September 24th is a very significant day for me because it marks the day on which my mother died 9 years ago.
Losing my mother to cancer at the age of 71 was devastating. When I was younger, I thought that I could not continue living in a world without her in it. But for all of you who know the pain of the loss of a parent, you may relate to hearing that somehow, one gathers the strength to continue living – even if life has changed dramatically.
One of the things I will always remember is asking her as she lay in her bed at the hospice is what, if anything she would do differently if she had the chance. “Eat more fries”, she said. That was pretty significant because my mother was always one to watch what she was eating and concerned about gaining weight. So, instead of ordering the french fries, she would opt for the baked potato or salad. But at the end of her days, when she struggled to keep weight on, and longed to be able to enjoy food again, she wished that she had ordered fries. So, today, in honour of my mother, I will drive through McDonalds, order a large fries, and savour them in memory of the person who played a large role in making me the person I am today.
One of my mother’s other regrets, although she didn’t say this out loud when I asked, was that she hadn’t written a book. She was an amazing correspondent and I know that friends and family members waited with bated breath to receive her lengthy accounts of news from the family front after we left South Africa when I was 15 years old.
So, when I began writing and having my books published in 2008, three years before she passed, I know that she was very proud and lived somewhat vicariously through me. I didn’t mind this because I felt good knowing that she was getting pleasure from living her dream through me. Still, I wished that she had had the confidence to pursue her dream of being an author when she was younger. But, unfortunately, she was born in an era when women were not encouraged to have a career or to pursue their dreams. Instead, she stayed at home and raised her children and my father was the breadwinner. And not having the belief in herself also impacted her ability to see her dream become a reality.
But I learnt from her experience and was bound and determined not to have the same regrets. I’m not sure if it was because of how differently I wanted to live my life, my personal temperament, being the oldest sibling or that my parents believed in me, or maybe a combination of all of the above, but I have always believed that we can make almost anything happen, so long as we create a vision and work towards making It our reality.
If you feel that you have unfulfilled dreams or that you regret not doing enough of something, even if that means eating fries, what are you going to do about it?
My recommendation is to remove the word should from your vocabulary. Instead of saying “I know I should”, how about saying “today I will.” Should is self shaming. It only makes you feel worse about what you think you should be doing. And if you find It difficult to say “today I will” then ask yourself why? What’s standing in my way? Name the roadblocks? Is fear standing in your way? Perhaps you’d prefer not to try and fail than to try and fail. Perhaps you don’t feel confident in yourself. And where does this come from? What are the messages you’ve heard from others and what do you say to yourself?
We all have a lot to learn – and often, learning about ourselves and why we can’t reach our goals or fulfill our dreams, is most revealing.
One of the things that Covid has taught us, I believe, is to treasure each day and to not take life for granted. To seize the moment and to make it matter.
Make yours matter.