1970’s pop star David Cassidy (far right in the picture above) died on November 21st at the age of 67. He’d experienced great fame at a young age as a pop star. He continued to perform throughout his adulthood while navigating the challenges of drug addiction. Earlier this year, he announced he had been battling dementia. A couple of days after his passing, his daughter Katie shared his chilling last words: “So much wasted time.”
So much wasted time.
There are lots of ways to waste time. My list of time-wasters includes media consumption: too much TV (a byproduct of having a chronic illness and living in a northern climate) and the wormhole of open-ended internet browsing. But I suspect Cassidy wasn’t talking primarily about wasting time binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. There are much bigger ways to waste our lives such as unforgiveness, self-pity, social climbing, pursuit of wealth, or ignoring God.
Regret researchers from the University of Illinois–Champaign and Northwestern University queried 370 adults about their most memorable regrets. Almost 20 percent of respondents reported they had a regret about a romantic relationship. 16 percent shared stories of family issues and an additional 9 percent cited specific parenting mistakes. Other categories of regret included education, vocation, financial decisions and health choices. A recent LifeWay study found that nearly half of those polled said they were currently dealing with the consequences of an earlier bad decision.
File every single one of those under “Wasted Time”.
Cassidy’s final words are a wake-up call for those of us at midlife. One of the emotional markers of this life stage comes as we are confronted with our own mortality. We are time-bound creatures, and as we move out of the sunshine of our summer years, the lengthening shadows of autumn give us a new perspective on where our lives are heading. When you’re 18, time stretches before you like a two-lane road on an endless Oklahoma plain under a vault of limitless blue sky. At 45, that road becomes a steep, unpaved climb around a series of blind curves, and there is no possibility of making a U-turn so you can hit the “do over” button and begin your journey again. There are no do-overs.
But as I wrote in my book If Only: Letting Go Of Regret, the longing for a do-over can be the raw ingredient that can invite God into those regrets in order to redeem them. He wastes nothing. Not a single drop.
The losses and reversals of midlife are meant to bring those time-wasters into focus. For example, I was driven in some unhealthy ways during the first half of my life by living for the approval of others, twisting myself into a false image of myself in order to gain acceptance from others. (To be honest, I was never very good at this, but I still tried like an overgrown middle-schooler in a few key relationships in my life!) Midlife has meant wriggling free of those shackles – shackles I was never meant to wear in the first place. It takes a lot of energy to be someone I’m not, and that energy expenditure was an epic time-waster during the first half of my life.
I circle back often to this prayer attributed to Moses: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) Perhaps the David Cassidy paraphrase of this verse might be “Lord, reveal to me how I’m wasting the time you’ve given me, so the words I hear in the moment after I draw my final breath are, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”
What are your thoughts about David Cassidy’s final words? What would you most wish to say to the world as you draw your final breath?
If you are looking for a companion to help you process your regrets, If Only: Letting Go of Regret has been a help to many. Your click of the handy Amazon link below benefits this website.