I held by breath and dived down to retrieve a shell from the seabed, watching the sand cloud around my fingers.
It was an unremarkable shell, yet remarkable all the same – remarkable for the journey of formation it had been on.
It was an unremarkable day too. Grey and breezy, with rain in the air. Yet remarkable simply for being another day.
I’d thought twice about taking my early morning swim.
Earlier, I’d stood peering out of the glass kitchen doors into the gloomy garden, pulling my dressing gown in closer as I watched the leaves on the trees dance in the wind. I could stay here in the warm. I could lie on my yoga mat, stretch, breathe and meditate.
But you never regret it, Katherine. You never regret going in the sea.
So I did.
Towards the end of my dip, I removed my top-layer swimming cap, and then the cap I wore underneath, and plunged my head into the cold water. I then lay on my back for a while, enjoying the familiar brain freeze that calms the washing machine in my mind.
I’d thought twice about doing that too. Getting my hair wet always had a big impact on my body temperature. It would be sensible to keep my head covered on a day like today. I’d shiver afterwards.
But you never regret it, Katherine.
So I did.
As I took my final gentle strokes, careful not to aggravate the lingering chest pain I wrote about in my previous post, this blog came into my mind.
I would write about my dive down to the seabed, about the fact that I get to do this before I start work, about the miracles I’ve made happen in my life – the career I have transformed, the relationship I have built, the book I have written and the books I am writing, the schedule that is my own, and the new home by the sea I have made with my husband.
I thought about the things I never regret – swimming in the sea; putting my head under; doing most forms of exercise outdoors; spending time writing my books or this blog.
And I thought about the book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, which I haven’t read in full but which I feel like I know by heart, because the regrets are so familiar:
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.
These regrets of the dying are similar to the ones I feel today – my regrets of the living. They are the regrets I’m on course to have later in life unless I change things now.
I know that …
I’ll regret working too hard; spending too long at my computer or on my phone.
I’ll regret not making enough time and space for my husband, friends and family members and not having more of the courageous, authentic conversations that I know break down walls and catapult us into a deeper relationship.
I’ll regret keeping myself separate from groups and sabotaging my desire to feel like I belong, out of fear of people and fear of life.
I’ll regret that I frequently questioned and doubted myself, using up huge amounts of energy and time.
I’ll regret that I waited too long to get a dog and a cat.
I’ll regret that I allowed fear and control to run my business, thereby sabotaging my ability to earn the money to buy a campervan or go on some amazing adventures. I’ll get there in the end, but I’ll regret that it took me so long.
I’ll regret that I didn’t dance more and that I didn’t sing more.
I’ll regret that it took me so long to know the names of stars and birds and flowers.
I’ll regret that it took me so many years and so much inner healing to spread my writing wings and publish a string of novels, non-fiction books and poems.
I’ll regret that I delayed and procrastinated over strengthening my body and changing my diet to resolve the pain I’ve felt for years.
I’ll regret that I didn’t spend enough time playing, simply playing.
I’ll regret that I allowed fear and indecision to slow my forward progression in all areas of my life.
I’ll regret that I didn’t invest in myself more, buy myself more gifts and allow money to simply flow in and out of my life, instead of clinging to it out of fear.
At the end of my life, I’d like to be able to say that Je ne regrette rien.
I’d like to sing, Regrets, I had a few, but then again too few to mention.
But I fear that won’t be true.
Of course, there are so many things I don’t regret, too many to list in this post.
Despite the craziness of my 20s and 30s, I don’t regret the places I visited, the people I met and the adventures I had. I don’t regret the rocks I jumped off, the boats I back-flipped off, the mountains I climbed and the canyons I trekked. I don’t regret the flings and the deeper relationships, even though many of them hurt.
I don’t regret the wonderful memories because they are part of me, a reflection of my adventurous spirit. And I don’t regret the less pleasant ones because there was nothing I could have done about them.
I was blind. I was on the run, from myself and my feelings. I was chasing highs as well as lows.
But I’m not blind anymore. I can see. And I can see very clearly.
I can see that I’m in the second half of my life. I can see that the years are passing quickly. I can see that I am the architect of my troubles today – even if the roots of those troubles lie in my distant past – and that I am the one who can build a better life. I can see that I have everything in me – all the learning, the ability, the skills, the emotional intelligence, the healing, the maturity and the courage – to do some extraordinary things.
To write those books, to take those trips, to buy myself those gifts, to declutter the house, to welcome the kitten and the puppy into my life, to dance, to sing, to befriend and to belong.
I was not well equipped before, but I’m well equipped now.
So let me take these tools that I have sharpened and use them to build something extraordinary. Not overnight. Not in a flash. This journey of healing and growth that I am on is tiring. I deserve to pace myself. I deserve to be compassionate towards myself.
But let me slowly and steadily delete items from that list of regrets of the living.
Let me have more moments like this morning, when I swim in cold water and dive down for sea shells and then return home to write, wearing my dressing gown over my clothes because I’m still cold, knowing I am already living an extraordinary life.
Let me embrace this extraordinary life, truly inhabit every corner of it, while also taking those small, courageous steps to fulfil every ounce of my potential and to make the rest of my days even more extraordinary.
With thanks for your wonderful support.
Resources For Your Journey
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