By: Tom Barry
Thanks for popping by. Our theme today is living a life that is true to ourselves.
In the inspiring movie “Dead Poets Society”, unconventional English teacher Robin Williams exhorts the schoolboys to “seize the day” before they, like students past, are nothing more than maggot food. To follow their passion, to live in the moment, and to die free of regret.
How many of us hear this message, but carry on regardless, as if life is infinite when, in truth, we are dying from the moment we are born? We stay in places, jobs and relationships which don’t fulfil us, wishing life were different, but doing little to change it. The answer, it seems, is almost all of us! “The Top Five Regrets in Dying”, in the words of Australian care worker and novelist Bronnie Weir, are I wish:
- I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
- I didn’t work so hard
- I’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I had stayed in touch with my friends
- That I had let myself be happier
These were the five most common regrets of those at death’s door, of those who could no longer do anything about it. Isobel, my restless and neglected heroine in When the Siren Calls is suffocating in a stagnant marriage, painfully aware of the ticking of her own body clock, but afraid to take responsibility for changing her own situation. In the words of poet Tagore:
“I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.
The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet hug it in love.”
In an intimate conversation with her worldly friend Maria, Isobel probes Maria’s affair with her young Italian lover.
“Do you think it’s all worth it?” said Isobel. “What if Arnie ever found out?”
Maria shrugged. “Better to lose a husband than waste a life.”
“That is easy to say, until you lose him,” said Isobel.
Isobel fears that, unlike hedonistic Maria, she does not have the courage to live a life true to herself. She fears she is destined to die the cosseted but unfulfilled wife of a workaholic husband. Whether she will or not remains the issue at the heart of the story till the very end.
So the question I pose today is what would be our greatest regrets as the curtain is drawn around us for the last time, and what are we doing to ensure we don’t have them? Is it perhaps that we lack courage, like Isobel, or that we put work before those we love, like her husband? Let me leave you with this thought: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca
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"When the Siren Calls" - upmarket romantic suspense
"Saving Jay" - taut business thriller