It's funny how sometimes in life we come across an issue that really gets us thinking. Most things discussed throughout the day go out as quickly as they came in, but I recently had a conversation with someone that covered the topic of regrets. Since that night the whole concept of regrets has been rolling around in my mind. So it felt only right to dive into it and fish out why it bothered me so much.
As a general rule I believe very strongly that everything happens for a reason. That in the end we should regret nothing as the decisions we make lead us to exactly where we are supposed to be, whether or not we fully understand why. However this is easier said than done when it feels like your life is falling apart. I know in my heart that I wouldn't be half the person I am today had I not experienced the heart ache and pain that I have had to deal with. There is no way I would be as strong as I am without having survived the battles I've fought. But I would be absolutely lying if I said I didn't have regrets.
We regret not keeping in contact with old friends, not taking chances on new things, or maybe picking up the phone and calling that person you know is bad for you hoping that somehow this time it will be different. The thing about regrets though is that it's not the decision you made that eats at you, it's the 'what if?'. You allow your mind to crash into an ocean of possibilities where had you made one decision differently everything might have been different. The even worse thought being that had you made one decision differently everything might have been better...
What if we had stayed together?
What if I had taken a different job?
What if I hadn't spent money on that superfluous item? (Damn you, Target)
What if just once I kept my mouth shut?
It's a dangerous game to play with yourself and one that often ends in a stomach ache rather than a healthy outlook on life.
I have a tattoo on my right arm of a bow and arrow. While I do actually own my own bow and arrows (and have won awards (subtle brag)), it is mostly a symbol to remind me that I am not in control. It reminds me that I need to let things go. I wear my scars like a shield a lot of the time, ready to be hurt and cause hurt at a moments notice. This small image helps me to stay in the moment and remember that no matter how tightly I pull that string at some point I have to let it go. So to honor the idea of letting things go I am choosing to share some of the things that I do regret with all of you. Perhaps I can 'loose' these arrows once and for all. More importantly, perhaps I can help others feel less burdened by the arrows in their own quiver.
I regret leaving my dog, Addie, in Arizona and not being there for the last year of her life. I wonder every day what joy I might have stolen from her by choosing my life over hers.
I regret not confronting the man who raped me in college. I regret that fear of retribution and not being believed silenced me and allowed a predator to walk free.
I regret not believing in myself or loving myself the way that I should. I wonder how much farther I would be if I had trusted my talent in music, writing, or other creative endeavors. Instead I was so concerned with other peoples opinions of me that I stifled myself.
I regret allowing men's opinions of me, or my projections of their opinions, to dictate my self-worth and self-esteem.
I regret being too afraid to call a cousin whose relationship I lost years ago to make things right. We're family, and I let her down.
I regret not taking better care of my body, and allowing pain and suffering to serve as an excuse to abuse myself. Even though I have greatly turned this around, there are side effects of those choices that I will have to live with the rest of my life.
These are not easy things to admit, they are even harder to face. But the more directly we deal with things the stronger our chances are of moving on and finding peace. When it comes to regrets we can lose our minds going over and over the choices we made, the people we hurt, the things we should have done but this solves nothing. The list of things I could say I regret could go on and on, but I can't change the past. I can choose to evolve for the future.
I probably have no room to give anyone advice given that I fuck up an estimated 1,319 times day. But between therapy, self help books, and a lot of prayer I've found that the key to letting go is simple (if not a little cliche). It's forgiveness. Forgive yourself for your past. Forgive yourself for making a decision that you have now learned not to repeat. Forgive those who have done you wrong because they were learning their own lessons and will reap their own karma.
Not everyone needs a tattooed reminder to stop letting the regrets of their past or present control them, but for me the pen has been mightier than the sword (get it, like ink? In a pen? I'll stop now).
(P.S. Sometimes saying something out loud can be a great first step in letting something go. So if anyone reading this needs to loose an arrow and have someone listen, please send it my way. You can either comment below, or send me a private email. I'm a pretty ok listener.)