The first heavy rains have arrived, winds are getting stronger each day and its dark by 5.30……once again, old man winter is here.
A subterranean cave house may seem like a strange place to live in, but it feels oddly protective. The ‘outside’ feels like another world at times. Right now the rain is falling sideways and I can hear the steady tap dancing sound of the rain drops hitting the front door and window. But inside… it’s another world. If I turned off the soft jazz playing in the background I would hear my own heart beat.
So with a nice glass of wine on my desk… I have decided to dust off my keyboard and write a few words and maybe post some photos in between my ravings.
I actually meant to write about this two years ago… and I may have hinted at the topic throughout this blog, but tonight it just feels right. It is a question that has perplexed many and has been asked throughout human existence. But what is the answer… is there an answer ?
In an article today I read that a palliative care nurse in Australia had been noting the comments her dying patients made during their last days/weeks. Namely the regrets they had about their lives. It seems there are some very familiar themes:
- “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others
expected of me”.
- “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.
- “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings more”.
- “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.
- “I wish that I had let myself be happier”.
There is nothing new here… right?
So if there is nothing new here, why do we all make the same mistakes over and over. I don’t know of anyone that wouldn’t (shouldn’t) put his/her hand up for at least some of these… if not all. Yet we keep going, until one day a nurse in a palliative care unit is asking us the big question… “what do you regret most about your life? “
There are many more well-known regrets we can add to the above list of course:
- wish I lived up to my potential
- wish I followed my gut feelings
- wish I was more decisive
and the big daddy of them all…
- wish I had followed my dream !
So why don’t we? Why do we have to wait for a doctor to tell us the dreaded words before we give up smoking? Why do we have to wait until we are 80 before we realise that all our friends are dead and it’s too late to get back in touch with them? Why do we have to wait until everything is “perfect” before we make a decision to do something we have always wanted to do?
There is a scene I will describe which happened a while ago…but is burned in my memory ever since. A man I knew (father of two close friends) met with his dying wife’s doctor and was told of the likely outcome. He was a tough old Greek, ex-commando… bull of a man. Shook your hand and your fingers were sore for days. Yet now… he was in tears, just staring at the doctor in disbelief. “What can I do doctor?” he asked. “Nothing” said the doctor… “there is nothing that we can do now”.
John (not his name) walked up to the doctor… took his hand and said “I would give you 200 thousand dollars… cash… if you could save my wife”.
I would imagine the soft hand of the surgeon must’ve hurt like hell as John looked at him with both fire and fear in his eyes. The doctor apparently looked at him pensively and said… “I know”.
At that point it was too late for John to change anything… but for most people it is not. They can change their lives tomorrow… but they probably won’t.
So what’s the link to all this with Oia Santorini you might ask? Well… it’s like this, I get a lot of email from people who either have or want to visit the island. They see the photos, they read the blog, they see images all over the web… and they become obsessed with the island. That’s something I can fully understand because that is ‘more or less’ what happened to me years ago. Most of these emails are just questions about the island, or thank you notes for the pics and the blog, or feedback about their experience visiting the island. But then… there are the “other” ones.
These “other” ones are from people who have somehow decided they want to make the big sea change. They want to come and live here, or to buy a house here…. “just a small apartment but it MUST have the view”.
Of course there are the proverbial tyre kickers, but I am fully aware that there are perfectly well-intentioned people as well. Every move starts by making enquiries and asking questions… there is nothing wrong with that.
Where it starts to make me cringe is when people ask things like ‘is it going to be a safe investment’, ‘is there likely to be political stability in Greece in the future’, ‘is it safe to live there all year round’, ‘would we enjoy living there all year round’, ‘ is the volcano going to erupt’ .
I mean…seriously, can anyone honestly believe that I or anyone else could answer these questions in a definitive way? Would you even want someone else to answer these questions for you? Wouldn’t you want to find out for yourself if you would like the locals, or enjoy winters in isolation, or could handle island life? Would you (or should you) even take someone else’s word for such issues?
To me it seems like people are saying “take the risk out of this… and I may try it”. In other words… “make my decision safe for me”,”tell me I can’t lose”, or “there is no risk involved”…….
There is a condition the shrinks often refer to as “the tyranny of the shoulds“. It tends to hit people after 50 and more likely past 60. It is the stage of regret… the ‘shoulda/coulda’ syndrome. You don’t need a nurse in palliative care to ask you questions… your own brain will do it for you. That’s when you hear people say things like “I shoulda bought that place”, “I always wanted to visit…”, “I shouldn’t have wasted all that time”, “if only I had gone to see for myself…”.
My point is that whatever it is you want… a house on an island, or a job or an adventure, go after it. You can ask questions… and you should, but in the end it is you that has to make the move and take the chance. Dont wait for the palliative nurse or the good doctor’s last words.
I can’t give you a difinitive answer to the ‘what life is all about’ question. But I do know that making a decision to experience something… is a hell of a lot better than living with “what if” !
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till soon ; )