I’ve been introduced to Bronnie Ware and her book: “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying,” – which in turn has introduced me once again to my life.
Bronnie Ware is a palliative nurse in Australia who has spent several years caring for patients who are in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She states: “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”
Here are the top five regrets she has witnessed:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish I had let myself be happier.
Anyone who reads these five statements and doesn’t take a moment to review their own lives is missing the point of what life should be.
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” It’s like hearing my own voice in my head when I read this. I understand this more and more the older I get. I’m 60 and the “I should haves” are taking more and more precedence in my life. When I was in my 20’s I most certainly did not have that sort of courage, I’m not sure I had any sort of courage at all.
Most of my generation – born in the early 1950’s – knew what was expected of us. I lived in a small, rural town and was raised by a Mother who was quite strong – but also quite a traditionalist. I knew from a very young age what was expected of me, and it most certainly was not to be a Lesbian. I was to be a wife and a Mother and not question – anything.
So, instead of questioning or finding any sort of courage – I lied and cheated and hurt many people on my path to living the life that was expected of me. Oh yes indeed – “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
I think of my parents and I wonder what they may have regretted at the end of their lives. Mother never really discussed her feelings and I would never even be able to make an educated guess about her regrets, or even if she had any. My Father was a complicated man – and a stubborn man – when given the chance to make amends and get some things in order before he passed – he refused and died with things unsaid and unsettled. Did he regret that – I have no way of knowing – but I most surely wish he would have made the effort.
This list of regrets by those who have gone before us is a gift for those who want it to be so. While you have the time – do what you need to do to be happy in your life – Your life. Not your Mother’s or your Fathers or your husbands or your wife’s or your partners or your friends. – Your life.
Perhaps making peace with ourselves will bring peace to our lives. I’m not sure one can ever live a life without any regrets – but I like to believe we can live a life which brings us pretty close.
At 60, I am well aware that there is more of my life that lies behind me than lies before me. When I went home for my mother’s funeral – I understood it was time to let go of some anger I’ve been harboring for many, many years. Anger at family, at a town, at memories… I apologized for things I needed to apologize for, I listened when others spoke to me, and when I got on the plane to leave – I left it all there. I didn’t want to carry it with me for one more moment in my life. I was no longer concerned about keeping peace or keeping quiet or being angry. 60 years was long enough…
Go back and read the five regrets. How many of them apply to your life? And how many of them can you change right now? What are you waiting for?
Life is not about the destination – it’s about the journey…