Life Review: Living with No Regrets




Reflecting on the Seasonal Changes in Life

For me, August is the time when I begin in earnest to harvest what I have sown in the spring. As I walked amongst the plants this morning, I ruminated on how fruitful some of my efforts were, and of how unproductive other gardening labors have been. As I mulled over some of my early spring decisions about plant choices and planting locations, I was drawn to ponder, one more time, on the metaphoric lessons taught by the seasonal changes continually taking place in my garden.

Reflecting on the constant cycles and transitions taking place, reminded me of the teachings of the Great Medicine Wheels of the World. Within this system of learning Spring is represented by the East and is symbolic of birth and youth and of all new beginnings. The South represents Summer; it is the place of the productive adult and represents the time of growth and fruitfulness. The West symbolizes Autumn and reflects the time to reap what is sown in the spring times and early summer months of our lives. Mid-life and later adulthood hold the place of the West. The North is symbolic of winter and represents the place of the Elder and the wisdom learned through the process of taking our place on each of the spokes of the Medicine Wheel.

The month of August often awakens a voice from deep within, a voice calling us to take account of the fruitfulness of our labors. Have we made good choices, good decisions? Did we sow strong seeds and in the correct places, in this and the other spring times of our life? Did we weed out the shoots that were attempting to strangle good new growth? Did we water and nurture the good growth until it produced good sweet fruit?
The metaphoric voice stirred by the seasonal changes of harvest prompt us into a process of life-review. Life-review is a soulful attempt at taking stock of our lives. Eric Erickson, a developmental theorist, described the life review process as a time to ask if the God’s are pleased with what, to this point, we have made of our lives. He referred to life review as a testing time, as a time when we examine and bless those aspects of life that we feel satisfied with, and attempt to make amends for those events and times where we recognize that we did not do as well as we should have.

Many, not recognizing the soulfulness of this experience, can feel confused by their need to reexamine various aspects of their earlier years. Yet, there is great value in doing a review of one’s life during the years when there may still be enough life-time left to make some important life and relationship changes.
In doing the life review some have regrets over choices made or not made. I would like to offer three bits of wisdom to help heal the emotional attachments to these regrets.

1)    Reward yourself for wishing you had made a different choice.
To me this means that over the years you have changed and transformed considerably.  If there was nothing in your past that you would not change if given the chance, then I would think there is a high possibility that very little soul growth has happened for you during the course of your lifetime.

2)    Put yourself right back in the same situation as you were when you made that choice and then determine if you were back there, at the same age, with the same skills, knowledge, resources, abilities and supports you had then, would you make the same decision as you made then?
We often judge the past from the place of wisdom, knowledge and experience of where we are now. That is not therapeutic. Most people, when asked to go right back to an earlier situation recognize that under the circumstances that they were in at that time, they likely made the best decision possible for them.
I like to offer this affirmation as a way to solidify this acknowledgement. “I did the best I could at the time. If I have another chance I will make my choices based on the knowledge and skills I now have.”

3)    Look at the event to which you have a regret attached and ponder the outcomes by asking, “And then what happened?” When you become aware of a positive outcome ask the same question again, “And then what happened?”  Continue this circular form of questioning until you are able to identify that overall there have been some very positive outcomes to that difficult event.

Doing the above process of life review can help us see life as a more meaningful whole rather than as snippets of difficult life events.

Happy autumn and may you reap bushels of fruit from the good seeds you have planted in the springs and early summers of your life.

©Jane A. Simington, PHD. August, 2013

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