About last Night ‘‘Setting aside time for fun, relaxation and intimacy is vital.” 25-03-18

March 25, 2018

Q: At 65, I attend more funerals than weddings. When an old uni friend died recently it made me think. He’d been incredibly talented, gained a PhD at 23, and was tipped to do great things, but, although he had a good career, three failed marriages, the suicide of a son, and problems with alcohol meant his life turned out to be as flawed as anyone’s. I’ve had a good life, and am in a solid relationship, but I want to ensure I get the most out of the time I have left.

A: In medieval times, great men often carried a ‘‘memento mori’’, or reminder of death. This skull ornament or suchlike was intended to keep life in perspective, and to prevent one becoming too attached to worldly power, and the pleasures of life. Our modern world shields us from death and dying, and, with an increased life expectancy, we can live as though we are immortal. This can cause us to live unexamined, or misguided lives.

Bonnie Ware is an Australian palliative care nurse who spent years with people at the end of their lives. These experiences led her to write a modern memento mori – The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying. In it she offers of us an opportunity to take stock, with a view to avoiding the same regrets.

The first of these is, ‘‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’’.

So often we feel obliged to fulfil the expectations of our family, religion or culture. Be a success, make money, be virtuous. Women in particular can be crippled by the belief that ‘‘good girls’’ do not explore their sexuality. Give yourself, and your partner, permission to discover your secret desires, and to indulge some of them.

The second regret is, ‘‘I wish I didn’t work so hard’’.

Whether it be working at a career, striving for an immaculate home, or pursuing an interest, we can get the balance wrong. Setting aside time for fun, relaxation and intimacy is vital to having a truly happy life. It is important to experience pleasure.

The third is, ‘‘I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings’’. Remember to tell people that you love them. Also, have the courage to speak up about things that make you unhappy. Saying nothing is a waste of time, and delays growth. Even saying something that you fear might damage a relationship is worthwhile. Either the relationship will improve, or you will be freed to do something new.

Next is, ‘‘I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends’’. When we fall in love, start a family, or pursue a career, we can lose touch with the people in our lives. This can isolate us, limit our experiences, and make us too dependent on our partner. Having other people in our lives gives us emotional diversity, independent sounding boards, and a wider social support network in the tough times.

Lastly, ‘‘I wish that I’d let myself be happier’’.

We often feel guilty about being happy. A certain puritanism makes us see suffering as noble, and fun as frivolous. There is a difference

between allowing oneself to be happy, and hedonism. True happiness means looking to your own long-term happiness, and that of your loved ones. You might think a string of affairs would make you happy, but true happiness might result from pushing past any issues in your core relationship so that you can luxuriate in the open waters of the love you have earned over a lifetime.

We are all mortal, and our lives will end. Focus on the things that truly matter.

Follow your dreams, take risks, stop worrying about what others think, and stop putting things off. It is never too late to live your best life in the only reality we can ever know – the present moment. Live life now. None of us are getting out of this alive.

Email your questions to abtlastnight@gmail.com

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