Our Time is Finite and the Regrets of the Dying

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On the road to Colorado, I look out the car window feeling like I do on an airplane or at a wedding.  Here, you forget about emails, appointments, and the deafening noise of your thoughts.  In these places you remember life’s mystery.  These moments are like highlighters running yellow ink over the magic of living.  The journey seems more beautiful as you reflect on your own path and how much fun it’s been.

On the road to Colorado, I pull down the rearview mirror towards my face.  Green eyes are framed by more wrinkles, and years showed in the darkness below my bottom lashes.  But the wilderness visible through the glass is exactly the same.  It occurs to me that this dusty nothingness broken up by white mountaintops has seen all sorts universes.  Many of the people who drove this same road are dead.  And one day, I’ll be dead, too.  My universe replaced by new universes.  But the desert and the mountains will still be there.  Unchanged.

We think we’re going to live forever, right?  But you know what I can’t believe?  I can’t believe how much time has passed.  I can’t believe I saw the Mona Lisa in Paris ten years ago with my spritely maternal grandmother.  She’s a pistol, and she’s putting up a fight against death, but she is not the same woman that wandered through the Louvre.  She forgets things she shouldn’t forget, and greets early morning sunshine with excruciating pain.  I can’t believe what wonderful women my sisters became.  I can believe my high school friends and I are different people now.  I am surprised to know that relief rides on the coattails of adulthood.

I wonder sometimes what I would do if cigarettes caught up to me and turned into inoperable lung cancer – yes, I think about these things.  A terminal, “you’ve got a year to live”-type situation.  What would I do?  Well, there are several things I’d do.  The first thing I always think of is: I’d get out of my own head.  Forever – mind silence for the rest of my short, year-long life.  What would my career plans matter then?  What would it matter if Ms. Perfect worked out twice a day, and smiled through her 60 hour work weeks on Facebook?  Why should her actions make me feel bad?  If I, in contrast, ate In & Out, drank wine, watched Breaking Bad, and ran a mile before I had an asthma attack, what would I care?  I was dying.  So what if I needed to stop spending money on things I couldn’t afford – like food and shelter – I’d be dying.  It wouldn’t matter!!!  All of the little things would float away as erroneous details.  I’d take off for the Great Wall of China and start reading every classic novel I always wanted to, but “didn’t have the time for.”  After all, what kind of bookworm would I be if I flatlined without reading Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations?

Where does courage live?  I ran out of gas on the freeway last Saturday night, and all I could think was: it’s about time.  I wasn’t even mad.  I’ve tempted fate too often to not have this happen eventually.  I waited all of the thirty minutes (love you, AAA) to arrive and refill my tank.  It was a great feeling, I started the car, and off down the road I went – free as a bird.  Now, all I need is a AAA card for bravery.  Can someone please come fill up my courage tank?

My dream is a scary dream.  It’s like saying, I’m going to climb Mt. Everest without any oxygen.  To me, it’s that kind of dream.  And sometimes it torments me.  There.  I said it.   But if for some reason I went to my deathbed right now, my regret would be not realizing how precious life really is.  If I had it to do over, I’d breathe more, and believe in myself.  I’d realize that since I’ve always had this dream, it is a true dream.  I would stop allowing myself to get too caught up in everything – in the stresses, the people I wanted to be, and the people I will never be.

There are just some people I will never be!  I’ll never be the girl with the huge thigh gap.  The space between my thighs, now and forever, is a thigh sliver, no matter how much money I pour into Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.  I will never be the girl with the accent nail and bangled wrists.  I will never roll out of bed every morning looking like an Urban Outfitters catalogue.  Rather, most oftentimes, I’ll be at Trader Joe’s in gym clothes with unwashed hair.  Sorry I’m not sorry.  Sometimes, I wish I could, but these are things I’ll never be.

But there are people I want to be – like an author or a well-paid freelance writer – and I can be those.  I want to be brave.  All I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer, so if I die knowing I tried my best to be that, that will be enough.

I saw dolphins this morning, and I see dolphins from time to time, so it shouldn’t have been that big of a deal.  But three of them started surfing together.  They chased the wave and surfed into it.  I’ve never seen that happen before, and call me superstitious, but I took it as a good sign.

If I can feed myself, keep a roof over my head, and work everyday at something that is meaningful to me… well, hello Shangri-La.

You know what people regret most at the end of their lives?  It’s never related to work or success.  No, actually, strike that, there is a regret related to work, it’s: “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”  There’s also “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”  “I wish I had told so and so how I really felt.”  “I wish I had spent more time with my family.”  Maybe we should consider what the dying say: “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”  And lastly, one of the ones I wasn’t expecting turns out also to be my favorite: “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

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3 thoughts on “Our Time is Finite and the Regrets of the Dying

  1. I love your realness!!!! Keep on girl! I met you in California and I live in Colorado I just feel like I’m trackin. So thanks

  2. I drove that road to Colorado just a month ago, and you’re right…all of those thoughts do come flooding into the corners of the mind. The greatest power we have as adults is choice, and the best thing is every day is a new day to create your life using this great power. I have a feeling that you will come to the end of your long life one day with no regrets but tons of happiness.
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