Should we try?
I have many—some big, some small. I try to use them as learning points and not repeat my mistakes. Doesn’t always work.
Some time ago a Facebook friend posted a link to a Guardian article The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, a list created by a person who works with a lot of people who are at the end of their days.
Stop and think a minute what might have been the very most common regret of all. Or even what might have fallen in the top five.
Go on. Stop reading and look off into the distance and think about it.
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One thing I do sometimes when I am caught in a difficult decision is think ahead many years to the old, old Michelle, the one in a sundress, rocking on the front porch watching the world on a warm evening after a day in the garden. She can hear her husband in the house, opening cupboard doors looking for something, about to come out on the porch and sit with her. A cat is standing at the edge of the porch trying to decide if it will turn and jump on old Michelle’s lap or chase the birds in the front lawn. And old Michelle is thinking about her family and specifically the one’s she’s about to go have dinner with.
Then young Michelle walks up the path to the house and leans against the porch rail. The cat watches her and stands to rub against her legs, looks up expectantly, and begins to purr when young Michelle bends to pick her up. Holding the cat, young Michelle asks old Michelle in the rocking chair a question. The question is answered, the cat jumps down, and young Michelle walks back down the path. The old Michelle sees her family arrive and she smiles and waves and they all tumble out of the car happy to see her too.
I can’t live without regrets but I try to make the best decisions I can in hope that I can make my life even better as I live day to day and in hope that one day old Michelle can sit in that rocking chair knowing she did her best all along. How sad it would be for that old Michelle to be rocking on the porch, watching the world and wishing she had done it differently.
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So what did you come up with? What did you predict was the number one regret of people as they move out of this life?
The number one most common regret was the wish that they had lived their lives true to themselves, not the life others expected of them. It takes a brave person to turn to all the people around you and say, ‘sorry, that’s not what I want to do’, and leave their support and expectations, risking a lot (sometimes everything) and doing exactly what you think is best for yourself. I love reading stories about people who do this. Usually, I think I am living my life true to myself, with the help of the old Michelle.
The second most common regret was that they had worked so hard. No one lies on their deathbed and wishes they had spent more time at work. I’m a writer and I work hard, but I also put a lot of effort into being a good mum, a lovely wife, a decent cook, an experimental gardener, a fine cat owner, an avid book reader, am enthusiastic walk taker… I think I’m doing ok here as well.
Number three on the list was the wish that they had more courage to express their feelings. I tend to express my feelings (perhaps more than I should), so I’m ok with this one.
Number four? They wished they had stayed in touch with their friends. The thirties and forties are difficult, busy years for keeping in touch with people, but I can see how important this should be. Some people naturally move out of your life and there’s no need to stay in touch, while others are people I never want to imagine not knowing. As I write, I am thinking of ways I can stay in better touch with my friends–and family. My friends and family mean a lot to me, even the people I haven’t seen in years. I shouldn’t have let so much time go by between visits or other communication. This is a really important one for expats, as well.
And finally, number five is the regret that they hadn’t allowed themselves to be happier. The author said that many people did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. I don’t always choose to be happy, I must admit. Sometimes I choose to be irritated, or frustrated or hurt or angry and sometimes that’s because I’m trying to express my feelings to others, but other times it’s because I’m just acting on impulse, not even thinking about the choice I’m making. This is one I can work on as well.
So what about you, readers? What are your thoughts of living without regrets–how do you do it, or do you bother trying?
Does this list move you in any way? Will any of these be on your list of regrets one day?
Would you add any?