My brother recently forwarded an article called "Regrets of the Dying". As my four brothers and I get older, and with parents who are in their golden years, certain topics begin to crop up as gaining some level of relevance. However, being in reasonably good health, all of us, and though I am facing the big 5-0 this year, I know his intention was to raise our awareness NOW, while we're healthy and young, or young-ish!
The author of the article is Bronnie Ware, a palliative care giver in New South Wales, Australia. She worked with the terminally ill and dying, and she compiled a top five list of regrets that people expressed when "they are faced with their own mortality." Read Bronnie Ware's blog post here.
Here are the Top Five Regrets by Bronnie Ware:
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.
We all can look back at even just the day before today and re-evaluate something we've done or failed to do. We might reflect and wish we could have done it differently. It's part of human nature, and how we grow and evolve and learn. What we don't want is to make the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" mantra become a chronic, life-long tale of self-loathing and regret. With that in mind, I made a list of remedies to combat the regrets, a one-on-one, hand-to-hand face off.
Top Five Remedies to Combat the Top Five Regrets:
1. Now and every day, I tap into my creative inner being.
Access your deep self - the place of intuition and imagination. Those thoughts are entirely your own, free from others' expectations. From there, let yourself be inspired by it. Now innovate - do something different, bold, true to yourself. Do this daily, and you come to realize how much courage you really do have to live an authentic life.
2. Now and every day, I find time to be a kid.
Take your cues from children - they love to play! It brings out a sense of wonder, freedom, laughter, and pure joy, things we rarely associate with work. (If you are lucky, work is play!) More than we think, play and recreation have many benefits to our wellness, so it is advantageous to balance work and play. Make time for play, to be a kid.
3. Now and every day, I speak from my heart.
We fear in our society being judged, being vulnerable, being labeled, so we often hold back on revealing our feelings. Those are real barriers to self-expression. But there are more mediums of expressing oneself than just through speech. Speak from the heart through painting, writing a song, a poem, or a blog post. And when you do find the words - don't worry if they are not perfect, they just have to be sincere.
4. Now and every day, I connect with someone I care about.
It's a romantic notion to send a letter, sealed with wax, delivered by a rider on horseback, through the woods. Technology has allowed for Facebook, Skype, emails, and texting. All you need is a screen and your thumbs. Less romantic? Maybe so, but you have even less of an excuse not to reach out to someone! Despite the means, maintaining a connection with people is vital. Call today, horse not required.
5. Now and every day, I make something, love someone.
The need to make stuff is a primal human quality. The need to love and be loved (nurture and be nurtured) is also a human trait. Happiness comes from our ability to fulfill these desires and needs. Making stuff can be as mundane as preparing a meal for your family or more involved such as building furniture. Create something with your hands! As for loving and being loved, happiness happens because we are reassured that we are not alone.
Regret is a tough thing. The idea of time gone by wasted makes us uneasy. Our mortality is limited, so the best we can do is optimize our life on earth, living creatively, connected, compassionately, now and every day.
About the Artist of "Portrait of My Father"
Stephen Kaltenbach (b.1970) studied at the University of California at Davis, where he was mentored by Robert Arneson. In the 1960s he was at the center of New York's avant-garde, where he became known for conceptual work, such as bronze time capsules. In the 1970s he returned to California and focused on painting, but since the 1980s he has created sculpture and media installations. No mention of a teaching career is made in online biographies. "Portrait of My Father" was painted from 1972-79 as a tribute to his father.
We formed a circle with our mandala stones - the final workshop in our 3-day Syrendell Winter Retreat. Each river rock represented an individual - an artist, a scientist, a photographer, an innkeeper, a coordinator, a brewmaster. Each rock a constellation. Each constellation one universe.
We are all unified by the human desire to be creative. Being creative is honoring earth's bounty, accepting the gifts of the elements, using our own hands. Creating is in our nature, and most certainly comes from a wellspring of loving intent. It connects us, nourishes and heals us, completes us.
Now if only we can get our world leaders to all be together to braid yarn, paint stones, sand wood, and go wine tasting in Calistoga, CA...!