OK, so that’s a bit of a bold statement. There will always be a few regrets. We don’t get it all right.
We’re not supposed to. We’re still learning. Humans are work-in-progress. But we can choose what kind of regrets are going to be in the mix, without losing our soul in the process.
In the wake of the wonderful work published by palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, we can all take a vicarious journey to the bedsides of the many dying patients Bronnie has helped and hear what they regretted at the end of their lives. Sounds a bit morbid? Maybe but as I can’t imagine anything more crushing than facing my final breath and knowing that I didn’t give my all to the things I care about. How about you? Have you done a death-bed review? It may sound a bit grim, but in my experience, it really adds fire to your life.
Here are the things that Bronnie reported as being the five biggest regrets.
Now this is quite a gift – and I thank her and all those who dared to share their truth.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
There are times when I feel I need to “tone” down my spirituality, because it’s sometimes a turn off for others and gets in the way of my communicating with them.
But on this occasion, I want to shout it from the rooftops. The regrets these poor souls are experiencing is a lack of spirituality. Spirituality is not about religion, or chanting or fasting, although it can include these practices. It’s about connection. Connection to self – to what really makes self happy, helps self grow, feel safe and nurtured.
It is about connection to others, family, friends, neighbours – and for some of us, that nebulous, maddeningly etherial presence we call God, or Spirit, or a term that we’re comfortable with.
We are hard-wired to be in connection to the “humanness’ of us. It’s healthy for us to connect in healthy ways, including developing the ability to see and tolerate with love the faults and flaws of others and to be as aware and gentle with ourselves.
We deepen our own feelings when we develop the ability to connect to the deep desires and needs of others with empathy. Even when we cannot fulfil those desires for them, our presence can make their journey sweeter.
And perhaps, the one I feel we can all easily benefit from, is the practical abitlity to connect in small ways. A smile. A moment helping someone you don’t know. A quick phone call because you know someone will love to hear your voice. Being somewhere you maybe don’t want to be because in doing so, you show you can extend yourself into their world for a while, to support them.
Getting over ourelves, and getting honest and true can and will give you a life of richness like no other.
This morning I walked part way to school with my son. We took the dogs with us and kicked a ball and laughed. He’s 18, by the way. On the way home there was a huge traffic jam and I drove to two of my neighbours who I knew would be using the road, to tell them to avoid it.
Now,who do you think feels better as a result? Am I sitting here musing on how I transformed their days? Hoping for a return “gift” or moaning because I spent an extra hour doing this when I ‘should” have been working?
The truth is, I feel alive, purposeful and have no need of any returns. Just being part of improving something no matter how small, is food for this soul.