It shouldn’t take a diagnosis of cancer or other life-threatening illness to make us “wake up” to wanting to live our lives more fully. Yet, for many of us, the sense of urgency that comes with having a disease or serious medical condition is often the impetus for just that sort of wake-up call.
When my husband, Ray, was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, we became a team as we faced the challenges of living with his disease. From the onset, we talked openly about risks and probabilities as we aggressively researched and pursued treatments and clinical trials. We got help from all sorts of medical and alternative healing sources and were supported beautifully by family and friends. But what helped us most was a philosophy that we embraced throughout the three and a half years that Ray lived.
“Live with no regrets” became the mantra we used to prioritize our relationships and choices. “Will I regret this?” became the standard question we would ask in making daily decisions.
Should we tell the kids about the risks of treatment? Yes. No regrets. Should we remodel our 35- year-old bathroom? Do it now. No regrets. Should Ray contact a friend in the hopes of resolving a painful interaction? Definitely. No regrets. Should we take that family cruise to Alaska even if we aren’t sure how Ray might feel? Why wait? No regrets.
When it became clear that the final months of Ray’s life were at hand, “no regrets” was the compass that directed us in our interaction with others. We attempted to do all we could to ensure that our children, family and friends would have no regrets after Ray was gone. He was able to tell people what he wanted them to know and to hear what they needed to say. It was a gift of time, honesty and truth – for Ray and for those who knew him.
Living with no regrets takes a great deal of intentional living. Dying with no regrets takes a life well-lived and well-loved.
The new year is often a time when we reflect on the past and consider what changes we would like to see in the year ahead. In some ways, the calendar beckons us to “begin again” and inspires us to make resolutions and set goals with the hope that they will result in positive change.
With that in mind, I would like to offer “Lederman’s Top Ten” suggestions for living with no regrets in 2017.
1. Consider that experiences often bring more happiness than material possessions do.
2. Create a bucket list. Cross off at least one thing every six months.
3. Be alive and present to what you have in the moment.
4. Find something to be grateful for every day.
5. Be present in your relationships. It keeps you focused and
aware and is a path to intimacy, authenticity,
friendship and love.
6. Communicate, even when its hard. Speak from your heart
and remember that words from the heart go to the heart.
7. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Living with no regrets
doesn’t mean living without mistakes. It’s better to say
“Oops!” than to wonder “What if….?”
8. Always remember that it’s never too late to get it right
(whatever “right” means to you!).
9. Don’t spend your time worrying about staying on top and
being popular, beautiful, admired –these are fleeting
qualities. Letting go can enable you to be more and do
more of what you want.
10. Never regret a single moment of the journey. If it wasn’t
your destination, it was part of your preparation.
Living with no regrets means living authentically, honestly, openly and lovingly. And for those who are able to follow that path, life – no matter how challenging – will offer a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment.
Amy Hirshberg Lederman has written more than 300 columns and essays that have been published nationwide. amyhirshberglederman.com