The Sweet Pursuit
Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive

How to Live without Regrets

No Regrets artIf you died today, what would be your paramount regret? Would you lament the fact that you never got the front porch painted; that you didn’t try that hot new restaurant; that there was one more project at work you wanted to wrap up?

Palliative caretaker Bronnie Ware spent years attending to hospice patients during the final weeks of their lives. In those achingly heavy days, she heard first-hand their regrets over missed opportunities, botched relationships, and squandered joys. Realizing what these end-of-life wishes could teach the rest of us, Ware collected the top five regrets of the dying for her blog Inspiration and Chai and republished them online with the AARP. The affecting list follows: 

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.  

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.  

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.  

It’s easy to inch dangerously close to these common regrets in our own lives. Workaholic family members should know that every one of Ware’s male patients regretted putting their job above their children and partners. Skip the late-night conference call! Too-busy young parents should beware of letting golden friendships grow cold. (“Everyone misses their friends when they are dying,” Ware says.) Have a drink with an old pal! And all of us should remember the most common regret: not being true to oneself. Unleash all those beautiful quirks and aspirations!

The U.S. edition of Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing will be released this month. Gratefully, she hints it has a happy ending, noting that each of the people she cared for came to terms with their regrets and even made major life changes to remedy them.

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality,” she writes. “I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal.” It’s not too soon for the rest of us to make changes, either—good health or not. Don’t wait.

Source: AARP 

Image by April Johnson, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.


Kombucha: A Microbrew for What Ails You

Kombucha on iceThere’s something new on tap, though it’s been around for two thousand years. Kombucha, a fizzy, fermented tea drink purported to have healing properties, is steadily rising in mainstream popularity, finding success with commercial kombucha brewers, home brewers, and bartenders alike.

Made by fermenting tea and sugar with a culture of bacteria and yeast, kombucha is effervescent and potent, its deep, almost musty flavor lightened by a rush of friendly little bubbles. First-time drinkers soon become kombucha groupies.

Once associated with only the dippiest of hippies, kombucha and other fermented foods have earned the respect of the health-conscious community. Kombucha is thought to detoxify the body, improving digestive and immune systems, and Psychology Today reported that fermented foods may even be the next Prozac, easing stress and depression.

Although such positive claims lack solid scientific proof, kombucha devotees stand behind it as a miracle cure. Jeff Weaber, founder of Vermont kombucha brewery Aqua Vitea with his wife, Katina Martin (a naturopathic physician), shared this anecdote in an email: “During an in-store demo, a person returned after 15 minuets of trying our ginger kombucha for the first time to report that a stomachache she had been dealing with for three days was now gone.”

Aqua Vitea is spreading the kombucha love. The brewery bottles single-serving containers, “but more of it travels in the kegs to stores, where it’s sold fresh on tap—a niche Aqua Vitea pioneered,” writes Sylvia Fagin in Vermont’s Local Banquet. “Empty bottles and growlers are sold near the taps for customers to fill and refill, saving money and resources.”

Other kombucha microbreweries around the country are thriving, as well. In addition to its tasty finished product, craft brewer Kombucha Brooklyn sells 100-200 kombucha homebrew kits a month and curates an online Brewers Forum where devotees can swap stories and recipes. “One of our main goals for having the forum was to connect ’buch brewers and to have them share their successes and failures,” says founder Eric Childs.

Now kombucha is hitting the bar scene. Sumathi Reddy, reporting for the Wall Street Journal, sees alcoholic kombucha drinks gaining trend status in the New York metro area. Get a jasmine margarita made with kombucha at Taproom No. 307 in Manhattan, a “beer bucha” (50 percent kombucha, 50 percent light beer) at Urban Rustic in Brooklyn, or try a new high-alcohol version of kombucha called “Mava Roka” at Queens Kickshaw in Astoria.

Beware of too much of a good thing, though (even if it’s nonalcoholic), or you'll risk stomach pain, headaches, or other symptoms as your body adjusts to the detoxification process. Weaber warns, “After making kombucha for eight years, I started getting the sense that it’s powerful stuff, and you should probably be drinking only about four ounces of kombucha a day. But, being gluttonous Americans, everybody’s drinking 16–32 ounces of kombucha a day.” In other words, get out the shot glass, not the pint.

Sources: Psychology Today, Vermont’s Local Banquet, Wall Street Journal 

Image by Eric Bryan, licensed under Creative Commons. 

Margret Aldrich is an associate editor at Utne Reader. Follow her on Twitter at @mmaldrich.