Toward The End of My Life I’d Like To Look Back and Say…

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Our mortality is never the best topic to keep a party going, impress someone new, or say to a mortgage broker when you’re hoping for a thirty-year loan. Religions talk about how to live one’s life on earth or to prepare for eternity. But, that messy stage between here and there: not a crowd-pleaser.

Then, why am I bringing it up? Because I am retired, therefore fearless, and ran out of pleasant blog topics this week? No, though each of those reasons would work. I want to make it the focus of this post because I believe it is essential to consider how we will finish the race while still having time to make course adjustments. I’ll give you examples of what I mean:

1) I’d like to look back and say I loved often and well. Not in the sense that I had a string of love affairs or relationships (!). Rather, I lived in a way that fulfilled my very human need to be deeply cared for while giving as good as I got. I have concluded that too many people view love as something in limited supply, so they parcel it out to only a few people, Or it is only given when there is an equal or greater flow of love coming back. 

Love given only with an expectation of reciprocation is not really love. This powerful force for good is meant to be spread freely. The “love your enemy” admonition did not continue with, “if he loves you back.”  Love, used as a weapon, tool of power, or to get what you want, is coercion or deception. 

2) I’d like to look back and say I didn’t always settle for the easy or the quick. While only a children’s tale, the Tortoise and the Hare is based on how the world really works. Sure, some hit on an idea or invention and become insanely rich and powerful almost overnight. But, they are the exception, not the rule. 

Most of us build a life with steady steps forward, back a bit, maybe sideways for a time, then forward again before repeating the process. We may not have a specific goal or finish line in mind. But, we have been around the block enough to know shortcuts often leave us lost. Not putting in the time and effort on most anything usually does not end well. Whether a relationship, a financial plan, a career approach, finding a passion or meaning in life, there is work to be done. 

3) I’d like to look back and say I am leaving a positive memory with those left behindOne way to guarantee a smile on my mom or dad’s face was to state, quite honestly, that I had no bad memories of my youth. There was nothing they or I had done that left me with a “what if” or “why did you do that” feeling. I don’t believe this was a case of selective memory. I just had nothing to build a memoir around that had disasters or rough patches to recount. 

I would very much like my family to say much the same as they remember me. Of course, being separate individuals, we all interpret events in our own way, using our own filters and experiences. Certainly, something thing (or things) I did might not be all smiles and hugs. But, I am doing my best to hold those recollections to a minimum.

4) I’d like to look back and say I don’t have very many regrets. Sure, there are times in both my private and personal life that I screwed up. I have occasional dreams of going back and choosing a different response or reaction to something that bothers me. Of course, that’s a little unfair: what I have learned in almost 72 years on this earth should mean I would adjust my approach if I knew then what I understand now. 

Even so, I believe I have the opportunity with every decision made every day to choose wisely, to do something that doesn’t compromise my principles or cause harm to anyone else. Being true to myself was a common phrase my parents and uncle shared with me often. They understood the biggest fake in the room is the person who takes a position, presents a facade, or makes a choice that is strictly transactional: only for the moment. They knew that ultimately, that falseness would have a cost, one of regrets.

5) I’d like to look back and say my spiritual journey evolved over the years, bringing me closer to the ultimate answers. Not having the answers, certainly. But understanding enough to keep asking questions and working out reasonable answers in my own mind. Even though I have no idea what really happens after death, readings, discussions, and thinking about life’s ultimate issues leave me more comfortable with both the possible and the uncertainties. 

A life in balance: is that the ultimate answer?