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.

The 30-Day Writing & Publishing Project, Day 17: Happy Anniversary

This afternoon I went to my monthly acupuncture appointment. While driving there, I realized that it’s been exactly one year this month since I started getting stuck with teeny tiny needles on a regular basis in an effort to “rebalance my energy flow,” or, as I like to think of it, learn to relax and go with the flow like a “normal” person.

It reminds me of that scene on Modern Family when the family is vacationing in Hawaii, and high-strung Mitchell says, while unsuccessfully trying to chill by the pool, “I don’t find relaxing very relaxing.”

I laughed in recognition.

Actually, I do find relaxing at least slightly relaxing, but only in small doses. Although I have been known to stay in my pjs, drink coffee and read for an entire day, I usually feel terrible afterwards, like I’ve committed some awful crime against productivity.

Like the recent Sunday when I spent 4 hours reading the New York Times, then flew into a panic thinking, “What have I done, what have I done?!?! I have SO much to do today, and I just spent 4 hours reading the paper!!” It’s a wee bit crazy-making. 

So I’m trying to put a lid on that kind of screwy thinking and behavior. Hence the monthly acupuncture.  Well, to treat that and a few other things that need “balancing.”

According to The Mayo Clinic website, “Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (CHEE) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.”

Doesn’t that sound divine?

I know when I leave my appointments each month, I certainly feel divine. Relaxed, happy, and chill, like everything is right with the world, fairly floating on a cloud of “what, me worry?”

And that feeling usually lasts a good two, three hours.

I’m working my way up to feeling that post-acupuncture high round the clock.  That is the goal.

Baby steps, though, baby steps.