A life threatening illness can have you reassessing your life and the choices you made, just like in award-winning director Gus Van Sant’s film Restless. It follows Annabel Cotton, a beautiful and charming terminal cancer patient with a deep felt love of life and the natural world. Enoch Brae is a young man who has dropped out of the business of living, after an accident claimed the life of his parents. When these two outsiders chance to meet at a funeral, they find an unexpected common ground in their unique experiences of the world.
Life coach Hilbre Johnson of Transform Life Coaching recently lost a close friend to cancer and knows how something as devastating and confronting as that can have you rethinking your own life.
‘When someone dies you realise just how fragile life really is,’ she says. ‘There isn’t time or energy to waste on negative thoughts or destructive patterns of behaviour. It is about waking up every morning and being grateful for the gift of that day and making a conscious effort to live it to the full.
‘My friend battled colon cancer for three and a half years, always believing it was life shortening, not life threatening. His main goal was to see his children finish school – he never even got to see his youngest start school. He was brave and had a positive attitude right until the end, despite being in such debilitative pain
‘I remember so clearly him telling me that he felt like one of the lucky ones as he now sees beauty in everything around him, and he doesn’t rush anymore. He makes an occasion out of even the simplest of things like having a cup of tea. The biggest effect his death has had on me is that I hug my husband that much tighter now never knowing quite how long I have him for. My friend was only married for 10 years and he thought it would be forever – which it was for him but not for her… Nothing in life is forever and nothing in life is guaranteed. All we know is what stands before us right now and it is up to us to make the most of it.
There is a lot you can learn from someone who face death without the heart wrenching emotions of having to go through it yourself, we can learn from their outlook and what they choose to see and discover in life.
‘This doesn’t mean everyday will be without its frustrations and let-downs but it does mean that we approach everything we see and do with gratitude and the attitude that we are lucky,’ Hilbre says. ‘And no matter what life throws at us there is a lesson in there for us to grow stronger and wiser. I believe that when we reach our final day it is about saying “I lived without regret and I am at peace now”.
Here Hilbre gives us her top tips for living without regret:
1. Be proactive. Go after life, don’t wait for it to come and find you – it never will.
2. Start and finish each day by saying ‘thank you’. Many people didn’t make it through your day – life is a precious gift.
3. Show compassion. Kindness is free and it makes the world a better place. Always do for others as you would like them to do for you.
4. Set your intention for the day and know what you want to get out of it. If you don’t have any idea of where you are going, how can you get there?
5. Keep active and eat healthily. A flexible and strong body is a young body.
6. Keep learning. A stimulated mind is a young mind.
7. Challenge yourself. Always keep moving out of your comfort zone – it is the only way we grow.
8. Practice mindfulness. It makes each moment a far richer experience when your senses are fully alert.
9. Forget worrying about the future, just plan for it so you can enjoy it when you get there
10. Make time for those you care about.
11. Always tell those you love how you feel about them. You never want to say ‘if only I had told them…’
12. Make an occasion out of even the smallest and most simple things.
13. It really doesn’t matter what others think. We only realise this as we get older having wasted so much energy on trying to impress them. Who cares!
14. Slow down. We all rush along blindly heading where ever it is we are going and miss all the scenery along the way. Life isn’t just about getting to your destination, it is also about enjoying the journey.
15. Spend more time with nature - we can learn so much by quietly observing how perfectly she goes about her daily activities.
16. When it comes down to it, life is all about the simple things.
17. Make conscious changes, if you don’t life has a way of making them for you and they won’t always be what you want.
18. Find your life purpose.
19. Love unconditionally
20. Travel more. See more.
21. Life is short and you want to say at the end of it - I lived and loved like there were no tomorrows…
DVD of Restless, starring Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland) and newcomer Henry Hopper (Dennis Hopper’s son), is out now.