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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Fake it ’til ya Make it

ImageI swear to you I don’t know how to do at least half of what I do. No, I’m not kidding. Seriously I fake most everything (not THAT!!!) I am a tryer. I am a googler.   I, as a mother, am a mother of invention. That translates to all those awesome sayings like Fake it ’til ya make it, grind it ’til ya find it and so on.

I remember being a new Mom; it was my daughter’s 2nd birthday and my first ever cupcake effort. I had no IDEA how much batter to put in the cupcake tin… fill it up? Fill it halfway? I didn’t live anywhere near my family so I did what fakers everywhere do…I called in reinforcements. Actually, I called my friend; a much more experienced mother of 3 kids under 5. She set me straight.

That’s pretty much how I’ve rolled ever since.  Sew cloth diapers? Sure… I can do that. Shaped, formed, with snaps to adjust the sizes and velcro tabs and an absorbent liner? Sure… no problem.  Cater for my husband’s office party? No worries; I got this. Write a press release… BAM. They don’t call it ACTING like an adult for nothing you know!

Now you’ve gotta have balls to barrel through life like this and I guess I’ve grown a pair… yeah, I googled that for instructions.  I’m not saying I don’t do what I do WELL, ’cause I do. I’m good at a lot of things. I didn’t START good at them mind you, and nobody taught me how to do most of them. It turns out a little chutzpah, a bit of confidence and some kick-ass research skills are pretty good in a pinch.

My Gramma was a powerhouse; did it all. I’ve kind of channeled her as I’ve grown into myself. She, like me, had to find her own way, far from her own support network and family. And she was a tough cookie; not fearless, but brave. I am trying (success or lack of will be determined in a few decades) to impart that same adaptability to my kids. It’s what makes you bounce… makes you resilient. 

My favourite quote from Pablo Picasso is “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”.  That’s a pretty empowering way of approaching life, I think. It’s been my mantra since my first move away from home. I think I’ll have it tattooed on something. As soon as I learn how to do that…

 

Life is short, and all that.

ImageSo what’s it going to be for you? The thing you will most regret, lying on your deathbed, breathing your last? Will it be the trips you didn’t take, the book you didn’t write? Maybe the bucket list items that never got checked off?

Not me. No, I’ll have lots of trips not taken, books not written and all that, but that’s probably not what I’m going to regret. At least it’s not what I fear I’ll regret. I’m afraid I’m going to regret not living enough. Not loving enough, not laughing enough, not making the most out of the friendships and relationships that matter to me. Not having enough sex, not getting my hands and feet dirty often enough, worrying too much, staying too closed and careful.

Life is not the good china. It can’t be saved for when company comes. It’s gotta be used… used up. This is a lesson I need to teach myself every day. You’d think, by age 46 that I’d have clued in to that by now.

I’ve gotta shift the crap around, the crap that keeps me from doing the things I love, the things I want to love, the things I fear. I have to find a way to be fearless in the way I used to be, or fearless in a way I want to be. Maybe not even fearless at all, but brave enough to just take a deep breath, plug my nose and jump into the deep end of living.

So that, my friends, is my Valentines wish. I want to really live. Live big, loud, ugly, funny, beautiful and awkward. Trip, dance, fall, get dirty, embarrass myself, try again, Look foolish, say the wrong thing (at least I said something), make a new friend, mend a lost friendship, find my centre, get lost, get dizzy. Be real. And have more sex 😉

Cheers…

Of COURSE you’re my favourite child!

I love all three of my children equally, all the same, completely alike, except totally different. And sometimes it feels more like frothing rage or teeming frustration but really, it’s love… great big shiny gulps of love taken in deep breaths or short gasps.

It ain’t always a picnic, as we all know, but damn, it can be fun.  I can’t get over how every phase for each kid is still totally newImage to me. I remember that from when they were little; when our second was born, we thought we knew what it meant to raise a child…we were pros. HA!! They keep teaching you, again and again, that you don’t know much after all.

And I keep learning. My eldest is off on a date…that’s kind of cool once I stop obsessing.  I can’t ask for the guy’s vital stats now that she’s 19, and technically an adult. My son is… well, I can’t give you a certain answer on that since he was gone when I got home from the movie but hey, he’s 17. He’ll be back soon as he can’t cook and has no money. Youngest gal, home on her own when I returned had cleaned the kitchen. Yes. That’s what I said… cleaned the kitchen. Did I ask her? Nope. Was there any form of bribery? Nope. She wanted to be nice… aaaaaaaahh. That was a great big shiny gulp, right there.

