Sunday, August 29, 2010

"I wish I didn't work so hard."

Glenn found an interesting post from a woman who worked in palliative care who discussed patient's last dying regrets:

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.....

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again....

I was most interested in the first two regrets:

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 realise 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.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.


2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed....

Maybe the first two go together. Perhaps the men worked hard because the women and children in their life expected it and looking back, they regretted it. I wonder if the current generation of men don't work as hard and let women pick up the load if they will be happier at the end of their lives or just regret something else? Perhaps all we really regret at the end is what we didn't do, not what we did. Perhaps that is human nature.

Is there anything you would regret?

19 Comments:

Blogger Doom said...

I lost my health at 20, so this is difficult to manage in my thoughts. Having been 'dead' three times already also changes things for me. The one thing I wanted to change, I have changed. I wanted to figure out my relationship with my mother. After a very difficult decade and a half, from my freshman year until I was about 30, I have sorted that out. I did this because every time I died, it was her I wanted near and it was terrible not having her there. The last thing I tell her every time I talk to her now is, "I love you". And I mean it even if I do not like her right at the moment.

I would love to figure out how to begin a family. I would like to begin raising a few farm animals and gardening a larger lot. I have traveled extensively, and would like to do more of that (up to a point and only if comfortably). And I am getting more right with God. But for me, that one thing was enough. Everything else is merely extra time. I am enjoying it.

As for working hard? I am working harder than most people could understand to get to the point where I can work hard. If I do become able to work hard again, I will not let that go. I hope not to forget "Harvey", should I find my antidote to poor health. And yet, being functional and useful would not be something I would take lightly. I think if people who regretted working hard were allowed to think about it in different terms, neither would they. Actually, they might wish to have worked harder, or smarter, so as to have a bit more with family somehow?

Just some thoughts from roadkill.

8:30 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger Aurelian said...

Why the fixation on "happiness"? It is a transitory feeling like sadness, rage, etc. Why not looking at the end we thought we did the best we could, treated other with the same consideration we would like and left something positive of ourselves behind? I would like to think at the end what I would want to feel is satisfaction at a life well lived depending on your definition of well lived. Happiness comes and goes.

9:13 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger smitty1e said...

Is there anything you would regret?

All regret is rooted in failure to conform to the the Divine Will for one's life.
All.
Having said that, other than telling you where to start, I have no specific clue as to the content of that Will.

9:52 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger ZZ said...

OK, I decide here and now to live a life true to myself. I will do what I've always wanted to do, which is be an astronaut who discovers new civilizations and gazes upon the wonders of other solar systems first-hand.

Oh, wait, that's impossible.

OK, then I'll be a time traveler and look upon the glory that was ancient Rome.

Oh wait, impossible also.

OK then, I'll be a brilliant surgeon who discovers a cure for cancer... Oh wait, I'm not smart enough to do that.

OK, how about an Olympic gold-medal winning athlete? Nope, can't do that either.

Gee, looks like all the stuff I really want to do is IMPOSSIBLE.

Maybe my "true self" really is a middle-class cubicle-working family man. Gee, that's not very glamorous I guess I'll just have to live a life based on reality instead of fantasy.

9:56 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger Sixty Grit said...

Those of us who have faced death and not died have a different perspective, perhaps. Maybe it is even a gift of clear thinking - screw pretense, forget people pleasing, get busy, doing whatever you can with what you have, using whatever strength you can muster and do things. Work, travel, look at things, see things, talk to people, live. I try to do that every day.

9:57 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I don't work that hard and make a point to live my dream. Having said that I have to deal with the wrath of my family members who believe that I owe it to them to live the life they want me to live. It's very unpleasant.

10:06 PM, August 29, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

I have to agree with Sixty Grit. I'd made my decision beforehand, but that near brush certainly gave some clarity to priorities. Watching a sibling die will also give you a sudden and sober appreciation of the ephemeral nature of us all.

You have a finite amount of time. Use it or lose it.

Cham -- "... I have to deal ..."

No you don't. If they're unreasonably impinging on your calm, step away. If they want a relationship, they'll tone it down.

1:14 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Major-General said...

Anything to regret? Almost all of it, at least for the last 13 or so years.

1:57 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Der Hahn said...

