If You Died Tomorrow, Would You Be Content With the Life You Lived?

Yes, it’s another list, but it’s not of Justin Bieber’s top five hairstyles or the funniest faces that Obama has made in his State of the Union addresses. It’s a list by a nurse who works in palliative care. She is with people on their deathbeds. “Each patient,” she said, “experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.”

But here were the top 5 regrets people had in their lives:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Man, if I had a dollar… I can’t tell you how many people have confessed to me that they married the wrong guy because of how it looked to others. Or have passed up quality men because they were not Jewish/Chinese/Indian/Persian because their families wouldn’t approve. Or rejected an amazing guy because he just didn’t fit the image of what a husband was “supposed” to look like, only to remain single indefinitely.

You’ve got one life. Live it on your terms. Regret is the only emotion that grows over time.

Learning to accept your imperfections and the randomness of life will allow you to lead a happier one.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

Also epidemic among smart, strong, successful women, but even more notable to the men they desire. My dad was a workaholic and while he and my Mom had a successful thirty year marriage before he passed, she was always resentful that he couldn’t be home for dinner with the kids, or that he couldn’t take more Fridays off. I get what it’s like to be the sole provider, but while money is important, family is everything. There’s a balance and you need to find it when you’re younger, not when you turn 70.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I never understood people who didn’t express every thought they had on their minds. I guess it keeps the peace, but it’s a false peace, because inside you are left to deal with the turmoil of all your unresolved issues. When two adults can have direct, honest, and productive conversation to solve problems, problems get solved. When two adults never speak their minds, they never get their needs met, and the problems just fester and get worse.

You’ve got one life. Live it on your terms. Regret is the only emotion that grows over time.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I’m going to guess that this is more common among men who throw themselves into their work and families, only to find that when they lose their jobs and wives, they’ve got nothing else to live for. Most women I know seem to have a circle of friends that has lasted a lifetime and continues to grow and grow. But no matter what your gender, it’s imperative to have relationships outside your marriage and workplace – since one person cannot and should not be expected to be all things to you at all times.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

We all beat up on ourselves. We all wish we could have perfect friendships, a perfect job, a perfect marriage, a perfect house and perfect kids. But that’s not the way life really works. Learning to accept your imperfections and the randomness of life will allow you to lead a happier one. As I’ve always said, in regards to dating: control what you can and let go of the rest. You can’t control what the opposite sex does; only what you do. Sometimes you’ll screw up, but hopefully, you can live with your decisions by the time you look back on it all.

Concludes the author, “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”

Amen.

I wish I were in better touch with my friends, per #4. Which regrets currently apply to you?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Julia

    #4 As well. Despite what you might think, not all women are terribly good staying in contact with friends. I think because most of my oldest friends have toddlers and I am still childless, this is especially true for me. Its hard to find lots in common when lives are so dramatically different. I noticed that women who have children at the same time have an easier time staying in contact.

    I think working less and allowing yourself to be happier are the two most important for me. When I decided I would work less, it was a hard career decision to make because it meant I had to leave what I am doing. I loved the work, hated the hours. I am much happier that I have time to myself now though. On being happy, I think I have been more accepting of reality then many people around me. I watch people worry about having the bigger house, the fancier car, the most expensive bags/shoes. It seems that this constant drive for material goods shows they are suffering from a real internal lack. I have always been relatively happy with what I have and what I can reach. 

  2. 2
    starthrower68

    Probably #3.  I tend to keep such things close to the vest. I’m working on it.  I try to use wisdom in knowing when to speak and when to keep my thoughts to myself.  I tend to think most folks would prefer I keep my own counsel. :-) 

    1. 2.1
      starthrower68

      Come to think of it, there’s been a few times here in the past day or two where I really had to restrain myself :-D

      1. 2.1.1
        henriette

        :)  You ‘n’ me both, ST68!

  3. 3
    Shepherd

    Oh my god. For me it’s #2, #4, and #5. This really hits home for me. I’m a professional dancer and all I’ve done since I was 17 years old is work, ignore friends, and stress. It’s been worth it, I guess, as I’m getting more and more successful and I have my dream job that I’ve been working toward for basically my whole life but wow, it’s been crazy. I recently injured my foot badly during a rehearsal and have been unable to do much in the realm of dancing for almost four months. I was devastated at first and I still feel really out of control sometimes but I’ve realized how kind of awful my life has been, despite my success. I realize how exhausted and worn out I’ve been for years. I’ve gone on several mini vacations that I never would have allowed myself before. It’s been amazing and although it sucks that I have several more months of recovery before I’ll be able to perform and dance full out, in a weird way I’m grateful for the things that have happened. My goal is to take more days off and relax and have fun and think about stuff other than dance and have days where I’m just a normal, non-dancing person. I’m going to come home early to spend time with my boyfriend and call my grandma more. I’m going to take vacations and drink tea with friends and laze in bed all day watching TV. I’m not going to worry about maintaining everything perfectly all the time. I see now that even if I hadn’t gotten injured I was on my way to an intense burnout. 

