Monday, December 30, 2013

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

My Micmac stripper canoe, stern to the shore during a
cold winter's morning.
Happy New Year to each and all. Ending one year and starting another is always an unavoidable time of reflection. The dawning of the New Year is a chance to start over, to improve. So, yes, this is very much a post about paddling. Our culture tells us to put a monetary value on all our ventures. The more money it generates, the greater its value. Things that don’t generate "enough" money are called recreation. In this line of thinking, doing things you love, that improve your soul, state of mind, well-being, and personal satisfaction with life are of no value. Value comes from keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. It’s only after it’s nearly too late, when all the body’s strength, flexibility, endurance, and health are gone, or are rapidly degrading, that you begin to realize that you’ve had it all backwards. The things you value have been slighted. Sure, you’ve kept the grass mowed, the bills paid, the city, county, state, and federal taxes all taken care of, and strengthened your boss’s, companies, and share holders’ bottom line, but beyond caring for your family’s health and comfort, you’ve put off for fifty years the things that matter most to you personally in the expectation of some dawning, golden day when you’ll finally have time. For all too many, that time never comes. Life doesn’t get simpler, only more entangled and complicated. The only time you have is now.

I jotted these points down after reading the story some time ago. A nurse had worked for many years with the terminally ill and infirm. During the times when family weren’t at the bedside, she got time to share her patients’ lives, thoughts, and regrets. Looking back over their lives, knowing they had only days or perhaps hours to live, these were their final thoughts on what they would have changed, in descending order, if they could have done it over again. The greatest gifts coming out of their lives may be that they can help the still living avoid the same mistakes, if we but listen and take heed. Copy them and tape them over your desk or work station.

1. I wish I had lived 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 true feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had allowed myself to be happier.

Some thoughts from Jerry Vandiver and the Morrall's.

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