I came across the book title "The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying" by a home health nurse named Bronnie Ware. You'll miss the story telling if you let this list be a substitute for actually reading the book but in summary the top 5 are: 1) Not having the courage to live the life I want vs. what others expect 2) Working too hard 3) Not having the courage to express your feelings 4) Not staying in touch with friends 5) Realizing that happiness is a choice. It made me think, "If these are the top regrets, then what do I need to do to avoid those regrets?" And "What am I doing if I am not connecting with people and living the life I want?" As a representative of "the busy middle" - parenting two young kids and having parents in mid to late 70's, I can say I had been busy doing all the things that lead to those regrets. Working a lot, multi-tasking, rushing, vegging out after a lot of stress, and buying stuff not required for truly connecting with people I love.
Making sense of things for kids and being there for elderly parents takes spaciousness and time. Contemplation of life's tough questions happens in quiet and still moments, not when I am at Target getting another set of backyard BBQ cups and plates.
At the risk of overemphasizing my role to everyone, I have asked myself- how will I be ready to answer difficult questions from my 7 year old when they arise at unexpected times? How can I make time to be needed by my elderly parents so they do not feel my sense of overwhelm and consequently feel uneasy about their end of life journey when it is their turn? How can I minimize my own trepidation with facing the end of life?
When I think about this inspiration phase- how do I envision making the end of life easier for myself and loved ones- I think of how I am living, not how I will be dying.
For me, it starts with building a life that has space in it- space to think, space in your checkbook so you are not always chasing after the next promotion or the next material thing to fill your life with, space to sit with and be with the people you love in ways you will remember.