I think therefore I am? – Life can literally be too short

Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash

You’d think that we know this all too well working in palliative care/hospice but we are just as human as everyone else. We also get lost in the busyness of life in general. Rushing from one appointment to the other and having to switch roles as seamlessly as possible. I am no different to anyone else. I don’t have all the answers and am still searching for them myself but I want you to have a think about some questions I raise below.

Life is too short could be a stimulus to reflect on how you spend your time. Are you in a job that you actually enjoy? Do you feel like you are making a difference. We spend a lot of our time at work, 8 or more hours a day, maybe for 40+ hours a week, month after month, year after year. A big chunk of our lives is spent at work, and you may be spending more time with your workmates than you spend with your own loved ones, friends, and family. Are you happy at work or is there something else you’d rather do, somewhere else you want to be? Does it still satisfy you professionally? Are you finding yourself enjoying what you do or do you find yourself putting up with things? What would be your outlook on your job if you only had 10 years left to live? These are questions that we don’t ask ourselves, but are situations that my patients have found themselves in.

Having constraints can make your vision clearer, life being short can be such a constraint. Do you really want to keep just existing or do you want to be truly alive? What is holding you back? Fear of the unknown? Do you really want to put up with an environment in which you have been trying to change things for a long time, but there doesn’t seem to be any effect? You don’t feel like you are making a difference. Einstein has been paraphrased along the lines of, “To keep on doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result – that is the definition of insanity.” Do you really have time to just exist? Check out The Tail End blogpost by Tim Urban for more thinking on the subject. Reading it certainly made me think about things in a different light.

If you knew you had limited time left how carefully would you choose how you spend your time, who you spend your time with? What sort of lifestyle do you really want to have? Not what you have trained for, not what you currently are doing, but if you wanted to live without regrets, what would you really want to do with your life? The thing is, we all have limited time, we will not be able to live forever. We are all dying; some are dying faster, others at normal speed, others much slower. We all have the constraint of mortality, thus you owe it to yourself to review where you are at. Am I doing the right thing for myself at this stage of my life? What have I always wanted to do, but never gone for, because of fear? What would I do if I knew that I couldn’t fail?

The top five regrets of the dying you may be familiar with from Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
“I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
“I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Are they also the top five regrets of the living? Are you spending your time well? As children we want to grow up too fast – the three hour car trip felt like it takes a week. As adults we want to slow things down – my youngest child just turned 9 years old!!!

STOP

Take five minutes (or longer) and think about some of your own answers to the questions that I have posed.

I’d be keen to hear back from you how it went for you.

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