I had a stick of CareFree gum, but it didn’t work. I felt pretty good while I was blowing that bubble, but as soon as the gum lost its flavor, I was back to pondering my mortality.
At some point(s) in our lives, the idea of our own mortality strikes us and we may be forced to ask ourselves some pretty intimidating questions like:
And perhaps we aren’t prepared with the right answer. Perhaps we shoulder the weight and continue on with more awareness of how precious our life is and the time that we have to truly live it.
This second installment on aspects of human thinking when faced with mortality is on a few more common expressions of some who were sadly forced to recognize death as a fast-approaching outcome, but who were fortunate to have a sympathetic ear to talk to before the end. These voices are the patients of Bronnie Ware, former palliative care nurse and writer of the blog Inspiration and Chai.
I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
Relationships –marriages in particular– can cause one to habitually suppress the way he/she feels in order to maintain a modicum of peace. Unfortunately this may cause one to develop heavy emotions of bitterness and resentment, perhaps even eventually leading to illness. In 1971, a research team from the University of Michigan recruited 192 couples aged 35-69 years from Tecumseh, Michigan and followed them closely over 17 years. Each couple was individually interviewed about their methods for dealing with anger in marriage. Asked to imagine their mate shouting at them for something that they thought was not their fault, they were to describe how the would normally respond.
Based on whether they communicated their anger and resolved conflicts, the couples were placed into four groups: Group 1, where both spouses affectively communicated their anger when they felt unfairly accused by the other; Groups 2 and 3, where one mate communicated and the other suppressed anger; Group 4, where both partners suppressed their anger and sulked. The researchers discovered that early death was twice as likely to occur in Group 4 where both partners suppressed their anger, compared to Groups 1-3.
Affective communication is crucial in maintaining healthy relationships, and allowing yourself the freedom to express your emotions in a constructive and reasonable manner will contribute greatly to a healthy mind, meaningful relationships, and by extension your longevity.
I wish I stayed in touch with my friends.
“It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away,” writes Bronnie Ware.
Because of the typically hectic Western lifestyle so many of us are accustomed to, friendships often fade over shorter and shorter periods of time. We get so wrapped up with our own lives that we tend to overlook the most loyal, admirable, best people we know. According to Ms. Ware, many had “deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved”, and in the face of death, many suffered to fully comprehend the loss.
“It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks: love and relationships.”
I wish I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits.”
Studies on what makes people happy conclude that material possessions and high achievements actually don’t have much to contribute to the state of happiness. When you break it down, it’s all about your outlook on life and the quality of your relationships.
Human beings are inherently creatures of habit; most acquire and stay within a pretty narrow pattern or set of habits. Fear of change leaves many pretending, to themselves and others, that they are content with the way things are when deep down there may be hidden longings for a different way of life. Unfortunately, those that reach the end of their lives with a true sense of satisfaction for the life they led have become a rarity.
Ms. Ware summarizes it all with these simple words: Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Ware, Bronnie. “Regrets of the Dying.” Inspiration and Chai. Mountain Tracks 2009. Web. 23 June 2011.
Paddock, Catherine. “Suppressing Anger in Marriage Linked to Shorter Life.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International Ltd., 28 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 June 2011.