Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Sorrow, Not Regret

Talking to a (temporarily) depressed friend the other day, I could hear in her voice that the root of her mood came from thinking of all the regrets she has. Looking back on only the sorrows of life can bring anybody down. I've done it many times, and I'm sure most people have.

One thing about trying to talk a friend out of a low mood is that your words of advice often will shine back and light up your own situation. That's what happened for me. I didn't notice it until late last night when I was having one of those pity parties myself.

This was a pity party of one, brought on by having too much left to do in preparation for Iowa and letting myself get worked up into a state of post-midnight anxiety. If my family had been awake, I would have been distracted by the chaos that is our usual mode of being together under one roof. But it was late, I was tired and too wired to sleep, and I'm pretty sure that the smoked fish I had for a snack was acting as a organic hallucinogen.

I went from thinking of what to pack into the two suitcases I'm taking with me to wondering if I shouldn't add a third suitcase to wondering about the meaning of all life and afterlife. I actually got up and went outside for a while to stand in the rain and have a conversation with God (who was probably musing at how often we silly humans think for some reason that we have to be looking at something - the sky, tall trees, birds - to talk to Him). While I was outside, it started to rain and, as a result, I went back to the bedroom with not only a full-fledged case of self-inflicted anxiety but nappy hair and damp clothes.

Regrets are rude guests, always coming for a visit at the wrong time and when you are not in a mood to entertain them. They are really only good for one thing: reminding you that you have to be compassionate enough to have them over for company.

except maybe for that really bad high school haircut

Anyway, I said my prayers and lay down to try to sleep. Of course, once I started to relax, I started remembering everything I'd said to my friend. I hadn't said much (for me), but the basic piece of advice I gave her is probably something I retained from what my mother taught me:

Instead of only thinking of what you would undo if you could, try realizing that all choices can have good and bad consequences.

Yes, I could have remained with that first person who loved me. We could have spent all these years celebrating milestones and accomplishments as a couple. On the other hand, we might have separated anyway. We might have done more damage to each other had we stayed together any longer.

I could have taken a different job, or lived in different places, or done so many other things differently in my life.

But I didn't. And you know what? That's okay. It has to be. And it will be.

Like I told my friend, there is no need regretting yesterday because there are no refunds. We can't go back and change anything, but we can live as a person who is changed for the better by the regrets we have.

When I went to sleep, I felt better. When I woke up, I certainly felt better. What I hope to remember from here on out is that I will always have some sorrow, but I'm never going to give time to past regrets.

Sing it, Ella!