charred tree trunks, burned trees

Living with Regret

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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.


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  2. I don’t have any regrets. Probably because whenever I make a decision, I always gather any information I can find about that decision, make a Top 10 list of advantages and a Top 10 list of disadvantages, factor in my Southern-boy guy instinct, and make my decision. Then I move on.


  3. This is a brilliant post Karel, one everyone can relate to.
    I do have some regrets but there’s only one that I regret the most, it’s for not being there when my Mom breathed her last breath.


    1. You’re sweet. I wouldn’t call it brilliant, just universal. I’m sorry that you were not there when your mother died. Just know that some people can’t hang on to life any longer, but they can’t bear to leave their loved ones – so they slip away when no one is there. Cherish your good memories of her!


  4. I have no particular regrets. Everything that has happened to me has created the person I am.
    I kinda like myself.
    Pretty much.
    Of course, I could use a haircut because the last hairdresser didn’t cut enough.
    I regret that 😉


        1. Maybe you’re just at peace with the path that brought you here. Any potential regrets have been put to rest, so that you are facing fully forward. Sounds wonderful!


  5. I can’t imagine anyone alive not having regret about something. Like you, regret has taught me to forgive myself, feel whatever I need to feel, and move on. I can’t change the past, all I can do is heal my soul. This is a wonderful post, Karel. Thank you. Hugs, Brenda


    1. Thanks, Brenda. Our friend is so difficult to watch. He can’t forgive himself and can’t let go of a bad situation. It’s hurting everyone and it just doesn’t stop. Forgiving ourselves is one of the hardest tasks out there. But when we do, it heals us all. Thanks for reading and sharing.


  6. Good thoughts. If there were no regrets, what would we learn from? Surely, we would learn things about life, but certainly not the same things. Our regrets teach us much about values.
    They are a form of education, serious education. You are right in that we need to evaulate, cogitate, reform out thinking and sometimes our values, decide how to do better with the next opportunity and/or even create better opportunities ….all those things are ways of dealing with regret. A life with no regrets would be a very dull and uneventful life indeed. Regrets are what forgiveness is for. The key here is the forgiveness. Exactly, what is forgiveness? That is what we have to think about. It isn’t exactly the equivalent of forgetting. It is a different type of remembering….without rancor, without blame, without hurt….and with constructive feelings of doing better and/or helping another do better.

    I love those turtle pictures. I have been thinking about how I could put those in a quilt.



    1. I’ve thought about writing about forgiveness, but it’s tough. I’ve seen a lot of regretful exchanges on the topic by others, and I’m not ready to wade in on the topic. I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t see it as a necessity!


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