This is not a life without regret.

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Today I heard a writer being interviewed on the radio. He said that what makes his life perfect is his little family, that sharing stories around the dinner table are the moments of perfection in his life, of pure happiness. He also said he has no regrets. He listed all the things that could have been regrets for him had he not anticipated and corrected them before they had the chance to become tiny stones in his shoe to worry him forever. I googled “no regrets” and there are so many famous quotes, so many people who claim to have lived a life without regret. Imagine that.

I think that’s an interesting idea, living a life without regret. I understand the sentiment, or  at least the desire. Who wouldn’t want a life where nothing from the past ever popped up holding a question mark aloft like a birthday balloon?  No regrets. It’s a great anthemic sort of sentiment… a tune I could hum or a chorus I could holler with a crowd at a concert, but how real can it possibly be? In a life lived fully and imperfectly how can anyone truly get from one end of living to the other end without any collateral damage, with nothing you wish you could take back or do over?

If I run at life with my eyes and arms wide open, full of any sort of passion inside of me, how can I hope to regret nothing? I will hurt people, say things I wish I hadn’t, make decisions that were absolutely wrong when they seemed absolutely right. There will certainly be, at the end of my life, a long list of atonements I must make before any pearly gates will open.  So what does “no regrets” mean, besides being a really cool tattoo?

Does living without regret mean doing whatever you want and not taking responsibility? Does it mean filing for moral bankruptcy and walking away from debts of the heart or spirit? Is it a kind of YOLO for the enlightened ? I genuinely don’t understand it. Is it about self forgiveness, maybe? About acknowledging past errors or lapses and setting them down? I don’t know how to do that either. I have a nicely packed little basket full of “what I did, what I said, what I should have said, what I shouldn’t have imagined, what I should never have tried, who I should have been kinder to” and there’s no convenient place to put it down.  It isn’t the kind of load someone else can carry for a spell, and let me off the hook either. And yes, I’ve had it suggested to me by the no-regret campers, that “should” is a word best left along with the basket of regrets.

Perhaps the people who have no regrets have lived kinder lives than I have, or maybe they have managed to make peace already with the sins of their past selves. I have a soul unwilling to let go of those sins and in a way I am glad. I don’t dwell, I don’t mope or spend nights staring at the ceiling feeling dreadful, but I do carry that little basket. It’s a reminder to me of who I have been and who I wish to be. A reminder of where I have gone and where I hope not to go again.

I think we need to feel regret. I think regret informs our decisions, informs who we become and how we behave. It’s a guide through the dark and rocky patches, where the easy path seems so tempting. Regret is the burn that reminds you the stove is hot.

At the end of it all, I won’t be able to say I have nothing to regret and that’s okay with me. Instead I’ll keep working to make sure I have nothing NEW to regret… that’s all I think I can honestly hope to achieve.

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Same me. New calendar.

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And so the inward looking begins…or continues… in search of meaningful & achievable resolutions. Pointless to say I will exercise more and eat less, folly to suggest I can change much about how I process my external world. I’d be lying to myself if I vowed to drink less red wine and avoid chocolate and cussing.

I need smaller resolutions, tiny resolutions that will be little stones in a giant pond. I need to find tiny ways to alter how I give myself to the world, to my family, to those I love. I need little itty bitty meditative alterations that will smooth the painful bristles of my coat, that will make me more huggable and less of a systemic shock to those whose well being matters most.

I want to be gentle. I want to be kinder. I want to be more loving, more giving, more forgiving, more forgivable. I want to be soft. I want to be feather soft. I wish to be a balm, a soothing salve rather than a burn, a wound, an abrasion.

I don’t know where these new ways of being live. I don’t know where to find them. I want to.

I want to.

It’s a new year. This year there is no hollering, no kicking of cans. This year there is only quiet retreat, a catch in the throat, a throb behind my left eye. I wish things I can’t give, I’ve given things I can’t reclaim.

It’s almost a new year. It’s almost a new…

No, it’s the same me on a new calendar page unless I can find a new path.

And the stone is about to fall, and the pond is about to ripple.

So happy new year.

 

Hello Again, Hospital

Bedside again, watching her sleep and waiting for the doctor. Post operative complications have overshadowed our Christmas, though we were home for Christmas this year.
I fix her pillow, adjust the bed, fetch a blanket, fuss at her and generally drive her mad. As much as she loves me and relies on me, she is still a 15 year old girl and I am still mom.
It’s a kind of prayer, this fussing… a kind of promise keeping. I can’t fight the infection she is battling, can’t take the pain away or make her stronger. I can brush her hair back from her eyes, I can bring her water and do those small things anxious mothers do. It might irritate her as much as it helps her but I can’t help myself. She is my job. Whatever else I am in the world outside this curtain, in here she is my only work.
And she gets it. She understands and is so patient with my fluttering, my over helping. She thanks me, lets me adjust and smiles at me, almost always. And she lets me kiss her forehead as often as I need to.