I read an article over a week ago and every day since it’s been lurking around at the top of the ‘most read’ of the week. No wonder it was so popular, it was about dying – something us Brits hate to talk about but hold a deep curiosity for.
The article listed the top five regrets of one palliative nurses’ patients. As a counsellor for those in their last dying days, the nurse says that her patients all experience great clarity at the end of their lives. Herein lies my problem with the article: not until it’s too late can we retrospectively see what would have been best for us. It’s human nature – how can we learn from the regrets of the dying when their veiws of the world are poles apart from our own perspectives? Fair enough, these are the most popular worries amongst her patients, but there is simply no way to gain that sort of clarity of vision of your life until it’s too late.
I don’t mean that quite in the harrowingly depressing way that it sounds – it’s just that it’s called hindsight for a reason, it’s only after an event or a period of one’s life that the clouds part and we see with clarity. If you took the advice onboard, anyone who is prone to harboring regrets (i.e. everyone) will probably regret something else in the end, anyway.
Regrets are entirely pointless – wouldn’t it have been better to publish an article on the top five things dying people are the most proud of achieving? Surely a palliative nurse has access to such a range of people and points of view – something much more constructive could have graced our morning reading.
One of the five points in the article is patients wishing they had worked less and enjoyed family life more. Try telling that to a 30-year-old, ambitious and career driven city-dweller. If you put your career first, you'll either change it, or live to regret it – that's just how life goes. This is an impossible lesson to learn until it’s too late.
The fifth regret is ‘I wish that I had let myself be happier’:
"Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
This is also a difficult one – you don’t realise you’re stuck in a fun-less routine until you get out of it and look back. Again, not very helpful.
The whole point of this article, it seems, is to teach us a lesson or five. The perspective and insight of those with the ice-cold clarity of death nearby is sold to the reader in five bitesize regrets for us to read and learn from. Unfortunately, all I’ll regret is wasting my time being sucked in by interesting headlines.