What I’m learning about death and regret

What if you died tomorrow? How does that make you feel in this moment? Does that bring anxiety? A sense of regret? Do you feel indifferent?

I’ve noticed something interesting regarding this question and it has fascinated me…

I’ve been through 2 answers to this question:

  • A feeling of regret and disappointment. A feeling of tightening my grip on life, that I’d miss out on things that I want to do and experience.
  • A feeling of complete indifference, of no anxiety or regrets.

These are very different feelings… why? And where was I in each situation?

The first answer started to surface when my visions and desires started to diverge from my reality and day to day actions. I started to feel as though if I died, I’d regret not pursuing what I had been dreaming about. I felt as though I was being held back from exploring the country and world, something I wanted to do more and more.

I took a week and a half long camping trip to explore the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. My dreams and desires were becoming a reality. It was here when I noticed my feeling towards death drastically changed. I became completely indifferent. I thought, if I died right now, I’m living the life, I’m living the dream. I’d have no regrets.

But I started to notice a pattern…

More recently I took my first 2 night camping ski trip out to Vail, Colorado. Temps got well below freezing. It was anything but comfortable… but it was exciting. This question of death and regret bubbled back up. Interestingly… I felt indifferent again. It was freeing.

It’s as if the tighter I grip, the more I want to change, the more regrets I have. The more I let go, when I’m out of my comfort zone, exploring, rolling with what life gives me, the more indifferent I feel.

So naturally, I have a couple questions:

  • Is there a correlation between the feeling of letting go and physically exploring?
  • Is having fewer regrets, feeling indifferent about death something to gauge my life on and pursue?

It feels like there’s 3 things potentially connected here:

  • Letting go (mentally), going with the flow
  • Exploring (physically), being outside my comfort zone, taking action on my dreams
  • Feeling lighter, having fewer regrets, feeling happier

As I think about it, my hypothesis seems to be:

  • (letting go <-> exploring) -> fewer regrets -> feeling better/happier

As for gauging my life based on how often I feel indifferent about death, that’s something that I feel only experience and time will be able to teach me. If I were to guess, it seems like based on my hypothesis above, it might be a good gauge to keep me in check. It seems like keeping the divergence between my dreams and my actions as small as possible will lead to fewer regrets and a better life. Fewer regrets and a better life sounds like a good deal to me.

I’m curious how memories tie into all of this, but I’ll leave that for another post…

One Comment

  1. What I thought with this is that death comes best when you have been living a fulfilled life consistently for the longest period up until death, rather than the accumulation of fulfilled life trophies by the time of death.

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