It's not a near death experience, but the ending of my second significant LTR followed by a short but gut-wrenchingly disasterous rebound relationship made a couple of points about regrets pretty clear to me.

You can't change your past, and you will always imagine that some other choice would have made your life perfect because you can never know what obstacles were present on that path.

Everybody plans their life as if it's going to be a vacation to Tahiti only to discover the plane landed in Switzerland. And you've got no return ticket. At that point you can either spend the rest of your life regretting what didn't happen, or figure out how to make the best of it.

7:40 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Ern said...

Hard to say. I frequently wish that I'd studied different things in college and attended a more prestigious undergraduate school, but I don't really think that I could have done those things given who I was at the time.

I also regret not having sold all my holdings in the stock market in mid-2000, but that's probably not what you meant by the question.

8:10 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I suppose I've been a little more true to myself than many. I realized during my younger days that many things I wanted to do I would most likely be physically unable to do when I got older. Hike, camp, whitewater kayak, ride a motorcycle across the continent and back, ride a bicycle a 100 miles in a day and other adventurous things. Did it all and them some.


I never longed for glamour, money, or fame. Devoting my time and energy solely to being successful in my career seemed like being among the living dead. Since my second divorce 12 years ago, I've focused more on living life as I see best. I devote a lot of time to my kids now, which I love to do.

Sometimes I wish I had more money to do things for them and buy them more, but setting them off on the right foot into adulthood will do them more good than anything I could buy them ever would.

I'll have some regrets. Not sure what they'll be yet. I still have a ways to go.

10:07 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Ern: On April 7, 2007 I moved my savings out of the stock market into a secured bank account. Ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, hee. I'm still laughing, all the way to the bank.

10:57 AM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger JB said...

Near-death experience did it for me, too. It really switches up the perspective. From here on out, every single moment is a gift.

Must gently disagree with the comment regarding "finding Divine Will". For me, living my Truth meant finally confessing to my ultra-religious family that I do not (cannot) believe in "God". Just can't. Pretended for years. Cannot pretend anymore, either.

When I finally walked away from the church for what I knew was the final time, I had never felt more FREE. If I regret anything at all, it's that I didn't find the courage to do that much sooner.

Today -- no regrets. Mistakes, yes; I resolve, reconcile, forgive, move on. No baggage.

1:01 PM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Happiness is a by-product of doing something you love. I'm not too keen on the "living your dreams" phrasing. Sometimes it's more freeing to let some dreams go. Not everyone can be a rock star or whatever and if you chain yourself to unrealistic "dreams," you end up bitter and unhappy.

1:46 PM, August 30, 2010  
Blogger Oligonicella said...

Eleanor - "Living the dream" is literally what all the people who do Renfests all year round call it. SCAsers too.

No real point other than I find a mild humor in it.

1:29 AM, August 31, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

I have a friend that at age 45 has decided he wants to be a rock star. He has released a CD, has done some media interaction for the first time and is now touring. When he gets back he's going back to school to take 2 classes in jazz and voice. The man is having the time of his life. (He also gave me special thanks in the liner notes so I feel pretty special) If you want to be a rock star be a rock star. For God sakes don't tell them not to try.

7:03 AM, August 31, 2010  
Blogger Cham said...

Oh, and for those that are interested, here's the album.

7:06 AM, August 31, 2010  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

Anyone who says of his or her life "I have no regrets" hasn't really lived.

"I doubt that anyone on his deathbed ever said 'Gee, I wish I had spent more time at the office!'"
-- Robert Urich, actor

8:35 PM, September 01, 2010  
Blogger Eric Blair said...

Dr. Helen, this was a very important essay for me to read. As I am fighting to stay in academia, and things do not look very good for the second time, it is so easy to be eaten up by self-hatred and anger and all kinds of negative emotions.

At the same time, I was not thinking clearly. My brother's wife died of cancer in December. My mother has the same kind of cancer, and things are starting to look scary. That gives some perspective. My wife and my children help a great deal to remind me of what is important.

Sure, I worry about being "a failure." But I tell myself that a real failure is someone who lives all of his life and doesn't appreciate the good things that are in it, and misses those good things by concentrating on work alone.

Yes, we need to work. But friends and family are more fundamental.

Sorry for the speech. I have been struggling with this a good deal of late.

12:28 AM, September 02, 2010  

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