    1. 3.1
      peter 51

      Shepard,

      “Burnout”.   I haven’t thought about that word for years and yet I am now more productive.  You have to make space for you.  When your body is constantly exhausted (I used to train at international level for a sport), that must be hard.  Respect your injuries.  It’s more than your physical limit appearing.  Good luck.

  4. 4
    Ben Iyyar

        Oddly enough, I am unable to relate to any of the points which were given to the nurse by the dying people she interviewed, and I am dying as I write this from Stage IV malignant and metastatic prostate cancer.  I almost think that perhaps the responses the nurse got were more a reflection of her own issues than those that concerned the dying.
         I have only a limited time left, and I am very weak.  But I am using that time to let my wife and children know how deeply I love them, that I am sorry for the mistakes I made towards them and wrongs I am responsible for, and how happy my sweet and loving wife has made me and how proud and happy I am about about our children and their successes. I make it a point to thank my friends for being my friends and for their supporting and helping me and my wife during this and other difficult times.  
         I feel that God has blessed me with a truly great wife and family and I am thankful to Him for the chance to show my wife, son’s,  and our friends how much I love and care about them, and how I so very much appreciate all they have been and done for me.  I would strongly recommend that as much as is possible, everyone who can should go to their loved ones and let them know in words and deeds how much you love them and care about them, especially to treat them with love, respect, kindness, and understanding, and to thank your friends for being your friends and for all they have done for you.  I strongly urge you not to wait until you are sick and dying to realize that the only things that are genuinely important are your loving wife or husband, your children who love you and need you, and your friends who have been by your side.  I can assure you, nothing else really matters at all.

    1. 4.1
      starthrower68

      Ben I pray for God’s peace and comfort for you and your family.

    2. 4.2
      Fusee

      Ben, I find your gratitude to your loved one really touching! It looks like you’ve always known what matters, and have lived your life according to those values. Your family is very fortunate to be loved by you. I wish you to be free of suffering.

    3. 4.3
      Gina

      Ben,

      I am deeply touched by your heartfelt post. As your life comes to a close, I am happy that you have family that you love who love and care about you, and that you are comforted by their love.  I, too, pray for God’s peace and comfort for you and your family. John 11: 25-26 comes to mind right now. 

  5. 5
    Noquay

    Great post Evan.  Yep, I have screwed up on occasion but overall If I had to head to the Spirit World tomorrow, I’d go knowing full well I have done the best here that I could and made a difference in a few lives along the way. I left an abusive, alcoholic family at a very young age, raised a brother while teaching
    myself how to live independently in the woods, worked my way to a PhD and am the only member of my family to make it through high school. I have always remained true to my environmental ethic, did controversial research that revealed a major source of
    contamination even though my life was being threatened at the time. I was a medic at the WTO protest in Seattle and kept many people from being trampled when the police had blocked the roads on three sides. In a tribal protest, I literally saved a
    couple of lives, spoke up in front of folks with serious firearms, spoke my truth even though I could’ve been killed. My greatest achievement was not the doctorate, but being recognized as a warrior. In a brief nursing career, I saved some lives and sat with many during
    their journey from this to the Spirit World, treating them with far more caring and respect than their own families did. I have always lived the life I was meant to live, a traditional, a woods woman, an environmentalist, a farmer. Regrets? Yep, especially
    #4. I regret the loss of my marriage, big time. We were also best friends, our values were right in line though we were very different in other respects. I have yet to meet another with whom I could have even a fraction of that level of connection. I keep in touch with a couple from “real home” and have for 20 years. Most of my Native friends have died or disappeared. Obesity, diabetes, alcoholism are a scourge among our people. I take care of my Dad long distance but we will never be close because he’d have to face truths about my upbringing and abuse and he can never do so. However, by caring for my remaining family member,I am ddoing what’s right and that’s enough. Yep, sometimes the lack of meaningful relationships, the crushing loneliness, the pain of it, getsme down. So does the disconnect between this beautiful mountainous area and the crushing levels of poverty, drug abuse, mental illness, and general apathy of many of its people. Like you say Evan; control what you can and let go of what you cannot. Right now, I am getting out there to meet folk from outside the area who come here in summers, avoiding the workplace like a plague because I have summers off, and am learning/self teaching myself woodworking, probably my retirement career. All in all, I think I did the best I could in life.
    To Ben: You are awesome! Among our people, we celebrate a persons life, not their passing. You don’t mourn the dead, you accept they are on their journey. We in the community are obligated to be there for the family. Hope your friends are there for yours. Am going out right now to put down tobacco and ask the Creator to look over your family, give you strength and freedom from pain.

