Monday, June 10, 2013

Regrets Anyone?

My father's 93 year old brother passed away peacefully a week or so ago. This news struck my father deeply as he is now the only living sibling remaining out of eleven brothers and sisters. Dad was the "baby" of the family through default when his younger sister died at age 13 of Scarlet Fever, leaving my father the youngest of the remaining 10 siblings. His brothers and sisters, including my father, for the most part, all lived some incredibly long and well lived lives, despite their immigrant parents lack of education and in spite of them having VERY little money, in a time when this country was just opening its doors to the poor and destitute of the world.

Image From Ellis Island Archives

My father's father, PopPop to us, spoke in a mysterious accent from his far away homeland of Yugoslavia. He would sit at the kitchen table in his black vest and pants, white undershirt and dress hat when we would come to call. He always had a smile on his face and seemed quite  genuinely interested in us grand kids. It was hard to understand him though,  and I often felt at odds with the old fashioned decor in this Bethlehem, PA row home on the "wrong" side of the tracks as I would hear people in my life joke. I wasn't entirely sure back then what the right side of the tracks was either!

Now, I find myself wishing I had gotten to know him better or had the courage to have broken through the language barrier to ask him about what it was like to travel by boat, leaving behind a wife and children (they came over later) to make his way to America to start a new life. It would seem that this was a very courageous and brave thing to have undertaken on a mode a transportation  that was long and arduous. I was very young though when he was alive and not able to even think of questions like these to ask. Had I even done so, I probably would not have had the bravery to ask let alone comprehend his answers. I settled for smiles and laughs at our interchange as I tried to understand the words coming from his smiling mouth and crinkly eyes.
Bronnie Ware wrote a book entitled "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying- A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing." She was/is a nurse who cared for people who were dying: palliative care as it is often referred. The top five are:

1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

In light of my Uncle passing and my father's musing about being the last of his siblings, I thought about myself and what this list meant to me, in terms of my life so far and the life I have yet to live. I am pleasantly surprised to find that I am surpassing all of the above "regrets" in a way that is far more clear then it was in my younger days! 

While I may not have youth on my side, I do have a clearer focus and direction in terms of choosing a career path that is much more authentic to the person I am and have been for all these years. In the past, I was unwilling to meld the two into a cohesive union that allowed for a well-balanced perspective. I worked my proverbial ass off in my younger days in a career that left me devoid of a private life, but no more!  

I also have found myself to be far courageous then I was in my past about expressing my feelings. I feel it keeps things "real" and allows little time for artifice and deception. I do have to work hard though to think carefully before I speak as I can still say things without thinking and as we all know once something leaves our mouth, it is SO hard to take back.

The only area I do have some regrets is in allowing friends to drift from my life. I know now, I was not being truly authentic about who I was at the time, so those people did not see a true reflection of myself, and this caused confusion on all our parts. I thought I knew myself or better yet, thought I knew the self I projected to others....I had SO much to learn. (I am still learning!)

So, my regrets are indeed few....I give an abundance of time to the well being of myself, my son and my husband. My home is a haven for healing and positive growth. My career with meditation and mindfulness teaching, is well grounded in a place I feel most comfortable as it has been part of my life for over 21 years now. I work hard at being content, joyful and connected to life in a way that supports not only myself but the developing intellect of my son and the whirlwind business career of my husband. 

I am both captain of my ship and an anchor for myself as this gives me a solid place from which to help others navigate their own ships, and chart their own destinies.  Sure, there there will indeed be storms ahead, and lives lost in the balance, and yes I know, as in all things, that change is inevitable. So I might as well ride the waves firm in the knowledge that all things must indeed come to end.......might not be easy.....but there is a certain kind of resilience in just simply knowing this fact. 

After all, I descended from some incredibly brave and courageous people who had the fearlessness to step onto a ship with hundreds of other strangers, feeling scared and alone, to come to America and make a life for themselves far from the safety of their homes. They had hope in their hearts and a will to make a better life for not just themselves, but that of their future offspring as well. Hopefully, they had no regrets as I know I am most grateful to my distant relatives for heeding the call to seek out a new life in a new part of the world. Thank you!

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