How cool is that?  Today was her turn to inspire that little glow of parental satisfaction. Maybe tomorrow she’ll be the one making me tear my hair while her brother makes me laugh like a fool and act like a dorky kid… he’s good at that. And big sister makes me shine from the inside when she talks about her plans for school next fall… where she’ll live and what she’ll do.

I can look any one of them in the eye on any given day and truthfully, in that moment, declare them my favourite. And they CAN all be my favourite, in their own way. My eldest is my perfect, cherirshed first born. My son is the best boy I could ever imagine having, and my youngest is my favourite youngest, the darling baby of the family.

And I know I am the best mother in the world… no really…that’s what the Mother’s Day cards all say, so I know they must mean it, right? I’m their favourite Mom, and that’s pretty great.

On Being Grown-up, Real Life and Happy Endings

ImageI was having a drink tonight with a friend, a fairly new friend who is deep in the trench I was in 10 years or so ago. She’s got little ones… 3 and 6 years old. Her life is all about breakfast, school, pre-school, laundry, shopping, her work, play time, sibling rivalry, toys, and bedtime. Her focus has gone so far away from her own needs that she can hardly remember what they are.  And she works from home.

That’s such an intense time, when kids are small and needing you so desperately. Never a moment to do much for yourself.

What I didn’t expect was how long the intensity would last. Mine are B.I.G. and I still feel consumed by their needs so often.  I work in my office from 8:30 ’til 5 every day, then come home for the second shift; the shift of preparing dinner, cleaning up, taking people here and there, soccer practice, drop off at so and so’s house, shopping, laundry, etc.etc.  That’s not unique, I know… Moms everywhere do the same thing every single day. We know it’s part of the deal.

What surprises me is how it surprises me, even after all this time. I’m still looking around for the grown up when life gets crazy or tough or scary…it’s still a shock when I realize it’s ME!

My friend and I were talking about all the things women friends talk about: kids, work, money, marriage, sex, life, health, time, stress, worry. Both of us have had lots of crazy things happen over the last few years; deaths, financial pressures, moves, transitions, illnesses, job changes, etc. etc.  Both of us have had what you could call a “difficult year”. The truth is, I don’t know anyone who HASN’T had a “difficult year”.  Every year has so much stuff in it, so much good we forget and bad that we remember, that we seem to mostly remember the bad (I am choosing to believe that so I don’t believe that the last few years have been solid bad stuff).

Suddenly it hit me that… crap… maybe it hasn’t just been a rough few years… maybe this is actually REAL LIFE! Maybe it’s just the way  it is…always.

I’m not saying every day is dreadful, only that every few months seems to bring another tremor of some kind, minor or right off the Richter scale. Sometimes there’s a chance to recover from one quake before the next hits, but sometimes the tremors just keep on coming ’til your knees are weak and your head’s spinning.

I think I’m going to stick with my first theory; it’s been a pretty rough few years. That way, I know there’s sure to be a bit of a break in the storm really soon. Maybe that’s my Hollywood movie upbringing….rainbows, silver linings and happy endings. Maybe it’s my innate optimism. Maybe it’s desperation…

But all this “stuff”… all these “challenges” that make me strong, make my family resilient & build my character?  They’re starting to piss me off.

So reality, take a hike…I’m going to Mexico. And you’re not invited.

Watching her sleep.

My daughter, at 15 years old, has had 17 surgeries. That’s as of this morning….it surely won’t be the final tally. She is a beautiful and talented actress, a killer soccer player and an awesome volleyball player. She also has the shittiest luck medically. I won’t catalog her issues, but just know that she is ALWAYS the one in a million….the worst case scenario.

So I am watching her sleep off the anaesthetic now, face cold and pale. I realize we could be facing the impossible possibility of spending Christmas in hospital for the second year in a row. I wonder why karma has it in for my beautiful beautiful girl. I wonder if and where I will find the courage to tell her the truth about her medical future. I wonder, again and again if, somewhere along the way there was something I missed, something I could have done differently, something that would change where she is now.

When she wakes up I will have to find a path toward the truth, but for now I will watch her sleep and kiss her forehead as many times as I feel like it.