Friday, May 9, 2014

If Wishes Were Horses

I remember reading Erma Bombeck's last book. In it there was a list of things she wished she had done differently. One item that struck me as counter to most of what I have always believed, she said she wished she had spent less time reading books. Less time imagining other lives and struggles and triumphs. More time participating in real ones. I have always thought of reading as the greatest opportunity for education. The best way to consider what others think of life and compare my own philosophy. I guess it is just like anything else...a matter of degree.
There is currently a popular book chronicling the experiences of a palliative nurse with the dying. It is a list of the most common regrets. It is notable partly for the items missing on the list. No one is recorded as regretting that they didn't drink more or eat out more, no one mentioned they wished they had watched more TV. The usual suspects were there, though. Almost all men she worked with regretted having spent so much of their lives working. Many women voiced that as well, and she pointed out that the age of the women meant that, in most cases, they had been stay at home mothers. I know it is very possible to fill your life with work as a stay at home mom. I used to volunteer so much that I missed the entire TV run of Friends! Tragic. Well, that may be tongue in cheek, but the truth is that I was busier than I wanted to be for years.
Regret is a hard emotion. Regret at the end of life is doubly sad. Even though there are no people anywhere who can escape wishing they had done something differently, taken a different road or handled a crisis better, regret seems to be the flip side of gratitude.
If wishes were horses, we would all have saddle sores. I heard that when I was growing up. I can't remember where I heard it, but I always imagined it meant that too much wishful thinking only caused pain. That wishing was not doing, it was merely waiting for something to be done for me. It meant that we all spend time riding that horse to nowhere, the one that leaves us limping around. Saddle sores are graphic.
I hope I remember to live today with the kind of gratitude that leaves very little room for regret. And very little evidence of saddle sores.

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