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Living with regrets

Last week, among others, I made the following comment: “We can live our lives with regrets, I suppose, but I prefer not to. It can drive you crazy worrying about the ’what ifs‘ in life. Every single thing we do can be analyzed and debated, so why bother? So while I may wonder, I do not regret.”

When I wrote that comment, I believed it. I told myself that, sure, I wonder how this or that may have gone had I handled things differently. Both good and bad. But to say I do not regret, I guess, was a bit of a fallacy.

We all regret things in life; who was I kidding? Heck, sometimes I regret what I had for dinner. But I mean it when I say I NEVER and I mean NEVER, EVER regret….dessert!

Yes, my sad attempt at humor. Nice, huh?

But in all seriousness, I really believe that regret is a not only a fact of life, but also a very large part of it, as well. It is how we handle that regret that is what is important.

Do I regret waiting so long to get my degree? No. And yes, I do mean that. I have enjoyed my life up to this point, and I am really enjoying it now as I travel on this new career path.

However, I do have many regrets in my life. I think of them now and then and wonder how things may be different today in my life, relationships with others, or in any number of things, if I had made a different choice. I would like to think that those regrets are just in the back of my mind waiting to be triggered from time to time.

Some are, but others pop up more frequently.

I regret not being more outgoing in high school. I wonder how different my experience would have been had I been the person I am now. What if I had made the decision to stick with Cross Country instead of quitting? That is not a huge regret, but I wonder if I would have found success if I had kept on running, rather than running away.

I guess you can call me a quitter because I also quit band during my sophomore year. I do not regret that, however, as that didn’t last and I was back making music a week later. That is a story that Marge Caid (band director) and I still laugh about all these years later.

The ones that stick with me the most are probably the most common amongst us all: the loss of a loved one.

I regret not going to visit my grandma more when she was in the hospital. I wish I had spent more time with my grandpa when I lived just a few blocks away from him. I wish I had asked my dad more questions and had more in-depth talks with him about life before he succumbed to cancer. I regret the times I do not get to spend with my children, knowing that they will be grown before I know it. I can change that, however.

Those are the ones that hang over my head like a storm cloud.

I also regret the lack of communication I have with some of my family members, especially those that I used to be close with. Life is a flowing stream, we change, our families grow, but the ties that bind a family should not fray. And sadly, in my own family and in families of those that I care about, the bond has broken. In some instances, especially for some in my family, the distance between them seems way too deep and divided to even attempt reconciliation. To me, that is sad, and I hope for the best.

It is human to regret. I think that is part of what gives us character and helps us make better decisions in our lives.

But if we do not learn a lesson from the regrets that may haunt us now, we are doing a huge disservice to ourselves and those around us.