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Thoreau's quote near his cabin site, Walden Pond.

Thoreau’s quote near his cabin site, Walden Pond. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… listen and learn.

I have always listened to people who were older than me. And whether I chose to do what they did or didn’t do, I always understood that they were speaking from the experience in life that I did not yet have.

And they were doing me a favor by sharing what they had learned.

So this morning, when I had a new follower, I went out to see what their blog was about. Granted, this was someone selling something for online marketing at the bottom of it all. But before that was an article.

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

Here was a chance for me to get the group knowledge of a lot of people older than me. What they had regretted most. When they had come to die. Reminded me of the Thoreau quote for some reason.

To put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.
—– Henry David Thoreau.

What I read struck me as true.

It caught my attention. It forced me to look at myself. At where I am at. At the choices I have made. And the choices I have yet to make.

About true happiness. And choosing to do those things that will make me happy. Even the hard choices.

It reminded me of myself. And of many people I have known. And specifically of one friend who had said “I don’t want to wake up twenty years from now and realize I could have done something but didn’t.”

Same here.

So for him and all the others … and you … and myself … here are the points of the article.

You will notice my comments in italics and parentheses. They are perhaps the most heartfelt and true things I have ever written in the sixteen months I have written this blog. It will give you more insight to me than most people have … anywhere.

Maybe you can learn from those comments as well. And that makes me happy.

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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

(I have spent virtually all of my life until the last twenty plus years living the life that others told me I should live. From my choice of a mate, to my choice of a career, to having children, to not speaking out strongly for some of my beliefs.)

(Not making a choice is every bit as much a choice as choosing to do something. Or think something. Or say something. And my life has been ruled by choices I did not make. Or choices that I chickened out from after having made.  Or choices that I let others make for me.)

 2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. And many female patients.

(I made a conscious decision twenty plus years ago to work in a manner that fit my personality. My style. And this decision shocked everyone I knew. )

 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.

(Fear is a horrible motivator. It has caused me to settle for things that were not in my best interest. It has allowed me to accept things that were unacceptable. It has allowed me to keep peace with others at the cost of my peace, my happiness and my mental well being. It has frozen my actions and caused others to make my decisions for me. Making no decision is still making a decision. And it has accomplished nothing positive.)

 4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise 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.

(There are friends and family that I may never hear from again. And that breaks my heart. But it is not because I have not reached out. Never again. I have lost too too many dear friends in life to not value each and every one I have now.)

(Life is too dangerously short. And once they are gone, or I am gone, it is too late. I cannot let others stop me from being friends with those I choose. I am not a child or a teenager to be manipulated any more.)

(If there are friends or family who never contact me again before I or they die, it is because … from fear or anger or hatred or whatever … they have chosen it. Not me. For me the door is always open.)

 5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

(Happiness is a choice. By staying stuck in my old patterns and habits I have many times chosen by omission to be unhappy. To not make the living changes I needed to make. To stay in unfulfilling and dead relationships. Because I did not want to hurt the other person. Because I worried what others would say or think. Because I was too lazy to make the effort.)

(I preferred to pretend that I was content … and try desperately to convince myself and others that was the case … rather than choose something that was better for myself. I considered that kind of self loving choice to be selfish. It is the way I was raised.)

(I pretended to myself and others that it was not that bad. That it was better than it was. And that it was good enough. And that it was something that it most surely was not. I pretended to be content, because I wanted to be content. And I was afraid to lose what I did have to risk being happier. Because what if I wasn’t happier? Fear. Nothing but fear.)

(My own Fear of Change has caused me to stay living where I live instead of trusting that there would be something better if I took that Leap of Faith. I have pretended to others, and more damagingly to myself, that I was content. When I was not. And I knew in my heart that I was not. But I was afraid to make that change.)

(I longed to “have silliness and laugh properly” in my life. To be honest, although I never discuss the heartbreak that brought me to doing this blog in the first place, I will share this. In that relationship I had the laughter, the happiness and the silliness that I have craved my whole life. But because of some things that happened after it was over … which shook me to my core … I have let Fear and Doubt stop me from acting to get that kind of happiness and laughter again. Have I had Happiness? yes. Laughter? yes. Silliness? certainly. But not like that.)

There is a bit more to her article. But this is the basics.

I made a choice on June 24, 2012 to be happier. And to write about it. Here. To not come to die … only to discover that I had not lived.

But you know, it never hurts to make that choice again.


Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)