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Choosing what to care about

I recently saw a heartbreaking video on TikTok.

It was a little boy of about 3 or 4 years of age, lying in a hospital bed with tubes in his nose. His father was beside him, and he was talking to the camera which must have been held by this mother.

The video was titled, “Boy’s final words to his family”.

The boy clearly didn’t realise he was about to die soon. He was talking about hoping he gets better and more healthy after whatever the procedure was going to be. Obviously, whatever was about to happen was going to be his last experience.

But there was something sadly wise about his demeanor and some of the things he said. He was clearly scared in some deep fundamental way, as if at some level he knew what was really going on.

He told his mummy and daddy that he loved them. He thanked them for always taking care of him and bringing him to the hospital. He asked to pray and they did that one with the old “Lay me down to sleep” bit that I’m pretty sure is only used for dying people.

The video made me cry. And I’m not much of a crier generally.

I cried because I imagined myself sitting next to my 2 year old angel, my little girl Chloe, knowing that she wasn’t going to wake up and yet being forced to try ease her passing. I imagined knowing that I’d be forever in grief from that moment on, and that I’d never fully heal. I’d be wounded in such a way that would always bleed.

It makes me stressing out over Chloe resisting brushing her teeth in the morning seem a bit petty and weak.

How many times have you been stressed out or angry at a loved one, like your own child, because they were somehow an inconvenience interruping you from doing something else?

What was that something else? Was it more important than interacting with a loved one? Was it something that really matters more to you than they do?

I’ve seen parents shout at their kids or growl at their partner because they were interrupting a phone. I can’t imagine who’s on the other end of that phone that could be more important than their own family. The president?God himself maybe? It seems more sensible to be angry at the phone call for interrupting family time.

Bronnie Ware’s research as a palliative care nurse shows that the top regrets of the dying include neglecting their loved ones, working too hard, and not speaking the truth more often.

Think of all the little things you get stressed about. Think of how instantaneously you would completely stop caring about such things if something big and meaningful was made clear to you, like you got diagnosed with cancer, or your best friend died, or your partner wanted a surprise divorce.

We spend so much time stressing out about stuff that simply does not matter. We neglect our loved ones and our health and our integrity for what, exactly?

For bullshit.

For things we’ll regret later. For things that in the long run have absolutely zero net impact on our quality of life.

Things like getting back to someone’s email in a timely fashion. Things like the house being cleaned before your mother in law visits. Things like getting the lawn cut on time before the rain comes. Things like finding a parking space close to Tesco’s.

We will yell at our kids and skip our workout and ruminate darkly for hours over these things, and yet they’re are meaningless and of no real value. Our desires for such things are only driven by the superficial need for instant gratification, and by our insecurities and childhood traumas and social conditioning.

We don’t do these things from a place of confident decision-making that’s firmly founded in a set of core values and principles that ensure we’re living with integrity. No, in fact we sacrifice our confidence and integrity to serve these smaller petty things.

When’s the last time you got stressed about something but then stopped yourself and asked why? You tell yourself a story about how much it matters that your kid gets to school on time, but does it really matter in the big scheme of things?

I can’t remember times where I was early or late to school. In fact, my career has had little to do with my school experience. I could have skipped school altogether and probably turned out ok, and the same probably applies for you and your kids.

An 80 year Harvard study on happiness showed without question that the key to a good life is loving connections and relationships. When you look at what you stress out about, does this align with such research? No.

Instead, you care about what strangers and associates think of you. You care about doing things perfectly. You care about constantly making more money.

And in the end, you’ll see that none of these things matter nearly as much as the things you neglect, like your loved ones, your health, and your integrity.

Get your priorities right now, or find out that you got them wrong when it’s already too late.

It’s your choice.

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