Decisions. We make hundreds of them a day. Most are not very important. Cold brew or latte? Black joggers or Lululemon speed tights? Red wine or white? (Let’s be serious, these days it’s all the wine). Alas, day in and day out, as we bob and weave through the endless options and choices and routes available, autopilot takes over. At least, for me, especially as I get older. I know what I know and I like what I like and that’s that. Or is it?
What about when we’re confronted with bigger choices? At my age, with a bajillion decisions under my belt both good and woefully bad, I should be well-versed in the art of “knowing.” I seem to always be able to make the right decision in reverse, that rearview mirror is one hell of a filter. In cases where I made a mistake, the moments and scenes where I turned my back on that gut feeling and chose wrong appear like a film. Though only one scene, I see everything so clearly in these memories until the end. The picture cuts to a black screen and the words “…to be continued” in neon familiar lettering emerge to the tune of The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News.
Are these memories real or just mental illustrations to repave the road riddled with mistakes made before? Did I really have the right move laid out before me, all signs and guts and knowing pointing to right, only to choose left? Naturally, this is hyperbole and the spectrum of the challenges and decisions we’re all faced with daily make my argument a moot point. Say we unmute that point for a hot second though. Why do we do things and end up in situations that we know weren’t right from the get-go? I’m no professional, but all signs point to fear, mistrust, and good old-fashioned laziness.
How we react and grow from those outcomes and what we decide in similar situations in the future is the biggest choice of all. In circumstances that didn’t work out as planned or ended in disaster, there’s often a reason or a clue as to why. Sometimes not. Shit happens. We are living in 2020 after all – humankind is taking a beating from every direction. One’s decisions and the hand one is dealt fall into a mixing bowl of time and space that leaves the future unfolding on shifting sands. But what if, despite things out of our control, seeing the ripple effects of one’s decisions even before a step is taken either way was the biggest choice of all?
No regrets. I refuse to regret. That’s what I have always said. I said it yesterday to my mom in the car as we cruised around the streets of my childhood. We talked about people and decisions from my past, and I made a point to assert my position again. Regret serves no purpose, I told her again, and implored vehemently that we change the subject. Afterwards, though, as I pursued my speculative theory on decisions and how the Trust One’s Gut axiom may be more dynamic than Glennon Doyle maniacally knowing things, I couldn’t shake the word. Regret, ugh, go away.
You know how when you say a word over and over again it becomes something wildly absurd and meaningless? Well, unfortunately, that has yet to happen for me with regret. No matter how many times I read the definition or said it in my mind or watched the No Regerts commercial, I knew. I’d been running from regret for so long. Over the years, (I’m guessing) in the wake of various Cat 5 level life showdowns, I stopped looking back. You can’t regret what you don’t hold onto. If regret is the identity given to our painful memories and collective disappointment from the mistakes of our past, I simply didn’t accept her.
The mental short circuit I’ve fashioned to hardwire my psyche into believing regret was for the weak is at the very least noteworthy, if not terrifying and insidious. Don’t get me wrong, my life has been wonderful. But I heard something in passing recently about choosing the most difficult way through. It made me wonder if in undermining the mistakes of my past and usurping the power of regret, I’ve been at a disadvantage. Maybe regret is someone we’re supposed to get to know, become friends with or at least acquaintances, and listen to.
It appears my thoughts and the theories I threw around at the outset of this post just a few short paragraphs ago were only half right. Under the guise of living with no regrets, I have been living without one of life’s great teachers, the seemingly painful tutor of yesteryear, guardian of gut feelings and knowing. Regret hasn’t been welcomed in my house for many years. Her inky figure is a reminder of the weakness that connects us all. And then there’s my own limitations, failings, and mistakes from which she derives power. Sadness and hurt seem to follow her wherever she goes. But I want to know. I want to see. So, with the pain of a past unremembered and no Delorean in sight, I invite her in.