  6. 6
    Kiki

    I have two lovely children, and the only thing I could realistically regret on my death bed is that I did not have more children. So I am thinking maybe   I should, while I still can.  

    1. 6.1
      starthrower68

      Having lost my first, children are such a gift and blessing, even if you go through some rough patches.  

    2. 6.2
      henriette

      I knew that my deathbed regret would be not having children so at the age of 43, I decided to go for it.  I gave birth to my darling baby a few months ago and while being a single mother was definitely “plan B,” I’m tremendously glad that I was able to achieve my dream.   If I could, I’d have more but since that’s highly unlikely, I hope you’ll have another, @Kiki, and I can enjoy the experience vicariously :)
       
      If being a mother means that I will never date again then so be it.  (If various male posters here are to be believed, I’ve already been an undesirable hag for about 2 decades, so I guess my sweet child can’t be entirely to blame ;) ). Perhaps my regret will be dying a spinster but honestly, I’ve given romantic love a fair shot and now look forward to directing my attentions, finances and efforts towards raising a good human being.
       
      As far as the list above is concerned, I’ve got #2 and #4 covered.    I struggle most with #3.  I’m often able to express my feelings but, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, I also often try to bite my tongue, then end up exploding over relatively inconsequential matters and nothing really gets resolved.   I also usually find it difficult to let a man know when I like him;  the fear of rejection overwhelms so instead I become wooden & super-serious.   So sexy!  Lol.
       

      1. 6.2.1
        Kiki

        Henriette,
        I am so happy for you! You did a great thing, and if I were in your shoes, I would do exactly the same.  I would be hesitant to give advice to single women to have children because I am afraid that someone might take it as a criticism of her life choices, plus unwanted advice is one of the most annoying things in the world. But in my heart of hearts I believe it is much more important to be a mother than to be a wife, and I am extremely happy for you, and proud of you.
        Now, from a pragmatic standpoint, if you only recently gave birth, you are not in your best shape for dating right now. Nature has its way of directing our attention to babies when they are very little, and protects them  by preserving the mother from potentially getting pregnant again :-).  So, there will be no good men for you for a while, but please do not lose the hope to meet a good man, now that you have solved the biological time part of the equation, you have all the time in the world.
        I would also like to tell you, that the world has as many good men, as it has good women.  They are somewhat different from us, sometimes they don’t understand us, sometimes we don’t understand them, but there is nothing inherently wrong with men. I would recommend you to buy and read a few books written by men for men (Fire in the Belly is one I remember) just to educate yourself better on the male perspective.  It is a lifetime learning process, and even after you meet the one (I am sure you will :-) you will still need to learn about men, all the time.

        1. julia

          Nature has its way of directing our attention to babies when they are very little, and protects them  by preserving the mother from potentially getting pregnant again :-)

           Tell that to my best friend who got pregnant 3 months after her 1st and 2nd child. Women are actually at their most fertile right after giving birth!

        2. henriette

          Thank you Kiki; as usual, you are gracious.  I had not believed that I could have a baby bc of my “advanced maternal age” and then when I fell pregnant, I had a high chance of miscarriage.  It is only now, that my child is an infant, that I’m allowing myself to accept that I am finally a mama!

          I was not mentioning single motherhood here as I figured I’d be opening myself up to a plethora of unkind comments.   And no, I am not dating now nor do I plan to do so in the near future but I decided to continue to learn about men during my hiatus, which is why I’ve kept frequenting this site. 

          However, I have recently found that various commenters have taken a turn that I find quite unhelpful.  So, I will leave this site for at least a few months and focus on enjoying motherhood, reading some good books (Fire in the Belly is now on my list ~ thank you for the recommendation ~ as is Evan’s latest) and savouring the long days & balmy nights. 

          I wish everyone who reads this a happy & successful journey. 

          Just curious before I leave….  @Kiki – you mentioned that you reside in Southern Europe.   Do you find that all you read here applies to your culture or are there glaring differences?       

        3. Joe

          Heh, where do you think Irish twins come from?

