Visiting or Experiencing?
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
~ from When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
Those who work in palliative care say that the main regret people have at the end of their life is not having had the courage to live their dreams or to be themselves. They discover that they’ve lived their lives based on the expectations of other people and, in more recent times, vicariously through their screens. This doesn’t mean that I should ignore the needs of other people, especially the significant people in my life, or give up technology. It means being honest about who I am and how I can best develop and use my gifts in the world.
To feel whole and integrated in myself, I need to move my body and focus on those sensations. I can’t just intellectualize what’s happening. I need to feel it and engage with it by building an increasingly more subtle awareness of how my physical, mental and emotional states affect each other.
In the same way, I need to physically engage with people by interacting with them, not just sending a text or smiley face emoji. When I invest the time and space to simply “be” with another person, I let them know that they have value and are important. This deepens our relationship, building connection and meaning. Taking the time to be in nature, to use my senses to become aware of the world around me, helps me to feel part of something greater than myself. It fosters a sense of responsibility and gratitude for the many gifts I’ve been given.
All these connections give me the courage to accept larger challenges, to push myself to become a better person. I want to experience my life, not accumulate things. At the end of my life, I want to know that I’ve loved and been loved, and done what I could to make the world better. And I don’t want to wait until then to start.