‘With all this time to reflect, I wonder if I could have done better’

Mar 28, 2019
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'With all this time to reflect, I wonder if I could have done better', says Robyn. Source: Getty Images

How do you define an older life? I am now 69 about to turn 70 this year and I have been looking back at all the amazing, heartwarming, bad timing and retrospective things that have happened to me over the years. Now I have all the time in the world to reflect I am having some doubts as to decisions I made years ago. These decisions were made (often on the spur of the moment) without too much thought of any consequences and I am saddened that my life has probably gone downhill in many ways, most of which I could not have imagined.

First, my health. I wonder why I did not take better care of myself. I now have a number of significant health issues that are not going to go away and need constant monitoring, such as my Type 2 diabetes (diagnosed when I was 48). It was in the family my mother had it and so did my brother, but I never thought it would affect me too. I ate badly and drank far too much, plus I smoked like a train and generally gave no thought whatsoever to the consequences on my body.

This is one of my first regrets. I am on a specific diet now to try and keep my sugar levels under control and it’s a nightmare and this is for the rest of my life!

I’ve had many and varied cancers as well as a plethora of operations for so many different things I feel like I’ve been cut, prodded and generally used as a test subject in this area. For years my body has been used by surgeons and doctors as a template of ‘what not to do’. They are all very happy with their results, but I feel a tad worthless with my general health.

How I would adore to wake up and not be sick again — it’s a constant nightmare of testing and seeing my GP (so often we have become close friends) and this is scary. Thank the Lord my doctor is kind and gentle, and someone who treats me with great respect in his endeavours to make my health and life generally the best it can be. It’s like an actual job to keep me going and it’s a constant worry.

My biggest regret is not staying home with my children when they were little. I was a workaholic and had amazing jobs, which when I look back was extremely self-centred of me.bMy daughter went to nursery school at age one and my son went into Nanny Margaret’s at 3 months old. These decisions have bugged me for years. My daughter is about to turn 42 and my son just turned 34 — hell of a long time to feel guilty isn’t it? It also doesn’t help that neither child sees me at all; we are estranged and I haven’t seen either of them for more than a decade.

Marrying a man I had only known for six weeks is another decision that bugs me. He was a nice enough ‘bloke’ but I didn’t appreciate that a decent courtship may have lead me down a different path. This is one of my impulsive choices and looking back I smirk about how it all went. We lasted 18 years so I suppose that is a testament to my commitment to the marriage, but on reflection things may have been quite different I had not been so foolish.

I bought and sold a lot houses in the 18 years I was married. We started out in the worst house in the best street and ended up in the best house in the best street. I worked tirelessly painting, wallpapering and generally threw myself into renovating wherever we lived. My poor husband had no show of becoming involved I did this all on my own (impulse control required again but not used). I was totally manic and saw everything as a challenge. I was also working full-time. I can lay bricks and pour concrete, I can fix spouting and just about anything else, but won’t touch electrical and plumbing. It’s coincidental now I live in a government-owned townhouse with no money other than my pension.

What I do not regret is all the love and support I gave and received from many different people over the years and I consider myself lucky to have survived all my health issues and still be here. My life journey has had many ups and downs, but I survived. I am grateful for every day I have on this earth. Each morning when I wake I say ‘thanks’ for still being here; another day to tackle.

Have you reflected on your life like this? Do you have any regrets?

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