As I approach 50 I have been full of regrets and disappointments in the way life has worked out, that I am not able to work or have an income, that time is running out and I haven’t done anything. Wondering where I went wrong and what would have happened if I had made different choices or stood up for myself more or been better at things. How things would have been had I not been ill for much of my life, if I had fought it and not let it take over. I saw a book advertised Come Again by Robert Webb and I posted on Facebook maybe I should read this book. In reply someone asked if I had read Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I have read some of his other books and they are good so though I’d give it a try. It’s amazing and has made me think and realise that other lives other paths may not have made me happy, having a job and an income doesn’t necessary make everything right. I think I make the assumption that if I had done things differently I would not have become ill, but it’s not a guarantee. A different path would mean I would not be living where I am with my husband and daughter, in fact my daughter may not exist. Having got so bogged down and depressed and feeling that all is wrong, I have lost sight of the fact that not everything is wrong.
This passage from the book sums it up;
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga.
It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do the people we didn’t do and the people we didn’t marry and the children we didn’t have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out.
But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.
We can’t tell if any of those other versions would of been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.” Matt Haig
The last year has been a hard one for everyone and all the uncertainties and fears have taken their toll. Life for most of us may never be quite the same ever again as we realise that perhaps many of the things we had or did we can live without. Sadly for many of course they are not here or their lives have been forever changed by illness or loss. Two special friends of ours died in March and April this year. Their lives had not been easy, but they enjoyed what they had and didn’t let things get them down. hey both lived life to the full and were greatly admired. I feel that I have not had much of a life and want to be able to do things for pleasure, because the day to day takes all my energy.
Seeing the funerals of our friends and hearing people says such lovely things about them makes me wonder what people would say about me. I seem to be just the person who does nothing and makes a few nice cards.
With my 50th birthday coming up next month I am feeling like I have missed out on so much life and experiences. I make an effort for other people’s birthdays, but never do much for mine. Being ill for 23 years, maybe even longer than that is just soul destroying and makes me feel so useless so I end up pushing myself and then feeling more ill, but still disappointed with what I can do and feeling I am letting everyone down. My ability seems to keep going down. I am no sicker than I was a few years ago, but do a lot less.
Of course life is also only as we perceive it, there are many people who would envy my life;
“We only know what we perceive. Everything we experience is ultimately just our perception of it. “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Matt Haig
Regret eats away at us and make us lose focus and we can only see what we have lost or the mistakes we made this then becomes a downward spiral. If I am struggling mentally, I feel much worse physically too so then my ability to do anything becomes worse and I feel so useless and that I am letting people down or that what I do is pointless. This passage from the book is so true;
“It is not the lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy. We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.” Matt Haig
With so much social media and access to news around the world we are always comparing ourselves to others and wanting life to be different, we are overwhelmed with information. Matt Haig makes a very interesting point in the book;
“That’s why everyone hates each other nowadays,’ he reckoned. ‘Because they are overloaded with non-friends friends. Ever heard about Dunbar’s number?’
And then he had told her about a man called Roger Dunbar at Oxford University, who had discovered that human beings were wired to know only a hundred and fifty people, as that was the average size of hunter-gatherer communities.” Matt Haig
You can read more about the theory here if you wish https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number
On social media I am in several groups and over time the groups have become much bigger and I find it overwhelming. In one of the groups I am trying to make up smaller groups for people to chat to each other as I feel this will be more manageable. On Facebook alone I have 211 friends and that is actually quite a small number compared to many, some of them are closer friends, some only vague acquaintances and then when you are in groups there are many many other people who you can interact with even if you are not connected as friends.
Towards the end of the book the main character realises;
“I think it is easy to imagine there are easier paths,’ she said, realising something for the first time. ‘But maybe there are no easy paths. There are just paths. In one life, I might be married. In another, I might be working in a shop. I might have said yes to this cute guy who asked me out for a coffee. In another I might be researching glaciers in the Arctic Circle. In another, I might be an Olympic swimming champion. Who knows? Every second of every day we are entering a new universe. And we spend so much time wishing our lives were different, comparing ourselves to other people and to other versions of ourselves, when really most lives contain degrees of good and degrees of bad.” Matt Haig
This is what I need to realise and to accept things the way they are and that not everything is bad. No life has nothing bad happen and no life is ever completely happy.
Will this book be a turning point for me or will I slowly forget about it, who knows. Someone said to me the other day make 50 a turning point, a new start. I can’t change things from the past or change who or what I am, but I can try and make the best of what I have and not feel regret and let down. I also need to stop watching daytime TV with all the adverts for over 50’s funeral plans, life insurance and mobility products they make us old before our time! I have used mobility products and hearing aids since I was in my 30’s anyway!