What Do You Mean, I’ll Regret This?
Poor dear. Once we stop laughing, someone should tell her that it’s a style she’ll never live down. And she was so excited when she tried it on! Crab hats were going to be the next big thing, she insisted.
She’ll regret it. But don’t we all regret those wacky styles from the past? Spangled tube tops, men’s flowered leisure suits, a house filled with macramé. Earth shoes. Gauze bell sleeve shirts with a Pocahontas print on the back. The list is endless and endlessly hideous to our ‘modern’ sensibilities.
I have to stop right here and ask: who decides those sensibilities? Who decides what you’ll come to regret? That would be you.
“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
– Oscar Wilde
But regret means looking into a past we cannot change. Regret means feeling guilt and shame, loss, sadness, all of which are negative emotions. And today, well, today has absolutely nothing to do with the past with the one exception that we take forward any lessons learned at the time. So, today, I’m presenting some things to think about when it comes to the past.
You Might Think I’m Foolish
I’m not sure why but often my thoughts turn to the past when my thoughts ought to be more ordered, more productive in moving toward the future. Trauma is one reason. But another is that I hate things that are left unresolved, things that will never have closure unless I accept that closure. And I don’t want to be living in the past because it does nothing but highlight good times gone and most unfortunately, bad times that remain unexplained.
I don’t want that at all. Seems like a pretty bad idea, that constant backward thinking.
“Living the past is a dull and lonely business; looking back strains the neck muscles, causing you to bump into people not going your way.”
– Edna Ferber
Oh, of course I plan for what future I can aspire to, that’s critical to survival for anyone. I plan ahead as best I can like anyone else would do. But every so often and I admit, more often than I’d like, the past comes on me like a ninja and sticks that familiar, old, rusted and serrated knife into my heart.
Watch Me Walkin’, Walkin’ Out That Door
How to walk away from the past, how to let the past be what it was and let it go, this is almost impossible for some people to do. I’m doing a lot better at it for the most part. But as I’ve learned in therapy, trauma does so many insidious things to you, things you don’t even realized have happened, things that appear later on and slap you around when you least expect it.
But I’m walkin’ out that door. Those doors will close behind me and I’ll walk through new doors into whatever is behind them.
A Little Crude, But Pretty Much True
All the love I’ve created in my life is still there. People from my past that matter always will, even if we’re not moving forward into the future together. But again, resolution is sometimes impossible. So, out of respect for those people, I’ve stopped trying to focus on the unresolved and instead remember good times when we were together and happy.
At least, that’s the plan. It doesn’t always work out that way.
Okay, Maybe, Probably, Right
Of course there were many things I wanted that became regrets or if not regret, then sadness or guilt. But I understand what were my faults and failures all too well. Regretting those faults and failures would be a natural response but I’m not going to let that become my truth. My truth is going to be something very different. My truth is going to be much, much more forgiving of myself instead of beating myself about the head over things I cannot change in my past.
There Were Right And There Were Wrong
The people who were a part of my life were there for a reason. What those reasons may have been is not always clear to me now. But at the time, in that place, for those moments, those people belonged where they were. I never love someone without having reason to do so. Love generated from my heart has never been wasted. And whether or not those people realize it, they’re still loved. I could be mired in regret over their loss and sometimes it does feel that way to me. If they understood how much I loved them then I can move forward with that knowledge and be all right with that. If they don’t understand or know, it doesn’t matter. I understand, and I know.
“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”
– Charles M. Schulz
But sometimes the fact that they left me behind hurts. Only because I’m human. But when it comes to the wrong people, those that took advantage of me, those that never cared and just pretended to in order to gain from me and my resources, those that treated me with malice and cunning — well, good riddance to bad garbage, I say. I will never regret the good times or the bad times with good people. How unfortunate there weren’t as many good people as I used to believe.
Amen To That
Regret really is guilt more than any other single emotion. Why did I do that, why didn’t I say what I wanted to say, why didn’t I tell the truth?
Guilt and shame are potent and they are incredibly destructive if you allow them to rule your life. If you look more closely at those feelings of guilt and shame you’ll come to see that more often than not they aren’t necessarily the best and most rational way to resolve your past. You see, it is impossible to change your past and rather than regret, shame and guilt, you have only one rational course of action: acceptance.
Acceptance Quiets The Mind
Accepting that you can’t change the past is the only path. As Radical Acceptance defines it, acceptance is the only way out of hell. And take it from me, an unquiet mind that insists on reliving a negative past is hell on wheels.
“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”
– William James
I realize the futility in the attempt to change the past. And changing the past often means trying to recreate relationships that used to be, trying to recapture the feelings that you had and attempting to relive a past long gone and more than likely one that might have been better thought out at the time.
We Can Only Hope
I have a lot happening right here, right now. I know my self-worth. I understand how building a future that is reasonable, happy, constructive and forthright can be accomplished. And I know that love given in the past or created in the now is never wasted.
Will something better come along? For me, it already has. I am wiser, better, more capable and excited about life than I have been for a long, long time. I am learning to accept those things I cannot change. I am learning that I am not a bad person and on the contrary am a very good, very valuable and very important person. At least, to me I am.
“When you please others in hopes of being accepted, you lose your self-worth in the process.”
– David Pelzer
And let’s face it, I’m the only person that matters when it comes to deciding how my future can happen by working toward the goals I think best. Others may not understand or approve of me but that’s not something I must consider because that’s their take on reality. But one thing I will never, ever be is loaded with regret for having loved.