With disruptive life events and the piercing awareness of one’s mortality, 65+ year-olds in the last stage of Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development begin to work through this question as they look back on their life.
Did I live a meaningful, satisfying life?
The life you’ve lived either leads to a sense of
The satisfaction of a life lived well
The haunting disappointment of deep regret.
As with most things, this is more of a continuum than a black-and-white, either-or.
The conflict 65+ year-olds face here is integrity vs despair.
The conflict we are all facing is integrity vs despair.
Dave Matthews (I know, I know) forces us to consider this when he sings:
“I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves wondering if we had spent our living days well.
I can’t believe that we would lie in our graves dreaming of things that we might have been.”
Today, we would be wise to ask, “Am I spending my living days well?”
Whether we have or have not spent our living days well to this point does not need to determine how we live our days from here.
There’s no need to rewrite the past,
gloss over past pain,
or blot out regrets.
In fact, acknowledging and accepting all of this as a part of your life is necessary to move on towards what’s ahead.
Spend time with those whom you love.
Use your energies and passions for good.
Do what brings you life.
And, when the curtains begin to fall, you can, with great, true sadness, appreciate the life full of meaning, joy, and heartache you lived.