Can you live life without regrets? Here’s how to start.

I have been around relatives who were nearing the end of their days, and many have been very stubborn up to their last breath.  It caused me to pause and think about why you would hold on to unresolved relationship issues, and long-held resentments.  Not everyone lives like this, but I think many of us hold on to things far longer than we want to and we honestly do have regrets about the way we have lived.

A friend of mine has taught me many lessons in the last 8 years.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in 2012.  The road has been long for my friend Diana, and not easy at all.  I am constantly in awe of her spirit and determination.  The thing about Diana that is so different from everyone else is she decided to start her own movement and it has driven her forward and taken many of us with it along the way.  Here is an excerpt from a blog post she wrote on her movement: My husband and I have been on the We Don’t Wait tour for four years now. I have to say, even though cancer sucks, I have had some of the best adventures with my family and friends since 2015. Deciding not to wait to do things has been one of the best choices we have ever made. I visit friends and take little trips. I watch my favorite bands, and I let the music move me.  Read more here.

Taking a page from my friend’s book, I want to tell you what I have learned from Diana in the long years I have known her (we met in 5th grade).

  1. Take a day off, but then kick your own ass.  We have made many jokes that were probably inappropriate over the years, and that is exactly how I’d want it.  When she has gotten down, as she has every right to do, she has rallied by writing a blog post, going to a concert (pre-COVID) and letting her friends know exactly what is going on even though it is hard to admit.  She has asked us to help her along this journey and that is a very important step.
  2. Tell people you love them all the time.  Why wasn’t this a thing before?  I don’t know, but it shouldn’t take many years before you say to your friend, hey, you know what, I really love you and this world wouldn’t be the same without you or the memories we share.
  3. Stand up for what you believe in.  Diana told me that when we were in 8th grade (we took this summer school class and it dealt with setting up aquariums, checking water samples and more), but anyway, we had to wear bathing suits on the field trip and for some reason a boy said something ugly to Diana and I stood up for her.  It sounds like me, and I probably wanted to smack him, but more importantly, body shaming wasn’t okay then, it’s not now.  Diana has shown such grace and beauty and can rock her colostomy bag.  I have learned so much about the process and was excited one day when an ad popped up with a girl wearing one.
  4. Don’t take life seriously.  Diana named her bag Fred and has shared the many adventures she has had (again prior to COVID) with trying to get through airport security with the bag on.  I was actually astounded by the amount of times they pulled her aside to search, frisk and do whatever else, but instead of getting mad (okay, yes, she was probably not happy), but she would use it to tell us hilarious stories.  You can turn the most horrible times into anything you want to make it, and she does.
  5. Learn to forgive.  I think that this year has been the hardest for my friend for many reasons.  COVID came in and knocked out her “we don’t wait” tour, so she started saying “sometimes we do wait”.  throughout it all, we all had to learn patience and forgiveness.  I can safely say that patience isn’t my strongest point and Diana would probably say that has been difficult as well.  We have to look at what is happening during this pandemic and we have no frame of reference for this.  Not one person on this earth alive today (that I am aware of) could have seen this year turning into the thing it has become.  One of the hardest lessons is forgiveness of ourselves though.  We wish things away that we can’t change and that doesn’t help us in this present moment.  Whatever happened, happened.  It’s time to let go of the pain, mistakes we are holding on to and the regrets, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t have regrets?  It’s not about that though.  It’s about learning to live life in the fullest right now, and if you have done that, you have lived a good life.

Diana and friends, I love you all.  If you are reading this and we don’t talk now, I still love you.  There’s zero reason to hold on to whatever happened in the past.  We can only do the work right now, in this present moment.

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