Those of you who have been with me for a long time know that I have coined a term to describe myself when it comes to nostalgia and mementos and such things. I often say that I am sort of Sentimentally Autistic; I didn't save the boys' baby clothes, let alone their umbilical cord stumps like some Earth Mothers do now. I've tossed 99% of their school stuff, their projects, and the cards they made me. Almost all of the photos I own of my children have been taken by someone else.
I'm not coldhearted; honest, I'm not. My attachment is not often to Things. I don't dwell on the Past. I don't often go backward--don't visit my alma maters, don't return to former places to see what they look like now, don't care to reach out and find anyone from high school or college just to make that connection again. It's just not a priority for me. I move on, always forward. It's not a conscious decision I've made; it's simply the way I seem to live.
All of that made this question especially thought provoking for me:
Can you, along with Edith Piaf, say "Je ne regrette rien"?
No. I regret things every single day! I regret that I sat with my coffee and computer, slothing around in my chair, for far too long in the morning. I regret the menopausal pounds that I passively allowed to pillow my belly when, if I had simply maintained a dreadmill regimen, I wouldn't feel so awful. I regret that I keep forgetting my coupons when I go to the grocery store. I regret that I didn't even try to keep my promise to my Grandma that I would go back to church.
Come on. I'm human, I'm a woman, I'm a mother, and I was a Catholic. My life is steeped in regret. For me, however, the issue is not whether or not I have regrets. The important thing is how to manage and react to the regrets that I feel. For me, Regret and Guilt are twin sisters, bratty toddlers that play off of each other, whose sole joy in life is to torment their victim until he or she doesn't know whether to kick down a door or dissolve into tears.
All the small Regrets can be passed off with a sigh and/or an acknowledgment that tomorrow is another day and another chance to do better. I've finally decided that I deserve to let a lot of stuff go. Oddly, the world continues to go on. Babies are born, forests burn, lightning breaks across the sky, and raindrops glisten on the tips of willow leaves. Somehow.
My one Big Regret--now crystalline, thanks to the benefit of hindsight--is a missed opportunity. About twenty years ago, we were visiting friends in Maryland. I was already sick of Ohio mightily, and we had talked about relocating to southern Maryland near our friends. Rick went on a job interview while we were there. Completely unexpectedly, they called back and offered him a position. We were completely unprepared, and now that our Someday Plan was Today's Reality, I found that I was terrified. The logistics of the whole thing intimidated me, and I found I couldn't even think straight. I was no help at all. Rick turned it down, saying the timing wasn't right.
I look back now and see so clearly that I blew it. That was our chance, and I blew it. Twenty years later, and here we are, still stuck. Has it been terrible for twenty years? Oh, by no means. Not at all. But it would have been better, I think, someplace else. I think we may have had more opportunities for the boys, too. But it's done and gone and that's the end of it. Honestly, I only think of it occasionally, and then sort of shrug my shoulders and sigh. What else can I do?
Life is full of regrets. How can anyone say honestly that he or she has never wished to have done something else, or done something differently? Your true strength shows when you face that regret and acknowledge it without letting it hold sway over your life.
As always, I'm eager to hear your discussion in comments. Please join the fray.
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