“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” *
I have more than a few and I’ve probably mentioned some of them ad nauseum. I’m not entirely sure, however, that regrets in and of themselves are negative.
I’ve been thinking about regrets of late. The nice thing about pandemics is they give you time to think.
My daughter and grandson live with me, along with my twenty-year-old son. Watching them struggle as young adults brings up memories. There’s much I wish I’d done differently in my youth.
I try sharing what I learned with my children. Unfortunately, my offspring remain uninterested in my hard-won wisdom. Then again, I didn’t listen to my mother either. Perhaps we’re generationally inclined to ignore parental advice. One wonders that we advance as a species at all.
I regret choosing anything over spending time with my kids. I regret doing the dishes first. I regret folding the laundry. I regret not putting the book down and going outside to play.
I regret not playing hooky with them more. I regret not teaching them there’s more to life than work and school.
I regret not letting them help even though doing so meant everything took three times as long.
I regret not savouring every single kiss, hug, and sweet comment.
I regret the times I got angry and impatient. Most of it was unimportant.
I regret not cultivating a habit of daily walks.
I regret not having a more organized system for paperwork. I’m a demon now but in my twenties, it was a bit chaotic. I should’ve listened to dad.
I regret that I didn’t understand keeping oil in the engine was important.
I regret failing to save ten percent from each pay-cheque.
I regret procrastination.
I wish I’d listened to advice more. I wish I hadn’t been so defensive.
Still, one can’t change the past. I have pretty good kids even if they refuse to listen. I wasn’t a perfect parent, but I did okay.
These are soft regrets. They’re relatively benign, like soft, semi-sad memories. Unfortunately, I have other types of regrets.
I have sharp regrets, hard ones. These are less pleasant. The regrets burn the soul. They make you question the kind of person you think you are.
I don’t necessarily think having them is a bad thing. Some things you should regret. Feeling bad about your behaviour is not a de facto negative.
One tries, of course, to be a good person. But there were times I fell well short of the goal. Times when I crossed the line. Times when I was cruel, vindictive, and not even close to my best self.
I don’t want to beat myself up over being less than stellar. What’s done is done, after all. The past is fixed and not in my control. But remembering times with regret and using those regrets to inform the way I act in the present and the future, I think that’s okay.
Not every less than pleasant emotion is bad. We don’t need to give ourselves constant and uncritical props. We need honesty. We need to know when we’ve screwed up. Regrets prevent us from doing the same again.
It’s how we grow.
Do you have regrets you value, regrets you believe help you in some way?
*Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra