Avoiding Regret and Other Impossibilities
I’ve been watching the long, slow end of winter. I’ve been thinking and overthinking. It’s tiring. But I’m shaking myself out of it, slowly. Today, during work research, I found this article, “Regrets of the Dying,” about what a nurse learned from her patients. It became a best-selling book and I think I’ve seen it before – but I’d never read it and thought it through.
1. “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.”
She mentions “honoring dreams.”
I’ve never seen that verb and noun paired like that before. “Honoring” dreams. I like it. The implications are powerful. As if dreams aren’t just pleasant fantasies, but are worthy of that level of respect and attention.
She said this was the number-one thing people mentioned. So, okay. How am I doing against this?
I think I’ve done it badly more than once. At least I think I’m learning that it’s easier to get out than I’m afraid it will be. That doesn’t make it easy. Just not as bad as I think.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
She mentions “creating more space in your life.”
This one feels hard for me to agree with. I love digging into a project and obsessing over details. I love a productive day where I’m satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. I like working hard.
But I’ve turned down plenty of opportunities because I questioned whether I’d enjoy the brand of hard work they needed. For about 30 seconds a month, while I check my portfolio, I question those choices. But then I think them through again, and I make the same decisions, every time.
So maybe it’s a question of working hard on the right stuff.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
She says, “either way, you win.”
Ugh. Crap. This is the hard one. This is so hard.
But here’s something telling: I’m sitting here trying to think of when I regretted it, after I had the courage to express my feelings. I can’t think of one.
I will say that I don’t think this is good wholesale. I don’t mind being guarded. There are many times I’m glad I kept my mouth shut. But once I’ve admitted to myself that talking needs doing… yeah. It needs doing.
4. I wish I stayed in touch with my friends.
She says, “it all comes down to love and relationships in the end.”
This, I can be wholehearted about. Yes.
Once, I let myself lose some of my most important people. It was a stupid decision I’ve tried not to make again.
Actually, it was worse than that. It wasn’t a decision. Those are okay. They can be wrong, but at least you’re trying. It was a nondecision. One of those things you just let happen. Those are the worst. And the dumbest.
5. I wish I let myself be happier.
She says, “happiness is a choice.”
When you’re unhappy, this sounds like an infuriating cliche. When you’re happy, this sounds true. It might be both. Because becoming happy can suck. It’s a hard road and it costs you. (In my experience.) But it’s worth it. (Also in my experience.)
She says, “Fear of change had them pretending … they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
I realized, while reading this, that when I find myself not laughing, I’m in the wrong life. Every time.
That sounds so trite and trivial. Silliness isn’t a reason to make hard choices. But I think the thing is, it’s a symptom, not a reason. I don’t do hard things in order to get to be silly. I do hard things because they’re worth it – but I can tell if I’m doing them right when I notice that I’m laughing more.
This is one of those thinking-out-loud posts. I’ll close it with one more thought.
Here’s a quote that all this reminded me of. I had it on my Facebook profile back when we had quotes on them. (Remember that?
“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.” – Søren Kierkegaard