Would You Have Any Regrets If You Died Tonight?
I know, it’s not a pleasant thought.
Most of us can reflect on our lives with 20/20 vision. While we may not name our less-than-ideal choices ‘regrets’, most of us would admit we’d probably change some things if we had a do-over.
It’s my belief that we’re each here to develop our soul and character to its fullest potential. With that in mind, have you maximized what you know in your heart of hearts you are truly capable of? Or do you tell yourself stories as an excuse to not fully live up to your potential?
For more than 20 years I’ve had an internal belief that I was meant to write and speak as a way to transform my experience of childhood trauma into something healing for others. Where did I get this belief?
It came to me at a leadership retreat when I was in my mid-20’s and pregnant with my first son. I participated in a guided mediation and in those mind-wandering 20 minutes, I saw a vision of myself speaking at a podium in front of a large audience.
Fast forward through hundreds of hot yoga sessions ending in Shavasana (the meditative corpse pose) and spotty Sundays at church, and I started imagining a stack of books on my desk. To my surprise, they all had my name on them! I saw awards on my living room shelf in the house I will eventually build. This is the house where my grandkids will come running through the door and fall into my open arms for a big, loving hug.
Not only could I see vivid futuristic clips as if I was watching a movie in an IMAX theater, but I heard God directing me clear as day. Most of the time, in my mind’s eye, I was scowling at Him!
Didn’t He know my life was a mess? I was so far from perfect, and who would listen to me anyway? I was a twice-divorced single mom of four boys who was struggling through most days.
On one particularly rainy Seattle Sunday when I was glancing at classified job ads, wondering if I’d ever sell another house, He told me, “Dana, get back to college and finish your degree.”
At the time, I was drowning in debt, I was in a terribly unhealthy relationship I couldn’t seem to extract myself from, and I was in despair over losing everything after the real estate market crashed. I was 40 years old, scared to death I wouldn’t be able to pay rent, and feeding my kids with a state-issued EBT card. It felt like the word “shame” was scribbled all over my face with a big, bold, black Sharpie.
Even though I kept my personal struggles mostly hidden under a shallow mask of pleasantries, my day-to-day life felt like pushing a stalled-out car out of a busy intersection all by myself.
As author and psychologist Dr. Edith Eger says in her best-selling book The Choice, “suffering is part of the human condition, but victimhood is optional.” What she means is we all experience challenges and trauma that cause suffering—but when we hang onto that pain and don’t grow and evolve out of it, we are living in victimhood.
I wasn’t just living in victimhood, I was wallowing in it.
Somehow, I managed to gulp in more air than I was swallowing water and that allowed me to barely tread water for several years. As it turned out, some of the air came from the student loans I qualified for while I was still working full-time and taking a full load in college. (That time I listened to the little voice and it reaffirmed it’s wise and always looking out for me).
Six quarters later, at 42, I proudly wore my cap and gown, surrounded and supported by my boys and oldest sister, and I received my diploma from the University of Washington.
I personally don’t consider my mistakes or poor choices regrets. Every decision is a fork in the road and our journey is never a straight line. If we’re taking full responsibility for our lives, the finger pointing stops with us.
Have you heard the saying that when we blame or point the finger at someone else, we have three fingers pointing back at us? Yes, that’s right, we are the common denominator in what isn’t working. Many of us have chosen to live with what we know, even if we’re miserable and unfulfilled, rather than face the fear of the unknown.
We doubt our worthiness to pursue something that feels promising and rationalize that our desires may be viewed as selfish. We use our lack of energy and zest for life as an excuse to stay stuck in what’s familiar, even if means we’re existing day to day and not really living. Joy escapes us because the dread of dealing with guilt for choosing ourselves first, meeting our needs, and loving ourselves first, means someone else may…or may not…feel left behind.
Five more years passed before I finally made the decision to listen to God’s nudges about writing. The persistence and frequency of the soulful tapping on my shoulder got to the point I couldn’t deny its calling any longer.
What I realized, as I was nearing the age when my mom ended her life by suicide, was I would have died with unfulfilled potential should something happen to me. The thought of exiting this life without my boys seeing me walk through my fear was finally enough for me to take action. I was determined NOT to allow that to happen and that’s what gave me permission and inspiration to pursue writing my first book.
So, I wonder, and I care: Do you have any dreams left undone? Or, dreams that you haven’t started?
If you do and you want to do something about it, take a look at the free tools offered at www.lifemappinginstitute.com/resources. There are several forms that will help you get clear on why it’s important to pursue the goals that scare you the most. If I can do it, I know with my whole heart, you can, too!
Don’t wait. We never know how many more watercolor sunsets we’ll see.