Living Through Regrets
Regret. Let me count the ways. Pick your platitude that sums up your feelings about regret. Typically is goes something like this; “No regrets.”, “Never regret.”, “Live your life without regret.”, etc., etc., etc.. I used to subscribe to this ideology. And, then, somewhere along the way, on the corner of turning 33 and heading for my second mid-life crisis, I realized that I do have regrets. At first, I kept them a secret. I professed to anyone who would listen that I had no regrets. That these decisions which in hindsight looked like I had taken a wrong turn in life and was careening off the cliff were really wonderful life lessons. These “experiences” made me who am I am today. And, then I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. Nope. These were grade A, 100% authentic mistakes. No more rationalizing or reframing. Well, the first thing I noticed is that it felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I literally had a visceral reaction which at best I can describe felt like shame. Shame defined as; “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Honestly, that definition didn’t even begin to capture the level of pain or humiliation or distress I was feeling. When I decided to embrace my regrets, claim my regrets and face my regrets, the pain was suffocating. That’s the word that should be in the Webster’s Dictionary under shame: “to feel like one is suffocating”. I even remember thinking “regretting regretting”. I take it back! I have no regrets! Anything to get rid of this suffocating feeling of shame.
That was then. This is now. I am now fully aware that the older I become the more regrets I accumulate. Regrets come with age, like gray hair and wrinkles. At 47, I have collected quite a few. And, I am sure to gather a few more along the way for as long as I walk this earth. I no longer feel as much shame when I think of my regrets. I can’t lie, it still hurts and I still feel like someone has punched me in the stomach: can’t breath, a little nauseous.
What’s different now is that I face these decisions that I wish I would have made differently. I don’t wallow in the regret. I sit in the discomfort. Ok, I sit in the pain long enough to gain some understanding of myself. I ask, “What motivated me?, What was I hoping for?” Or, “What was I avoiding?, What didn’t I want to feel?” From this I hope that I don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times. Notice I didn’t say twice. Of course I repeated my mistakes more than twice. Don’t we all?
Lastly, I forgive myself. This, most importantly, allows me to live with my regrets. It also allows me to keep living life fully, once I’ve caught my breath again. So, instead of proudly claiming, “No Regrets!”, I have chosen to live my life through my regrets. Now I find it’s almost easier to look at my regrets head on then embracing my gray hair and wrinkles.