on regrets … another view

This is exciting! The blog’s first “guest post” – a milestone. After reading my post on regrets, my sister-in-law and I texted back and forth and she is sharing her thoughts:

I am the sister-in-law Susan is writing about in this post on the subject of regrets. I had no idea that I had stirred up such thoughts, but I was glad to do so. I too love questions. It helps me solidify what I believe.

Susan asked me to respond to her blog. I would be happy to. First of all, let me preface this post by saying that I’m a Christian, and I believe that I am forgiven for my transgressions. That does give me peace, yes. But when I think back through my life at the some of the footprints I’ve left behind on people’s lives, I can’t say that I rejoice over my frailties and failures. Just the opposite.

There are many kinds of regrets, such as those things we do and say that don’t offer this world anything good or lovely. Then there are regrets for the things we should have done and said, but didn’t. The list could be huge, but one example is the way we treat others. For instance, it is so easy to walk into a party and within seconds make a plethora of judgments—that is, which people are worth our time and which ones are not. We may be tempted to gravitate to those guests who can be useful to our careers rather than spending time with those folks who might be lonely and in desperate need of a kind word. In the past, I have on occasion been guilty of this behavior. Loads of other people are guilty too, and yet that doesn’t make me feel any less sad about the selfishness and pride that is obviously behind such behavior.

So, in the midst of these spiritual spasms, what is the positive that can be gleaned here, Susan? I am grateful for forgiveness, and I am hoping in the future I’ve learned that these manipulative choices are not just worthless, they are harmful to everyone, including me. This life is quite a journey. Thanks, Susan, for helping me to ponder this important topic in greater detail!

And there she goes, posing another question in the first sentence of the last paragraph! Thank you, my SIL, for moving us from monologue to discussion! Anyone else want to join in?

regrets … I’ve had a few

flower-1030408_1920I can almost hear Sinatra singing My Way in the background as I start this post.

My sister-in-law has an unusual talent for asking questions that stay with me for a while. Last year, when she and my brother came for a visit, the question was whether I was happy with my life. Apparently, my brother mentioned that he thought I was and that he was happy that I seemed happy. My SIL was more direct – she asked me! I said yes, but it was not the most enthusiastic yes. If you look at the past several posts, you can probably understand why. More about this question in an upcoming post.

This year, the question was about regrets. She and I approach regrets differently – she feels regrets deeply and emotionally over time. I don’t. I have always tried to live without getting weighed down by regrets. Of course, I wish I had kept in touch with friends and had been more sensitive and thoughtful rather than hurting anyone’s feelings. But, that is one type of regret – contrition over a slight inflicted on someone or disappointment in myself. I think it’s more sorrow than regret – sadness that I did not act with grace. Sometimes, regret is expressed by self-reproach or guilt or wishing you had made other decisions. This is the kind of regret that erodes self-esteem and increases stress. Given that I like my life and am generally pretty happy, I don’t really have this kind of regret.

To be clear, as far as I know, I’ve never done anything to truly/seriously harm anyone – no accidents or brawling or abuse that resulted in someone getting injured, either physically, psychologically or emotionally. There are times when I know I hurt someone by my words or actions and I don’t know why I acted as I did. Most of those times were when I felt most vulnerable and scared, so that probably explains it. I am not sure I adequately apologized for these lapses in character but I hope no one ever suffered lasting repercussions and that anyone I hurt along the way has forgiven me.

So, yes, I have some regrets about in-the-moment reactions and moving on a little too completely. But, I don’t really regret the larger actions that I’ve taken, even if they were inconvenient for others. That may sound selfish, but the reality is that we all have to make decisions and those decisions sometimes affect other people. I have always tried to minimize the impact of my decisions on other people and hope not to have left damage in my wake. Of course, there are times when the needs of others supersede our own – if you have a child, for example, or a spouse, their needs at times may be more important than your own. As a single, childless person, I am more autonomous.

