I needed.
Quindlen says she doesn’t have a doctorate, or even a master‘s degree. She can’t talk about the economy or the universe. She’s not an academician.
She says, “I’m a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is really all I know.” And “real life” is really all you have to know to be aware how important it is to live happy.
Quindlen’s mother died of ovarian cancer at 40. Anna was 19 at the time, and she gave up her second year of college to be at home with her mother.
Quindlen says suddenly her life was divided into “before” and “after.” She learned from that experience just how short life is and how important it is to experience the moment.
“It’s so easy to exist instead of live,unless you know there’s a clock ticking.” After that one difficult year, says Quindlen, “I was never again going to be able to see life as anything except a great gift.”
Her “Short Guide to a Happy Life” is illustrated with black-and-white pictures of the great gift of life. Two people walking in the snow, holding hands. Smiling girls whispering secrets to each other. A boy and his dog.
A man reading the paper outside in nature, with his feet on a stump. A baby squealing with delight.
This is the message of Quindlen’s book—enjoy each moment as it happens.
“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. . . . We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”
So next time you find yourself worrying about getting a higher paycheque or a bigger house or a newer car, ponder Quindlen’s question: “Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast while in the shower?”
By the time we arrive at this side of 60, most of us have experienced great tragedies that have divided our lives into “before” and “after.”
So be sure to enjoy every moment. Take time to watch the flitting butterflies, drink coffee with your friends, look at the sunset, pet your dog, volunteer.
And always remember there’s a clock ticking.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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