I receive the “Pause Newsletter” in my email inbox usually every week. I enjoy it as someone, like many, who struggles with life balance. I force myself to take the 2-3 minutes to read it and usually I’m left feeling glad that I took that time to reflect ever so briefly on big-picture messages. It’s put out by Patricia Katz, who’s message resonated with me when I heard her speak at a conference.
This week, she shared the top five regrets of senior citizens reflecting on their lives as shared in a book by Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. They are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work 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 that I had let myself be happier.
Reading these now, as a 30-something, I have a lot of time to do something about making sure these are not my regrets when I get to the end of my days. At least I think I do, but in fact, I already have. Several years ago, I lost a very close friend of mine in a car accident. He was 31. In business, we talk a lot about “game changers” – what event or catalyst changes the course of the way a business operates or the way a market functions. Well, this event was my personal game changer.
After the accident, like a recovering addict, I had to learn how to take each day at a time. For a time I couldn’t even think about what to have for dinner, let alone my next career move. It was working through the pain of loss that I realized how grateful I am to have my life and those that fill it. Once I realized that there was no “getting over” my tragedy, that I had to accept what happened and learn how to live with the sadness, the world seemed like it was painted in a new color.
It seems a little strange reflecting on what happened now as my life is so much different than it was then. It’s really not though – I think my approach to life is what is different. At some point during the period where I really didn’t care what I ate, I read an article that an older person wrote to a graduate headed off to college. It was about certain truths in life and offered one as “Things fall apart. But you rebuild them again and appreciate them all the more for it.”
I felt like my life was falling apart – there was a huge void that once this person filled. When I figured out how to live with the void, it got smaller as I focused on doing things like the five regrets suggest. I make decisions that fit who I am. I choose things I’m passionate about – agriculture, family, helping others. I still work hard but it’s work that I like doing whether I’m at my computer, working with the cows, working with people or now, taking care of my son and our home. I don’t hesitate to share what I’m feeling or thinking, especially with family members! Keeping in touch with friends is a constant battle with all of life’s distractions for all of us, but I still try.
I’m happy. I have a life that I love. It’s not perfect for sure, but I am where I am because of choices that I have made. Sometimes my husband and I are still amazed – we look at each other and say, from the Talking Heads song and as the tagline of my blog reads, “Life, how did we get here?”
My wish for those closest to me and anyone reading this is that they too are happy and have a sense of peace and purpose; a life that they love too.