This photograph is linked to Bella's 52 Weeks Photography Project and is my take on the traditional red and green of the seasonal colours of Christmas. (and has nothing to do with regrets!)
Just before my mother died, she told me that she had only one regret…that she had never lived in a lighthouse…that was her only regret and she said it was really just a very small one. Since then, I’ve often thought about that conversation and wondered what regrets I might have when I come to that place of transition myself.
I think if we lead lives of some awareness…if we ponder the “what and why” of it all…we’ll end up with few regrets or better yet, with none at all. Just reading the list below has made me more determined than ever to end up with a list even smaller than my mother’s!
The following are the five main regrets of people who are terminally ill. A few of these resonated with me, namely #1…#3 and #5 although I’ve been steadily and surely turning them around over the past 10 or 20 years or so. They’re more a part of the “old me” rather than who I am today.
My focus on this topic is likely due in part to my age…that time in life when we realize that there’s a lot less time ahead of us than there is behind us…but it can happen at any age and when it does, it’s time to find out just “who” in fact we are, what it really means "to be true to ourselves", what we’re feeling and what it is that makes us happy. (all things you’ve heard me reflect on here, on numerous occasions!)
The top 5 Regrets…
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way.
From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship.
Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.
They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
(This information originated from Bonnie Ware at Inspiration and Chai, who worked for many years in palliative care.)
These are all regrets for things not done...rather than for things that were done. There really are no mistakes in life, just experiences. We're all trying to do the best we know how to do in this moment. The next moment, the next day, week or year, we may understand how we can live a life more aligned to our truth but today...we're all doing the very best we know how.
Just some thoughts running through my head today...winter is traditionally a time of quiet and of reflection - a time to go inward, but that's often difficult to do in busy December.
Have a lovely weekend my friends,