Monday, January 23, 2012


I've been doing a lot of reflecting of late. I spent time with a very dear friend recently and we did some of that reflecting together - our
conversation is actually what has motivated this bout of introspection. One of the things we talked about was the question of regrets. Did we have any - what were they - did we see ourselves doing anything about them at this point in time - would those regrets change our future actions. Maybe you've had similar conversations, similar thoughts.

At the time, I said that I didn't really regret much of anything that I had done. And in big terms, that's true. I can look back and freely admit that I have done things that others probably regarded as monumental mistakes. And, considering some of the outcomes of those choices, perhaps they aren't that far off. But I don't really regret those things. In terms of things I've done, I regret small things - character things. I regret the times I've spoken thoughtlessly, the times I've been careless with others' feelings. But in terms of Big things - I tend to look back on all those questionable choices and outright 'mistakes' in my life as 'opportunities for growth' as opposed to things to regret. It's served me pretty well or at the very least has kept me going forward.

However, the more I've thought about this the past few days, the more things have come to my mind. And I guess that I do have a few regrets. The thing that they all have in common is that I didn't do them - as apparently others have decided as well if a Google search of 'regret quotes' is anything to go by. This one, by Zachary Scott says it in exactly those words - "As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do." Damn. Don't you hate it when people are right about something like this?

How many times have we skipped the opportunity to take a risk and try something new -- explore some new activity, meet a new person, travel to a new place, listen to new music, eat a new food, learn a new skill. The list is endless. I don't regret not buying anything or not having certain things. I don't regret not having a certain house or other things that might be considered 'impressive' or 'important.' I don't regret not having a job that would pay more money or have more prestige or, in today's terms, cache.

For me, the list seems to circle itself around experiences and people. As Hurricane Katrina came closer and closer to New Orleans, I regretted never having been to Bourbon Street. When my mother became ill, I regretted not hounding her to get her passport earlier than I did so that I could have taken her to see more of the world. I regret not having taken some chances with people in my past, instead choosing to stay safe and avoid the possibility of hurt. I regret not saying 'I love you' soon enough, or often enough.

When you scroll through all those quotes that smart people have said about regret, the main theme that comes through is primarily that you shouldn't do it. It's a waste of time and energy. It solves nothing. It's even destructive. But, then, there's our old buddy Henry David Thoreau. He had a different take on regret. He says: "Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh."

"To regret deeply is to live afresh." It's a curious thought. I think I'm beginning to understand a little bit of what he means. And, I'm thinking I'm ready to learn a little more.

Of course, I regret not coming up with today's picture myself. Truly. I think it's pretty funny and, of course, oh-so-true. Instead, I lifted it from: