One of the most poignant memories of my early adult life was when my father had his stroke. I was 26 years old and living in Kansas City at that time. I hopped on a plane rushing to get back home to Illinois to be with him, my mom and sister at the hospital–praying all the way that nothing more would happen. When I arrived Dad was in the hospital bed with his hand and leg not functioning on one side. Tears welled up in my Dad’s eyes as I walked in the room–he realized in that moment that if my Mom and sister had called me home, his condition must indeed be serious. He looked at my Mom and said with slurred speech, “I never got to take you to Hawaii.”
My parents were practical working people who made a little money go a long way and yet in this moment there was a statement of a dream never realized and the possible end of life staring him in the face. Frightened as we were for his prognosis at that time, we assured my Dad that he would get better and would still have the opportunity to take Mom to Hawaii. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Dad recovered from that stroke enough to be back home and able to get around but he had a heart attack or another stroke that claimed his life 6 months later. He was 72 years old. I know my mom and dad had a good life together and I am grateful for having parents that modeled what it was to be each other’s best friend and partners in life. When I imagine talking to my Dad now, I hear him urging me to live fully and joyfully right now and not to put off all the opportunities I have to be present in this gift we call life.
This memory came back to me recently as I was having a heart-to-heart talk with two other friends who also have their own businesses. We had sat down to mastermind the next steps in our businesses and I could create a to-do list a mile long of actions I could take to advance the business but as I spoke, something felt off. I have spent the last few years so caught up in following the Voice that guided the book and trying to bring that vision to the real world that I had lost touch with some of the other things that make a full life. As I spoke to my friends, tears welled up as I said, “I don’t want to create THIS at the expense of my life.” I looked at my “to do” list and realized while passionate about my healing work, teaching and writing, there were many elements of my idea of a beautiful life that were missing–like a soulful life partner. Not going to find one of those if I stay at my computer coming up with more and more projects or am so focused on work that I don’t even let my flirty self out to play!
We all live with the illusion that we have unlimited time do accomplish all our goals, but that isn’t true. Each decision we make means we may be ruling out other options that are important to us. It’s never too soon to look at your life with the perspective that we might not be here tomorrow and ask some probing questions about what is important to us. The Voice that guided me to write the book, never asked me to become a slave to work. I created that all on my own. The beautiful thing about having one of these “aha” moments is we get a chance to ask ourselves life review questions such as:
- If I were in a hospital bed right now, would there be any important “I never got to __________” regret?
- What have I put off doing that I think is essential to a well-lived life?
- Is there a place that I am putting my energy right now that doesn’t feel important in the well-lived life vision?
- What’s most important to me and how much time am I devoting to that?
- What am I waiting for?
If we can look at our lives, knowing that we will die, everything that is important is put into perspective. I know my work is important. It is a deep part of who am and my calling in being here. But just as important as my work is being present in my personal life. Internally this is a big shift for me. It actually is easier for me to be a hard business task master than to think about what would nourish my feminine side. But that feminine side has been taking a back seat far too long. So out she comes! I’m letting that side of me have more say in how I spend my time and energy. She doesn’t really like the “all work most of the time” Carol.
A friend asked me if I was free to go to a concert on Tuesday night. Initially I said no because I had planned to be at a business networking event–but I realized that was the old “do-er” business person wanting to run the show. So I said yes to the concert because as many of you know, going to live music events is one of the ways I love to play. The fragile feminine part of me breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t going to break my new commitment to her so soon. After all, we have to make room for the things we really want in life.
What about you? If you were in that hospital bed right now—would you have a “I wished I had _______” moment? If you ask yourself some of those life review questions how do you feel? If you would have no regrets or nothing undone, bless you for being a role model for the rest of us! If you are like me and realize you have things to shift, there is no time like the present.
I’d love it if you would share your impressions and experiences in the comments below.