“5 TOP REGRETS PEOPLE HAVE AT THE END OF THEIR LIVES”
The above headline is the title of a fascinating piece in the e-magazine Alternet by Susie on February 15, 2013.
Alternet is a Left Wing publication which tends to be prone to excessive headlines—in my judgment—but which still publishes some truly thought-provoking articles. I check out about 20 publications with some regularity, and Alternet is one of them.
In this case the writer was commenting on a book by Bonnie Ware, an Australian palliative nurse who recorded her extensive experiences of the dying in a blog and then went on to write a book called THE TOP FIVE REGRETS OF THE DYING.
Needless to say, it immediately made me wonder what regrets I will have as I lie on my deathbed waiting for Father Time to wield his scythe (if I have the luxury of time to contemplate my life before it is terminated) so I read on with interest. Had I made the same mistakes as everyone else—which seemed highly likely—or what?
What I found surprised me and made me feel decidedly better about some of the decisions I have taken. Of course I have regrets—one can always do better—but the following list is, mostly, NOT applicable in my case, though I do wish I had tried harder to keep in touch with friends (and I have tried).
In particular, despite many difficulties, I followed my dream—which was to become a writer.
I give thanks every day that I made that decision and had the fortitude to execute it against formidable odds. In truth, I am still facing considerable difficulties, but am not persuaded I should give up writing.
The following is the list of regrets that, according to Nurse Bonnie Ware, people have at the end of their lives. They are well worth thinking about. I was particularly struck by the phrase in Regret 2: “The treadmill of a work existence”—doing something every day which fundamentally you hate. If that is the best we can do as a society, we need to change—soon, and drastically. It cannot be good for either the individual concerned, or society as a whole, for people to be be made miserable by their work. It also cannot be good business.
As it happens, I love my work—writing—with more passion that I can put into words. As a consequence I feel both fortunate and privileged . However, the transition from conventional business to a writing career was extremely difficult, and did not happen by accident—and the life, itself, remains financially insecure.
I guess we all make choices and have to live with the consequences.
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 had 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. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked 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."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
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."
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."