The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 18: On Re-Reading “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying”

Some months ago I read a piece called “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,” in which palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware shares the most common regrets her dying patients shared with her at the end of their lives.

Like the millions of other people who read the article, I found it moving and impactful.  In fact, I printed it out and put it on my desk as a reminder not to work so hard, get so caught up in the minutiae, or hide behind the way I think I “should” be, instead of letting my freak flag fly and just be myself.

I was reminded of Ware’s article today while sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment. This was a fairly routine visit, but I did get wigged out when I found out my blood pressure is still on the higher side, and this after all the work I’ve done over the last year to lower it naturally, fer cryin’ out loud. I even cried. That’s how much it freaked me out.

The nurse seemed a wee bit taken aback by my emotional reaction, but she did pass me a tissue so I could dry my inconvenient tears.

Anyhoo.

On the way home I was thinking about something the nurse said. She said of course I want to be careful and monitor things, especially given our family’s history of heart disease and stroke and diabetes (thanks, family), but that she was fairly certain my blood pressure situation was caused by anxiety, since I’m otherwise healthy.

Which makes it sound like I have some kind of anxiety disorder. But “not the kind that needs to be medicated,” the nurse said.  Ha ha. Apparently I just need to “relax” and stop worrying so much, according to her. From your lips to God’s ears, I thought.

I’ve been trying to learn to “relax” and take things in stride my whole adult life. I want to be better at this. I really, and I mean really, do. And I’ve tried things. If it’s a natural remedy and other people have achieved success with it, I bet I’ve tried it.

So anyway, back to “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.”

The most common regret turns out to be this one:

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

It’s a regret about dreams unfulfilled, and the idea that once you lose your health, it’s too late. (According to the article, that is. I happen to believe in miracles and that health can be restored, so I’m not a fan of the “it’s too late” idea.) Many of Ware’s patients had not honored even half their dreams due to their own choices.

So the bottom line is, as long as you’re healthy enough to pursue your dreams, you should give it all you’ve got. Yes, that’s a very cliché thing to think, say and believe. (Actually, come to think of it, it’s not a cliché, because . . . this.)

There’s so much I want to do, and experience, and write about, and hearing the admonitions today in the doctor’s office threw that into sharp relief.

And re-reading Ware’s article brought it home, powerfully.

I want to stop letting my worrywart tendencies keep me from pursuing the things I’ve long wanted to do, for Pete’s sake.

For two years I’ve been saying, “I’m going to start a regular yoga practice again, I’m going to learn to surf, I’m going to find a great volunteer opportunity so I can be of service, I’m going to find a church-home that’s just right for me, I’m going to find a meditation community to become part of,” and so on and so forth.

And have I done any of those things in the past two years? Uh, no. Not yet. And for no good reason.

So, girl’s gotta get busy.