Through my website and my books, I’m privileged to hear from all sorts of people who I have never met and probably never will. I am always struck by how candid people are to me, a total stranger.
A while ago I received an email from a young man with depression. I’ll call him Joe. Joe has spent a long time in hospital, and attempted suicide. He has given me permission to write this blog post. Thankfully Joe is getting better now.
Joe oscillates between regretting things he has not done and seeing these things as an optimistic ‘To Do” list. It’s an interesting way to see the world: are we to be sad about the things we have not done, or happy because we have not done them yet?
In his words,
“To wish for something is to hope. It has its sights on the future. Wishing is ambitious and a remarkably forward-thinking verb for someone who then put down his pen and went into the stairwell with a length of rope.”
Joe emailed me a note that he has pinned to his door. It begins with regrets but finishes with an imperative to himself: Do! Go! He wanted to share it because it is very hard for people who are feeling low to see the harmfulness of regret and the tonic of optimism.
Joe ends his email by saying,
“In light of some of my medicines over-lapping with activities that you prescribe [NOTE FROM AL: I would never use this word about myself, nor claim to be doing anything other than encouraging people to watch the sunrise from a hilltop and swim in a river], I thought it may be of interest to you, and your audience. For when I first read Thunder & Sunshine and Moods of Future Joys, I was slipping down that slope and your inspiration gave me a push, and off I went. For that, I owe you a thank you.”
If ever there was an email that made the painful process of sitting down and writing books worthwhile, this is it. I wish you all the best, Joe.
Joe finished his email to me with what he described as his ‘call to arms’:
I wish I’d danced more
Saved less, spent more.
Gone more places
Done more, thought less
Eaten more, loved more
Worked less, read more
Been less introspective
Had less inhibitions
Been less like me and more like those I admire & look up to. I wish…
I’d sang in the shower.
I’d cycled further, & faster.
I’d stood on more hills and slept outside more.
Wish I held fewer regrets. That I’d been more honest to both myself and others.
That I’d socialised more
Been more adventurous, more relaxed
I’ve had fun. But MORE would have been better.
I wish, I hope . . . that’s all I did.
Inactivity, passive when I should have been active.
Hindsight is such a terrible thing; the cruellest mistress.
Do! Go! Go and do! Oh. Oh no…