When I saw this topic I wasn’t sure that I would be able to write about it. I don’t tend to have regrets. In fact it probably isn’t that I don’t have them, but I don’t like to dwell on them. Sometimes, if the feeling is very strong then I will do something to change or counteract it, but that only works for the small things – the dress I didn’t buy etc. With the larger things, I think through carefully before making a decision and so by not being impulsive, I think I avoid the feeling of regret and am more able to embrace acceptance of the situation.
Anyway I did a little bit of reading into the psychology of regret and still was no closer to anything to write. What I did find was details of a book written by Bronnie Ware, who is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. So, interested to know what they were, I checked them out and used them to think about how I might feel in that situation.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I guess that this one is tricky for me. I am living the life I want, but I am living two different lives. Sometimes I am torn between them and do wish that this was a world where I could mesh what I do as missy, writing about sex and relationships, with what I do in my public life as a teacher. There are parts of my life of course, where the two do overlap and for sure each influences and draws on the experiences of the other, but the remains more than a degree of separation.
While I might wish that society was ready to embrace what I see as the full range of what I have to offer in a non-judgemental way, I know that this is not the case. Had I come to all of this at an earlier age, likely it would have shaped the path I chose, but I did not and so I continue with my two parallel paths. In reality, I am content that I have a non profit making hobby and passion that I enjoy, as well as a career which provides and income and allows me to feel reward and fulfilment.
Ultimately I have had the courage to change my life in a variety of ways taking risks and making myself more vulnerable and less secure in the process in my quest to live in a way which made me not only truer to myself, but felt more like I was living as myself and allowing myself to be the person I wanted to be rather than the person others wanted to see. Following our dreams and pursuing our desires is high on the list of priorities for HL and I so really, I don’t see this as being an area of regret for me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Working hard is important to me as I set myself high standards and like to do well whatever I do. I chose to take time away from employment while my children were little and that was motivated by the desire not to regret missing out. I remember hoping that my career would wait for me but knowing that my children would not so with that thought, I made the sacrifices necessary and did what I felt was right for me.
While my work can mean that I spend a lot of time and energy thinking and supporting other people’s children, I do not really think that this is at the expense of my own. I am not a snowplough parent and I believe that young people should be given the space to grow as individuals, learning from their own mistakes and problem solving their way to resilience. This does not mean that I don’t provide guidance as that would be ridiculous but I want to allow them space to grow into their own people.
I am involved but try not to live out my life through them. I am supportive but try to model the tools they need to manage the things that come their way. I celebrate their successes but try to value personal traits and qualities as much as other achievements. My family time is important to me, as is my relationship with HL which sits firmly at the centre of everything that I do. I love my job but my real happiness and pleasure comes from the time I spend with my own people, so I try hard to keep a healthy balance.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
This is a regret which really doesn’t apply to me. Sometimes I think that I express my feelings too readily and too openly. There are things that I hold back on, but if things are important, I tend just to put them out there and deal with any fallout. My relationship with HL has been refreshing in that there is expressing my feelings is actively encouraged and I have benefited from that. I know that in a past life I expressed them without feeling they were heard and this sort of invalidating behaviour can have lasting consequences, but for me I was able to move away from that toxicity and find something which met my needs so much better.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
This is a trickier one and perhaps the area most likely to lead to regrets. I do feel that there is never enough time, and some of the decisions and choices I have made have led me to not having such lasting friendships. I have made new ones which I value and so, currently, I see the fact that things have tailed off with certain people part and parcel of the way that life evolves. It could be that I see things differently in time, but for now, I am enjoying investing in the relaitonships that are importtant to me.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Happiness is important to me. It is always the one thing that I want for my children and have chosen a life for myself where I am doing the things which I value, find important and enjoy. Everyone is different and I know that my life would not be one that some others would want but it suits me. I feel lucky for the way that things are and know that I am fortunate to feel positive in my outlook. Change can be scary but I think it is important to make a change if you are unhappy.
I do realise that this list of regret is based on those that people have when they are dying and as I am currently in good health I guess they don’t really apply and I might feel differently at the time. However, I do feel positive that currently the life that we have carved out for ourselves leaves us both feeling fulfilled and not lacking or wistful about things which are being missed. This is a good place to be and I am aware that I am fortunate in feeling this way.