For the most part, I have tried to live in a way that gives others the benefit of the doubt and hopes they afford me the same courtesy. I have tried to act with integrity and kindness. I do my best to forgive easily and not hold grudges, though I have a bit of a temper myself so I know what it’s like to not curb a harsh response or to not let go of anger right away. I try to bring humor and light-heartedness to situations whenever possible. I assume that, if someone hurts me, it was not intentional and that I should let it go. But, I also will stand up for myself or even let go of a friendship if there seems to be a pattern of disrespect or pettiness.

When I really think about it, there are three strong memories that come to mind whenever I think about forgiveness and living without regrets. One is from one of my favorite jobs – a small nonprofit where I worked long hours for little pay (… the story of much of my life!). We made a list of 10 priorities and one of them was “assume good will”. This is why my first reaction to someone being disagreeable or severe with me is to try to let it go. Maybe they are having a bad day or have a lot on their mind or maybe they don’t realize that they have hurt my feelings. We never know what someone else is feeling or processing when they seem to lash out or say something thoughtless.

The second is from one of my earliest jobs when, as the newest and lowest-ranking member of the team, I was told by my supervisor that if we did not get the next grant, I would have to leave. It wasn’t personal – it was financial. They wanted to keep me on and would miss me if I had to go, but there was a point where hard decisions would have to be made. There was something about the business-like manner in which this was conveyed to me that made it OK to be straightforward with this particular life lesson – there didn’t need to be drama and regret. Sometimes, life is unfair and the results are hard to take. (BTW, we got the grant so I stayed on!)

The third strong memory is of a poem I came across when I was about 12 years old. Desiderata, written in the 1920s by Max Ehrmann, was quite popular at the time (attached below). It helped me to find peace after my father and aunt died. It’s surprising how many times I recall passages. The parts that comes to mind regarding regrets are: be on good terms with all persons, keep peace in your soul and, mostly, be gentle with yourself.  For me, regrets hamper my ability to do these things.

music-159867_1280We all make mistakes and most of us do the best we can with our life decisions. I believe that most people are caring and good people who sometimes (often unintentionally) hit a nerve or push our buttons. To me, unless you have done something truly and seriously terrible, life is too short to feel self-reproach or guilt or shame or to play the “what if” game about decisions made. As the song goes: “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” For all the good and caring people (i.e., those who have done something truly and seriously terrible, stop reading now), give yourself a break – be gentle with yourself.

 

Desiderata

GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

what happened to that book you were writing?

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Last year, when I took my 6-month break (that became a 12-month break), I had planned to work on a book. I would write a little story and my mother, who has done arts and crafts all her life, would work on the illustrations. This lovely little book would be shared with family and friends. The book should have been done by now … but it’s not. What happened? Continue reading

surprise: mom likes house!

I watched and loved House, the TV shdr-house-149926_1280ow with the wonderful Hugh Laurie playing the obnoxious Dr. Gregory House. Or at least I loved the first, maybe, five seasons – it went off the rails for me at some point around season six.

As crazy as some of the plots and relationships were on House, my biggest surprise with the series is that my mother actually enjoyed it! Granted, we didn’t watch many episodes and they were all season one – I think The Crown, season 2 became available and we switched to that. Continue reading

picking up where we left off

tree-of-life-3132592_1920I have a lot of first cousins – on my mother’s side and my father’s side. Although I occasionally visited with the cousins on my mother’s side when I was growing up, I’m getting to know them better as an adult. This has been a really rewarding experience and I’ve enjoyed it.

On my father’s side of the family, it’s completely different.  I grew up with my cousins, we went to the same schools, saw each other at frequently family get-togethers and cookouts, played together and so on. When we were kids, there was a wonderful camaraderie – we teased each other and laughed a lot and grew up. There were also losses along the way. We were all so young when my father died – it is part of our collective story and memory. So is our grandmother’s funeral, when we were young adults. Continue reading

the evolution of things

 

banner-1076214_1920In a prior posts (including staying on schedule, logging progress and challenging fears), I talked about putting together lists and organizing my mother’s time and space. It’s a process. Every time we fix one piece, there seems to be another that needs an adjustment.  These aren’t wholesale changes – just tweaking around the edges. Changing out one spreadsheet for another. Switching out furniture for something easier to use. Editing some instructions on how to use X, Y and Z to include more pictures. Simplifying … everything. Continue reading