LIVING WITH NO REGRETS
Sometime ago I had made a posting in my blog ‘ A Life without Regrets!’ which was prompted by a write up in the Sunday edition of The Times of India by Vinita Nangia. I ended by stating that though the write up affords a very simple solution as to how to go about achieving it, the feasibility is very much a remote possibility. In fact I said that the title should have ended with a question mark – ‘A Life without Regrets?’
Today I am again prompted to respond to another post in the latest edition of the same newspaper which says ‘Living with no regrets’ by Nona Walia. I was happy to read the very first sentence ‘Can you truly live without regrets?’ as it seemed to echo my feelings the last time around. The entire question revolves around ‘if’ and ‘I wish’. I was happy to read the article for there are no solutions offered, the author has put together the views of different people and the various studies made by social psychologists. The end result is summarised as ‘Top five regrets before dying’ –
1) I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not what the others expected of me
2) I wish I didn’t work so hard
3) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5) I wish I had let myself be happier.
A view is expressed that the key is to remain focussed on the present. I do not know whether this at all achievable. As we grow older and see the years slipping away, we tend to grasp on to things that we have left behind us. We slip into our own fantasies as to how things could have been different and regrets do arise. There are those who would want to make the best of what is left and are able to do it because of the situation they find themselves in. This is not true for the others for what is best is an individual interpretation. In this context Khushwant Singh is again quoted here from his latest book Khushwantnama: The Lessons of my life, where he writes about life without regrets. “At 98 I count myself lucky that I still enjoy my single malt whisky at seven every evening. I relish tasty food and look forward to hearing the latest gossip and scandal. I retain my curiosity about the world around me. I enjoy the company of beautiful women; I take joy in poetry, literature and watching nature. All my life, I have worked hard. I have been a man of habit and stuck to a disciplined life for over 50 years. That has stood me in good stead in my 90’s”.
When I read this, my life is filled with regret for I would have loved to be in his shoes. Well he has been an extremely lucky man endowed with the talent, riches and the opportunities that have come his way in the course of his life.
Living in the present is not an easy solution though it is easy to say that. It means accepting the way you are and not looking back. May be that would save you from all those ‘ifs, buts and I wish’. Would that be enough? Even in the present you are bound to undergo feelings of inadequacy and regret looking at the world around you. Like, I expressed my feelings above of not being able to live a life like Khushwant Singh. This feeling of regret does occur even though for a moment, but I would make myself miserable if I continue dwelling on it. I accept the reality of myself and move on, but it is hard to dismiss that feeling all together. Its harder as you grow older though it is stated (as mentioned in the article) that a study conducted by researchers at the University Medical Centre, Hamburg, Germany that “healthy older people may actively disengage from regret when nothing can be done whereas young people were more regretful when confronted with missed chances for financial gain”. The key operating words here I feel are “may actively disengage from regret when nothing can be done”. Does this mean an air of resignation or of having understood the reality of living after undergoing all those regrets? The other word is ‘healthy’, so what about the sick old people? So we can only hope that we remain healthy in order that we may move on to live without regrets. I guess not many are lucky in this respect. Man cannot stop contemplating on his final termination and this perhaps is his greatest motivation to live the remainder of his life as best as he could. He can try definitely if he can decide as to what is the best he can do.
Every moment starts with the hope of better things to happen and ‘hope’ is something with regard to a future happening. If it does not happen we have the choice of moving on or regretting that it did not happen. If it does not happen it becomes our past and when we move on we move to the future. So what is it that binds and makes us rooted to the present? The only state that I can think of that ensures an everlasting present is the state of thoughtlessness or do we call it nirvana. A word, that we have been so used to, that state of eternal bliss. I feel it is only in such a state that a person can live without regrets.
What we can learn from Khushwant Singh’s statement about living life without regrets is that one should retain and cultivate that zest for living. That is what has stood him in good stead in his 90’s. But I suspect he must also be still carrying some feelings of regrets at not having met the most beautiful woman in the world or not being privy to the latest gossip. Given a choice a person would like to live his life again so when he knows that is not available to him he is bound to carry some regrets to his grave. So you see, regrets never really leave you.
I always suspect, when someone says he does not carry any regrets in life, that he is deceiving himself. Of course a man who has truly attained that state will never make that statement for he is a man who is self realised or you may say attained ‘Buddhahood’.