Psychologists often look to people who are dying to work out what makes a really good, meaningful life. They ask people on their death bed about their personal highlights – and their regrets. There’s a lot of learning in these conversations for the rest of us – those of us truly blessed to be still in this wonderful World of ours.
When my late husband was coming to the end of his life, aged 56, he reflected so insightfully about what life had meant to him and the time he’d “wasted” sweating the small stuff. As a writer I’m so grateful that I managed to capture some of his ideas.
I write a lot about thriving after trauma – it’s become a specialist subject of mine. I read as much as I can and continually search out those people who live life well. I feel so driven and curious to understand them better. Look around you, as my GrandMother used to say ,”People are either and inspiration or a warning”.
So I’m starting to sketch out what I believe are the components of a really rich meaningful life. So here’s the start of my list – this is definitely a work in progress. Please help me add to it and share your thoughts.
- I’ve seen quite a few of my very precious people come to the end of their lives. The thing I’ve been really struck by is that people rarely look to an “all singing, all dancing” bucket list – instead what they want is the magical ordinary things of every day life. A fresh coffee in the morning, a walk to take in the seasons, having our nearest and dearest as close as possible – oh and perhaps most important of all always trying to find the humour in life .
- My Mother died when was 19 and her words ring in my ears. A feisty, independent, Irish woman she said: “I don’t regret any of the things I did; but I do regret not doing the things that I wanted to.”
- Again from my Grandmother Mary Doyle – her advice: “there’s bad in the best of them, and good in the worst” . Her words remind me of the words from Rudyard Kipling’s If “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; My Grandmother was 5ft nothing, had 14 children and the heart of a lion. She was fierce, loyal – but terribly kind too. Her message was simple: don’t take anything at face value, look deeper and always be open to human kindness – you may be disappointed but sometimes a few may really surprise you.
- Helen Mirren says she wishes she’d told more people to “f**k off” as a young woman. May I add that one should avoid at all costs living other people’s dramas/lives/opinions. I tell myself often “mind your own business” – I think one should be fiercely independent but know when to ask for help. Workout how to spend time alone, without being lonely, but surround yourself with good friends too.
- And finally in the words of one of my favourite authors Sylvia Plath “I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticising life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
Oh and one last thing: read, read, read. It’s what helps us make some sense of life.
Have a great day.