MargaretAt the end of March, my family lost someone both near and dear and thoroughly unique. She left us at 90, and she was — as we say in the South — “herself” until the very end. It was a comfort to me and to others, I suspect, that she went out declaring that she had had a wonderful life and was ready for what comes next. 

Not everyone is blessed to feel that way.

Some of us live with deep regrets, and I have heard it said that at the end of life most of us regret not what we did, even if we committed reprehensive acts and delivered great hurts, but what we did not do. We regret the opportunities we did not take, the doors that opened to us that we could not make ourselves walk through for whatever reason was – often fear of the unknown. When I am honest with myself, I have to admit to several of those.

That is surely the reason that “The Top 37 Things You Will Regret When You Are Old” on the website Social-Consciousness.com caught my eye. I will pass along the ones that resonated most with me.

“Not traveling when you had the chance.” My life circumstances since the mid-2000s have allowed me to roam the world, at least parts of it, and that travel has broadened me in so many ways and changed my views about other people and other cultures. I am so fortunate to have had these opportunities and so rewarded that I did not allow experiences foreign to me to scare me away.

“Staying in a bad relationship.” Many people do this out of habit, fear of change, lack of resources, whatever. But life is short and unpredictable, and most of us will be happier and more productive if we are not burdened in this way. This category goes hand in hand with another — “Not quitting a terrible job.”

“Failing to make physical fitness a priority.” I know. I know. Getting moving is not easy, but the alternative is worse. One of my neighbors, a professional man in his 70s, has been a lifelong runner. He is much slower now than he once was, but he is still out there most mornings about dawn. He is an example that moving, however slowly, is preferable to becoming such a couch potato, you eventually cannot move.

“Letting yourself be defined by gender roles.” I used to think we Baby Boomers would cure America of this curse, but now I see that we have not. Roles have changed somewhat, but women continue to bear the brunt of childrearing and housekeeping, even though we are in the workplace just as men are. This one goes hand in hand with another as well — “Letting yourself be defined by cultural expectations.”

“Not playing with your kids enough.” I cannot count the number of Boomers who have said this very thing to me, and I plead guilty as well. The Precious Jewels remain the most important treasures of my life, but I did spend too much time in my office in doing “grown up” activities. What else can I say?

“Not standing up for yourself.” We think of bullying of children and young people, but adults let ourselves be bullied as well by friends and co-workers. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and she was right.

“Never taking a big risk.” Our mothers would say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Even if we fail at what we risk, we gave it a shot and there is satisfaction in that.

“Missing the chance to ask your grandparents questions before they die.” I regret this almost daily. If you have grandparents, grab your cell phone, punch record, and ask away.

“Neglecting your teeth.” Anyone with dentures can address this one for you.

“Not trying harder in school.” Most of us are guilty of this at least at some level, and most of us pay for it. In this awful election cycle, many voters are disaffected and many of those are people whose educations have not prepared them to achieve what they want in today’s workplace.

Notice that most of these are, in fact, roads not taken for whatever reasons.

And, finally, the one that resonated the most with me.

“Not being grateful sooner.“ My family member was grateful for her family, her friends and her long life and said so. She saw her life as a gift, and we who miss her are at peace that she did.

Social-consciousness.com addresses gratitude this way.

“It can be hard to see in the beginning, but eventually it becomes clear that every moment on this earth — from the mundane to the amazing — is a gift that we’re all so incredibly lucky to share.”

Amen.

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