It’s not new, but it recently surfaced in my Facebook feed–an article on CNN.com called What the Dying Really Regret. In this article Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain who has spent a lot of time consoling those with little time left on this earth, states:
There are many regrets and unfulfilled wishes that patients have shared with me in the months before they die. But the stories about the time they waste hating their bodies, abusing it or letting it be abused — the years people spend not appreciating their body until they are close to leaving it — are some of the saddest.
In this article, the chaplain talks about how, even as they are in hospice, nearing the end of their lives people have not learned to make peace with their bodies. And how many people, close to losing or actively losing many of the wonderful things about their bodies regret that they never truly appreciated their bodies until they were nearly gone. She talks about the sadness of it and the waste of it.
I have absolutely no doubt that this is true. I’ve talked to quite a few women in their seventh and even eight decade that have never learned to make peace with their hips or their thighs or their bellies–hips that have shaken to music of many eras, bellies that have borne babies and thighs that have propelled them inevitably forward to a ripe old age. And I see the part of them that has been carefully educated to be smaller, to be less than, to show no excess warring with the part of them that wants to stop worrying about it all and just eat the damn cookie. And it makes me sad.
I say carefully educated, because this body hatred–this need to make ourselves smaller and less than–is something we learn. In her brilliant piece, Egan states:
…unlike the foolish or best-intentioned mishaps, the terrible accidents, the slip-ups that irrevocably change a life, this regret is not a tragic mistake. It’s intentional. It’s something other people teach them to feel about their bodies; it’s something other people want them to believe.
But in this sad story, there is some good news. Behavior that can be learned can be unlearned. We can choose to love our bodies before it is too late. We can choose not to spend years or decades or a lifetime not hating something so precious, so finite, so personal and so wondrous. We can chose not to squander our lives and resources on something so unproductive. We can choose to spend that time, loving ourselves, making ourselves bigger, making our lives better and making things better for everyone around us.
When people ask me why I do what I do, I tell them that this, this is why I do what I do. Because we are all so precious and life is so precious we simply can’t waste any more of it agonizing about cellulite. We need to be dancing with our children and our spouses. We need to be writing our poems and righting the world’s wrongs. We need to be teaching our children and our parents and everybody how to share this wonderful world before we lose our wonderful world. And if I, in some tiny, tiny way can help a person get to that place–to the writing and righting a little bit sooner–even by one single day, then I am doing something worthwhile. Because while one single day may not seem like much to me now, it can seem like forever to someone facing the end of their days.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)