  7. 7
    Paula

    I’m only 35. My biggest regret would be that I never got married and have a family. Mind you, I am looking for the right man but I’m not settling. I have been in love so at least I know I have the capacity. I mean, these things can still happen but other than that, that’s the only thing I regret, although technically it’s not a regret since it can still happen. I pursue my goals, I take risks, I am in tune with my feelings and I am fairly happy
     

  8. 8
    Gina

    I am happy with my life and choose to focus on the fact that I have been blessed (in spite of not having children, or having met Mr. Right) with good health, a job that I love in which I am able to help others, and people who care about me and I them.  Rather that looking at what I don’t have, I am simply grateful for the gift of life..the fact that I was born, and that I have been fortunate enough to have lived on this earth for  52 years, to have traveled the world, met many interesting people, and had many interesting experiences.  As a result, I do not have any regrets. The following bible scripture comes to mind:

    Philippians 4:11-13
    New International Version (NIV)

    11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 

  9. 9
    Kiki

    @Henriette
    The topics of this blog – love, sex, relationships, separation, sadness, looking for connection – they have a universal appeal, and I believe are very similar in even the most exotic parts in the world. Some of the topics I can not relate to (online dating) but they seem fascinating – I am reading with curiosity as if I am reading fiction short stories, only with real people :-). I have friends in my country both female and male, who keep complaining that online dating is so annoying, and even a humiliating experience at times, and they wish they would meet a good man/woman in real life, but they have bad luck/are unwilling to settle/are too old/too tall/too independent… which seems to be pretty much the sentiment I get from posters here.
    One of the big cultural differences I see on this blog are people who deliverately choose not to have children, and sound somewhat proud of their choice. Where I come from, having children is culturally considered a gift, a blessing, and people who do not have children are generally thought of being unfortunate enough to have a medical problem or something like that, rather than simply to have such a lifestyle choice.
    Henriette,
    I will miss you greatly here if you disappear from this blog. (This is also what FB says to you when you are trying to delete a profile: this friend will miss you, and that friend will miss you… its strange and even ironic…)
    As I said before, I am very happy for you being a mama, but I hope this role would not space out all the other aspects of you as a woman. Mind you, as great the love between mother and baby is, adults still need adults for company and communication, and kids, once they learn to talk and walk well, around age 2- 3, start to really need other children for company and communication, and the mother needs to be willing  and able to let the child sepatate from her, and explore the world.
    In any case, I wish you the best of luck!

    1. 9.1
      Noquay

      Kiki
      Among my people, children are a gift. Having said that, some of us in our childbearing years were not in a place to be responsible, nurturing parents and therefore chose not to have children as a matter of responsibility. If you are poor, have a job with little/no
      security, had no nurturing yourself as a child, your elders did not support you and certainly are not going to be there for their grandchildren, then perhaps it’s better to be a mentor, a good example to others children. As mentioned in my comments, I did parent
      a brother some 3 years younger than I. Parenting is the hardest job there is, especially as a very young single parent. And, if you screw it up, the effects can last for many generations. As a de facto parent, I influenced one person; as an educator/elder/activist, I influence dozens of young people every year. It does take a village to care for a child. In some circumstances, it is wiser to share your ideas instead of your DNA. 

  10. 10
    Kiki

    Julia,
    Your friend is the exception rather than the rule.
    There is plenty of information on that all over interneg, check for example:
    http://www.babycenter.com/404_is-it-true-that-you-cant-get-pregnant-while-breastfeeding_10348439.bc:
    “According to La Leche League International, if your infant is younger than 6 months, you’re not having menstrual periods, and your baby is breastfeeding day and night without using a pacifier or eating any other food or drinking liquids other than breast milk, your chance of pregnancy is less than 2 percent. “

    1. 10.1
      Julia

      Kiki, You might be shocked at how many women do not breastfeed in the US.

      1. 10.1.1
        Kiki

        My friend google says 77% of women in the us breastfeed :-)
          

        1. Julia

          your friend Google says that 77% of women breastfeed in the hospital, only 49% breastfeed until 6 months. So half a US moms aren’t breastfeeding. The myth that you can’t get pregnant right after giving birth is probably responsible for quite a few unplanned pregnancies :P

  11. 11
    Dina Strange

    I grew up in a traditional society where women weren’t encouraged to discover themselves. It was sort of assumed that you will get married, have kids and live by the cares of your family.

    Also, despite the fact that my mother was highly educated (top ranking mathematician) she thought being too smart for a girl is not good so there was not emphasis on education, until jewish stepfather insisted on it.  I do wish i thought more about what i want to do in my life and what are my goals (earlier). I’d be more sure about who i am then…

    But the good thing is that i still have time to do things i want to do, and i don’t have many regrets. 

  12. 12
    judy

    Perhaps the only regret I would have is not experiencing true love with a man.  Apart from that, I love my friends and colleagues and what family I have left.
     
     

  13. 13
    mc

    dreams are a big part of life, not having dreams fulfilled would probably be something that would stir regret. its not what you have but those who have you, and who you leave in your place.

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