I suppose it’s not possible to live completely without regrets, giving the human condition and our tendency to make mistakes, but mistakes don’t have to be regrets (that, and a post entitled “Living With Mostly No Regrets, But Mistakes Are Okay Because You Can Learn From Them” is a bit wordy).
Those who know me well know that I’m not a carpe diem kind of guy, but I can make quiet resolutions and stick with them. I know this because I quit being an active alcoholic, and if I can continue doing that every day, I’m sure I can tackle a hell of a lot that I tend to think is beyond me.
All of this is running through my mind because of a speaker I heard yesterday at the college’s welcome ceremony for in-coming students. After the provost and president spoke, an alum took to the stage. He mentioned a book I’ve heard of before called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. I won’t go into the rest of the speaker’s talk, as it then moved into regrets about college, but I’ll share the top five regrets of the dying as recorded by the book’s author Bronnie Ware, who’s also a palliative care nurse:
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 hadn’t worked 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.
(read more here)
I resonate with this list except for number two; I don’t work terribly hard right now, or at least not in the cut-throat, competitive manner I believe Ms. Ware refers to. But I get the rest.
When I was drinking, fear constantly plagued me, and what better way to fight that fear than to drink until it went away for a while? It didn’t matter that fear was waiting patiently for me every morning as I either staggered out of bed with a hangover or, in the later days, skipped the hangover and carried on in a fog. Either way, the fear was there.
I was terrified of so many things when I was an active drinker, but worse, I was afraid to be myself; I was afraid to express my feelings; I was afraid to be happy. With the latter, I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. Actually, I thought I deserved to drink myself to death.
As I continue to progress in sobriety, it’s quite clear that I’m a different person, and a different person than I expected to be. The relationship I’ve formed with my Higher Power looks nothing like the relationship my family expects me to have with God. I won’t hide it, either, even though it makes some people highly uncomfortable. I will live my own life and (try) not to worry about what other’s think. It’s my life, after all, and why the hell would I allow myself to fall into some pre-determined, safe pattern set forth by my loving but altogether different family? They’re on their own paths, and I’m on mine.
I’m also letting myself by happy without all the guilt I used to experience. Happiness arrives in different and simple forms these days. Yesterday, it was picking up my guitar from the music shop after it had been repaired and then having the joy of playing it again. Happiness also came when my wife texted me and asked me to pick up some cupcakes, and I thought, “Hell yeah, cupcakes sound awesome.” The me of seven months ago either wouldn’t have bought them or would have bought them and then forced himself not to eat one. Silly, I know.
Living without regrets also includes getting my poetry out in the world again, not only because publishing would be good for job stability but because I want to publish. Of course, I run the risk of rejection, but that’s fine. My work is strong enough to find a home either in print or online (or both) and I’m going to work toward that. Also, I’m going to start entering contests again, like the Tennessee Williams poetry contest. Why not?
I don’t know how many times I’ve written the following in my blog, the words courtesy of my addiction counselor Katie: in recovery, we have choices. I choose to live without regret.
Come along on the journey. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
Music listened to while writing this post:
1. New Moon by Elliot Smith (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1x1z5LTzxlVHqCdvRTYUQN6npHV7NBIF)