What do you Regret?
Getting older is not easy in a society that is obsessed with youth. We seem to find it difficult to accept that our bodies and minds aren’t so agile anymore and that we may need a bit of help. We don’t only look forwards anymore to the goals we have set ourselves; we may start to look back now and then, to see what we’ve achieved so far. A lot of people get to middle age and ask themselves:” What now? I have raised my family or built my carrier, that’s all fine. But is this it now?” Or we might have reached old age and may be bored quite often; maybe our friends are slowly disappearing and we are confronted with the fact that we too will die sooner or later.
If not through early tragedies, it’s usually in middle age that death enters into our lives when our parents die. Then we suddenly realise that we are now the oldest generation and that we are next in line to leave this life. This can be quite a shock, and it might bring us back to existential questions: What am I actually doing with my life? Do I spend my days caught up in worries about insignificant things? Do I still have close friends or have I neglected and then lost sight of them? Do I regularly take time to be on my own and reflect on my life or do I keep running from one duty to the next? I think there is not one big “Meaning of Life”; it’s in our hands to make our lives meaningful to us, everyday.
Getting older and slower has a purpose: It gives us the chance to start looking inwards more often; it’s the time to count our blessings and regrets. There is nothing wrong with having regrets - it’s human, and it’s liberating to admit them. Recently I sat with a dying old man. We talked and I asked him: “Would you do anything differently if you could go back in time?”. “Yes”, he said, “everything.” I was shocked by his answer. How sad, I thought, to have lived a life so full of regrets that you would do everything differently. But then I felt admiration for this man, for his ability to look this reality fully in the face and to accept it. How much courage it must take to be so honest! But how liberating it was for him to do this! He seemed sad but also relieved. And then he was able to let go, peacefully. But wouldn’t it be even better to realise this before we are at death’s door and start to turn our regrets into positive change, so that we do live a life that is meaningful to us? – Start now! It’s never too late!