Happiness is a choice


Yesterday, a friend spoke to me about her father’s battle with cancer, the dreaded disease he succumbed to after a long fight. She told me how hard it was for the family to see an active man suffer and wither away. She made me remember the way I lost my father, suddenly, with no warning. He left for work in the morning and I in the afternoon since I worked evenings at the Taj at that time. This routine meant that we would sometimes not meet for days because he would be asleep by the time I returned late night (sometimes early morning) and I would be asleep when he left home in the mornings. By the time I rushed home after receiving an SOS call late that particular evening, he was no more. The suddenness of it was devastating. After the conversation with my colleague, I was again trying to understand which; if either; was a better way to let go of a loved one. Does it hurt more to see someone die every day or does it hurt more to lose someone suddenly, without having a chance to say and do all that we wanted to. And what of the person who dies, would he want to slowly disintegrate into an object of concern, sometimes pity and maybe even despair or just be done with it, quickly and painlessly? And even more importantly, when his entire life flashes before his eyes, do the images make him smile or sigh?

I had read an article published in The Guardian, UK in 2012, about a book titled ‘Top five regrets of the dying’. It is authored by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care; caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book.

The top 5 regrets, as witnessed by her are….and I quote,

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

  1. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.”

  1. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years.”

  1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”

Sounds crazy right? Crazy but true! Human beings spend lives chasing qualifications, money and success not realizing that none of these equate happiness. We choose to compromise on friendship, love and happiness without understanding that these get us through our toughest trials. When we look back at our lives, it will not be only to count the millions in the bank but the hundreds of hearts we have touched and smiles we have spread.

While I could not prevent the lump in my throat as I watched the stricken faces and tear drenched eyes of the attendees at Phil Hugh’s funeral earlier today, I also remembered the words of his best mate Michael Clarke who said, “Apart from when he was home on the farm with his beloved cattle, Hughesy was at his happiest playing cricket for his country with his mates.” And I wondered if this perhaps was the way that destiny’s children are meant to depart this earth, suddenly, in the middle of doing what they love, on a high, being adored by millions.
Life throws us many curved balls; we catch some and miss some. Decisions that need to be made are sometimes simple, sometimes difficult, sometimes downright scary and sometimes the kind that might make people shake their heads and wonder if you have lost your marbles, make them anyway, if that is what you need to be happy. You cannot make a bunch of other people happy if you aren’t happy yourself! While these decisions will not make you perfect, not by a long shot, they will definitely make you accountable for your own life. So go on, meet people who make you smile a little more than usual, take those holidays you don’t seem to have time for, find a career out of your passion so you wake up every day enthused about work, connect with old friends, let your heart skip a beat when you speak to someone, tell special people that you love them, be silly, keep the child in you alive, smile at strangers, laugh out loud uncaring of who is watching, gorge on dessert once in a while, play hookey and watch a movie…..just live with the courage to do things that make you happy. Death they say is the only constant in life. So LIVE, so that when you look back on your life, whether for a moment or months, you can actually smile because there are no regrets.

Happiness is a choice…..make the choice today.


Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa December 2014

All Rights Reserved