Is it possible to live life without regrets? To ‘do it up right’? To both live and finish life with a feeling of satisfaction, with a sense of accomplishment and pride that one has given one’s best? And lived one’s life to the fullest of potential?
And if so, how is this done? If not possible, what then?
I am sitting in the dentist chair, waiting the verdict. Another tooth ache. I’ve known this pain before, and the last time, it cost me thousands. The dentist looks my mouth over, carefully inspecting the problematic incisor, finding not just one, but two hair-line fractures in two separate teeth. The unfortunate result of grinding my teeth at night. My unconscious world, where frustrations are vented with a merciless malevolence. I wish there was an easy answer, a quick fix for this latest dental discovery. But she and I both know the difference. There is not.
My mouth and aching teeth are in bad shape. And it all comes down to stress.
“You need a vacation,” she says smiling. I grin wryly and pretend like this all is half-funny. But it isn’t. It’s my life. My reality. And the only set of genuine teeth I’ll ever own.
I wish I could keep them.
While diagnosing the problem, the “s” word comes up. Stress. She and I both know it, it’s the culprit here. And what can be done about it, really? It’s everywhere. At home, at work, in relationships, woven inside each and every aspect of my life. An element of feeling that life is pressing in on me with demands of one kind or another. And it makes me wonder. What can be done to remedy my situation, knowing that some things in life just ‘are what they are’?
Some sicknesses are visible. They are easy to see and therefore more accessible for garnering support. Those high-profile sicknesses. We all know someone with this unfortunate fate. And life is like that sometimes: it allows us to live emotionally unarmed and in full, open view. Because there is no hiding with cancer. Or Parkinson’s. Or Multiple Sclerosis.
But other sicknesses are less visible. Less high-profile. They allow the bearer of such misfortune the occasion of pretending that all is well. That they are fine, that life is good. And that they are not really sick, or stressed or overwhelmed. They’re just “having a bad day”. One with such knows the difference, but all the same. It’s an easy way out when neither the explanations are forthcoming, nor the listeners sympathetic.
Sometimes one can mask signs of greater problems behind a facade, failing to convey the true gravity of the situation. And these signs, symptoms and perhaps even diseases vary greatly in scope of intensity and severity. One can suffer from depression, anxiety, panic-disorders and yet, at times, hide behind a mask of wellness pretending that life is fine. That things are okay.
But in truth, things are not okay. And that is the problem. Not only are things not okay, the person living with such must also at times pretend that things are still fine and well. Even in the midst of life crumbling around them. Teeth crumbling inside them. And there is more where that came from, ground down teeth are just the tip of the iceberg. This I know for sure. Add to this unflattering visual, loneliness, isolation, despair, exhaustion and fear. The complete formula for a toxic brew.
Yes, these hidden sicknesses are less visible. But just as deadly. It might take longer, but they are out for the throat. For blood. And they will show no mercy.
It is not easy to find solutions when life feels empty. When life feels hopeless. And to think we only have one chance at this gig. We can’t go back and undo the past.
I recently read an article called 5 Top Regrets People Have At The End Of Their Lives. And it made me think. We all come to a final point, a destination where we will have to face our life as it has been lived. At that time, we will be faced with the following questions. Have we had the courage to be true to ourselves, living the life we knew was our destiny? Have we worked harder than necessary, squandering the most precious of all resources: time? Have we had the courage to express our feelings? Have we made lasting relationships with the people that matter the most? Have we allowed ourselves the luxury of choosing happiness over the tragic settling for a life lived in fear and sadness?
These are important questions, worthwhile to ponder and reflectively answer. And if there are one or two for which one can find it in themselves to truthfully answer and then instigate a change for the better, than the questioning has been a valuable exercise. These questions needs be asked before the end, before it is too late. Because life is never lived in reverse. And if one knows better, they are then able to at the very least choose to think better. If not live better.
I add to these former five, a final question. Are we ready for our next life?
In this world, we have been promised there will be disappointment. There is a longing inside us all for something better. For something more. For home. For me, that home of which I speak is a better place than earthly here. Here, life is what it is. I can’t always change everything in my life that causes me stress. Even through the power of positive thinking. Some sadnesses and heartaches follow to the grave. Freedom is possible from the power of some, yes. This is the present hope. But not from all. That is the reality of living.
But there is always hope.
My hope is placed firmly in something better. Someone better. Whom I will one day meet face-to-face. At another time and another place. Whom I shall see, touch and know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And while it is true that my teeth will not always last me. That I will always dye my hair because I am growing gray. That I ache in places I never use to. That I have regrets. That my life is not all I thought it would be, that life has not lived up to my wildest expectations.
I still have hope. For somewhere more than this. For a better then, beyond the darkness of now. And for the One who truly understands. That this life was never meant to be the be-all-and-end-all of living.
It’s just our practice run.
This I hold to, like unto a drowning man holding fast to that life-giving flotation, thrown overboard. Holding fast. To the belief that there is more. So much more. And that the best is yet to come.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.