"I wish I had told her I loved her"
"I wish I had visited more often"
"I wish I had been nicer"
"I wish I had forgiven him"
We hear these phrases a lot when someone passes away. We always think we could have done more. If we had done more, the death would be less painful and we would have less regrets. Maybe we'll look like the suffering friend/daughter/lover/etc....
Or, maybe, is that what we just convince ourselves? The opportunity was there all along. Yet, in the end, you didn't follow-through. It's easy to say you wanted to or wish you had, but when you don't, you prove that you didn't want to. Not enough, not when the opportunity was available.
"Visiting more often" is easier and takes up less of your time when the person is gone. You can no longer be called on your bluff. You can no longer be the bad person who didn't visit enough. You don't have to deal with listening to his problems or sit down with her and work through the tough times. Now all you have to do is WISH you had.
You're not a bad person if you have been in this position. Reality is, humans get exhausted. Especially of one another, even the one's we love. Tasks can be daunting or make you feel vulnerable or hurt your pride, and some people, even if they pass away, didn't make it easy.
Wishing leads to guilt and more hurt. It reminds us repeatedly of how we wronged someone. Someone who very well may have done the same thing or made the same choice.
However, what if we could erase these wishes? Or, minimize them?
What if, throughout our lives, we acted like the person we wish we were? A writing professor once said to my class, regarding writing about our personal lives, "Write about someone as if they were dead. Especially your parents." By which she meant, don't limit what your criticism of someone or what stories you tell, out of fear. Fear that they will be embarrassed or angry, or just deny the truth. Write as if you have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.
Now, imagine we did that every day of our lives? We did the things we would regret not having done once someone is gone, or we ourselves die?? Imagine how much more we'd all live and love!
Woody Allen is often quoted and despised for speaking of the meaninglessness of life. He's an existentialist to the core! Most recently he was criticized harshly while promoting his new film "Magic in the Moonlight." The following are quotes from Allen that have been selected in many published pieces and attacked:
“I firmly believe, and I don’t say this as a criticism, that life is meaningless, I’m not alone in thinking this — there have been many great minds far, far superior to mine, that have come to that conclusion. And unless somebody can come up with some proof or some example where it’s not, I think it is. I think it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, and that’s just the way I feel about it.
I’m not saying that one should opt to kill oneself, but the truth of the matter is, when you think of it, every 100 years, there’s a big flush, and everybody in the world is gone. And there’s a new group of people. And that gets flushed, and there’s a new group of people. And this goes on and on interminably — and I don’t want to upset you — toward no particular end, no rhyme or reason.
And the universe, as you know from the best of physicists, is coming apart, and eventually there will be nothing, absolutely nothing. All the great works of Shakespeare, and Beethoven, and Da Vinci, all that will be gone. Now, not for a long time, but shorter than you think, really, because the sun is going to burn out much earlier than the universe vanishes, so you don’t have to wait for the universe to vanish. It’ll happen earlier than that. So all these plays and these symphonies, the height of human achievement, will be gone completely. There’ll be no time, no space, nothing at all. Just zero. That’s why over the years, I’ve never written or made movies about political themes. Because while they do have current critical importance, in the large scheme of things, only the big questions matter, and the answers to those big questions are very, very depressing. What I would recommend — this is the solution that I’ve come up with — is distraction. That’s all you can do! You get up, you can be distracted by your love life, by the baseball game, by the movies, by the nonsense. Can I get my kid into this private school? Will this girl go out with me Saturday night? Can I think of an ending for the third act of my play? Am I going to get the promotion in my office? All this stuff, but in the end the universe burns out. So I think it’s completely meaningless, and to be honest, my characters portray this feeling. Have a good weekend"
I may be the first person to defend Mr. Allen and his somewhat "Debbie Downer" view on life. I think it directly relates to the message I am trying to convey as I write this blog-a-doo today. The reality is, we all are going to be that guy or girl, sooner or later. The one who died after 80, 90, 100 years of distracting themselves and lying to themselves and everyone around them. This is the nature of living, to contradict, lie, and deny the inevitable downfall of us all. However, and here's where you can put down the razor, this is not reason to give up and end it all! Au contraire! Existentialism, the realization of the pointlessness of it all is a lesson in freedom! You have the freedom to change your entire persona and being and life. No one can dictate your life for you. There is no purpose for you to chase or meaning - that just sounds like an elephant in the room. What we learn from people like Woody is that you have NO other reason to be on this Earth, very little affect on what will be in 100, possibly even 20 years, so why fill all that time being a useless jerk? Why dwell and regret and hate? I get the feeling Woody wasn't being quite so cheery about the whole thing, but his message does not have to be as drab and morbid as every single journalist pegged it to be. He didn't tell you what to do with your meaningless life, he just said it was meaningless. Interpret as you may! It could be you who is the downer, after all, if negativity was all you got from this quote.
I also wonder, what would the reaction be if I had made these statements? Heck, I HAVE made these statements. You know what responses I get? "Wow, you're right." ... "You're so morbidly adorable!"
It's all positive. It's all light and agreeable. I will leave you on that note. Think it over. Have a few drinks and talk it over. You're welcome.