Friday, 6 January 2012

Top Five Regrets? Top Five Self-Indulgent Spoonfuls of Chicken Soup!

According to something I chanced upon via 8Tracks and tumblr, the top five regrets as expressed by dying people to a nurse are:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

Pass the chicken-soup! Puh-leeese! These may be the Top Five Regrets You Will Say To A Kindly Female Nurse, but it ain't the truth. For one thing, where is the one regret of all men: 6. I wish I'd made love to all the women I ever wanted to. Notice, "made love to", not "been in a deep and meaningful relationship with". I bet women have a similar regret: 6a. I wish I'd said yes more often.

This stuff is as genuine as a death-bed confession to a priest, and probably fulfils the same function: that until we can accept our lives, we can't let go of them and die easy. It's a way of saying "that was how I lived my life, and I hereby atone for it". Which may make you feel better about yourself, but atonement isn't amends. Step Nine requires amends - practical action to put the wrongs you did right. It's a little late for amends if you're talking to the nurse.

1. Living a life "true to yourself", whatever that means, is possible for the rich and people who don't mind being poor or being supported by their partner who is doing the day job to pay the Serious Bills. Most of us can't earn a wage, let alone a decent living, doing what we would really like to do. A few do, and they just let the side down. Sure, you wish you'd had the courage now, but back then you were behaving like a responsible adult and paying the bills. Probably raising kids as well.

2. There's a reason you worked hard. You were scared - rightly or wrongly - of losing your job. You didn't want to go home, because it was too complicated. What you mean is: you wished the rest of your life had been different so you wouldn't have needed to work hard to avoid the bits you didn't like.

3. You wish you'd had the courage to face the consequences of expressing your feelings. I take it we're talking about unrequited and lost love here, and not all the times you wished you'd called someone as asshole. Because not doing that is known as proper restraint.

4. There's a reason you drift away from your friends. They drift away from you. You all have lives, jobs, families. You change. You stop being able to communicate like you used to. You get tired of their acts, and they of yours. (God knows how I ever had any friends at all, in that case.) Suddenly you start having secrets to keep - like how your marriage sucks.

5. The nurse says that people realise that "happiness is a choice". Is it bollocks. In AA we have a phrase: "you can start having a good day any time you choose" which is meant to remind you that most of the time, you're the one holding onto the bad feelings and you can let them drop. Being free of negative emotions is not the same as being happy, though I'd understand if many people thought it was. What the old guys may be saying here is that they wished they had let go of their bad feelings, not harboured resentments and angers and so on. And if this is what they mean, I'll believe it. But I'll bet at the time they thought they had good reason for feeling the way they did.

I'm not implying that the people who say these things are being insincere. They're just doing what they've been doing all their lives: saying and doing what, as a responsible member of their society, they know they should be saying and doing. And feeling better for doing so. Even if they don't believe it.

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