I started to type and then hit backspace, backspace until the sentences disappeared.
If I were to have made the decision to go away to college, I, more than likely, would not have given birth to either of my children. I found myself wondering, in this current climate of the pandemic and the heightened awareness of my children’s safety, if by writing this I was challenging the universe. Some may call it crazy, but I was not willing to tempt fate.
This is the thing with regret. Regret exists because of something we wish we had done or didn’t do, but usually means something happened at the expense of another.
Cheryl Strayed writes in Tiny Beautiful Things, "We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us."
When my dad was in ICU, hooked up to a ventilator and ostensibly dying, he had requested we not allow any visitors in to see him. He was a proud man. My mom once told me that although he grew up in the projects and his family had very little money, he always did his best to look sharp and put together. The thought of friends, family and his grandchildren seeing him in such a vulnerable state was not something he wanted. Yet, knowing that he may not have long to live, we decided to let a few of his grandkids, and a few family members and friends into see him. After he passed away, I carried so much personal regret over our decision.
When, not but a short time later, our mother was dying of terminal cancer, we asked her every day if she wanted visitors. Given the pain and discomfort she was living with, she repeatedly declined. We honored what she wanted and kept visitors at bay. After she passed away, I lived with the regret of that decision, to not let people close to her say their final goodbyes.
If I had not stood in front of the same choice, making different decisions each time, and experienced regret with both outcomes, I would not have learned a critical lesson on regret.
It will give us the opportunity to reflect and to learn. Held onto too long, it becomes a form of self punishment. It has the power to rob us from living in the moment.
I’ve learned to acknowledge that regret can be heavy and burdensome, or it can be timed and valuable.
This moment, especially at this rare time in our life, as we feel regret or anger at what we cannot have, it is our opportunity to allow ourselves the gift of feeling grateful for what wasn’t, to create space for what is.