All In Living: How To Live Like You’re Dying

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Top 5 Regrets Of the Dying, Part 2. Let’s take the next step with the list of the top 5 regrets of the dying. Here they are for your review:

  • 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.  (Click here for last week’s blog)

Tackling changes on a list like this can feel so overwhelming that we don’t do anything. We’re paralyzed by the enormity of the complete picture of the life, forgetting that life is lived in an infinite series of small and large choices.

I’ve made a few big moves in my life. Once from Alabama to the DC area, once to the west coast and then back again but to a different area. Four vastly different places to live, each move requiring serious uprooting and replanting, each one hard on my heart. The last move I made was particularly rough. I found making friends in Baltimore to be more difficult than my previous transplants; partly the particulars of the area, partly my phase of life. The pain of missing my previous community was enough to cause me to contemplate not becoming as attached this time around. I wondered if it would be better to stay a little distant so that if another move came, I could leave without the depth of loss I’d felt. In a time of prayer about my pain, I wondered what it would be like to be less attached, to love less, to invest more carefully. After giving it some thought, I had an experience of clear resolve. I counted the cost and decided that I wanted every relocation of my life to be excruciating. I preferred loving deeply and the pain of pulling up roots to living half a life, my heart portioned off for safekeeping. I wanted to be ALL IN. I wanted the exquisite experience of mixed up joy and grief. That’s what ALL IN living is about.

But here’s the thing. I wasn’t instantly attached to people in Baltimore at that point. It was still a step-by-step, choice-by-choice process of inviting people over, lingering in conversations, attending a small group…. All in living is at once daring and tedious, audacious and normal!

What if every person who reads this resolves to do one thing that relates to this list today or tomorrow. That one thing could be calling a friend who has been on your mind, or scheduling a day off for a prayer retreat or special day with your child. It could be something as simple as changing the décor in your office or as terrifying as telling someone you love them. It could be signing up for a salsa class or calling to schedule that therapy appointment. Learning to live life without these regrets plaguing you at the end is done day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and choice-by-choice.

Who’s in?

5 Comments

  1. Janice, really enjoying your blog! Great insights and encouragement about living with the end in mind…of not holding back, of giving ourselves to God and the people and places he calls us to…love it. Thanks for your insights and keep them coming – they are an encouragement to those of us threatened by regret…

    Peace and grace to you and the family!

  2. I am writing a letter to a friend today. I have been thinking of doing this for 2 months now. Today we write!

  3. You really got me with “want every relocation to be excruciating”. Well spoke.

    Just thinking aloud… Kids often provide our best examples of ALL-IN. Unafraid to explore the world, or break into song on a whim, or make friends with bugs and flowers (or even people), to laugh til their face hurts, and express sadness without the slightest reservation. I enjoy being schooled by my young’uns, and no doubt you do too.

    The Top 5 Regrets, in large part, strikes me as mourning our loss of child-ness, kindergeist… thing.

  4. Love the post! In fact, you REALLY spoke to me today. We are headed to celebrate and say goodbye to many friends today in PA. I feel the grief and yet I am so excited for what Jesus has for us in Ohio.

    Also, recently on runs the image of poker chips and going all in for Jesus has come up again and again. Seriously, it’s bizarre/really cool timing that you blogged about this in this way.

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