Living with Regret

charred tree trunks following a forest fire

Have you been implementing a scorched earth policy?

Do you have regrets? Are they small or large? About what you’ve done or what you failed to do? It’s a part of life, but how do live with them? How do you make peace with things you can’t change, but wish had been different?

I’m witnessing a friend of a friend dealing with his regrets. He is in suspension – unable to move forward, yet unable to heal the past. His life is chaotic, as his despair and inability to act spills into every facet of his life. It’s painful to watch, and he has no idea how to stop.

A few years ago, a dear friend and I parted after a wonderful visit. She told me she loved me, as was her way. My mind remained on the mysteriously wonderful

The body of water passing under this bridge will never pass under it in this same form again.

The body of water passing under this bridge will never pass under it in this same form again.

bits of our discussion. Wrapped in my thoughts, I smiled and waved. I never saw her again; she died unexpectedly soon thereafter. I know that she knew I loved her too; I’d told her so in the past. Nonetheless, I regret not having told her my feelings that day. There’s no way to really fix that, except to hope that she can read my heart from wherever her soul resides.

There are relationships that I regret, but I acknowledge that both of us in a relationship hold responsibility there. I cannot wriggle out of accountability for my actions; and I cannot overlook the other party’s participation in whatever took place. It’s a dance, and we both participate.

Walking tortoise

You can take a rest, then move fast or slow. But wallowing in regret doesn’t help.

I can acknowledge my actions, take responsibility, and apologize. Or I can simply take a note, learn a lesson, and vow to do things differently next time. But I move on, either way. I accept the fact that I’ve made many mistakes, some of which I can’t fix. I’m learning how to forgive myself, and hope that others find a way to forgive me too. But in the end, I must find a way to let the past go. It’s just an anchor, and holding on to regret doesn’t further me now. It can drown me if I let it.

What about – not regretting? I’ve done plenty of things that my family and friends counseled against. They told me I’d regret what I was planning, which went against social norms. But I felt strongly that it was the best thing for me; I ignored all advice and did it anyway. Strangely enough, there are few – if any – of those events that I regret. I was usually right; it was the best thing for me.

Whether your regrets are large or small, find a way to keep moving.