A Cautionary Tale – Oh, regrets. We all seem to have a few. Looking back on my life there are many things I would have done differently had I been more aware of living in the present, and making changes soon enough so that my regrets in life remained minimal.
When we live in the present we are aware of the importance of self-expression and taking the time to really explore our interests and the world around us. Blessed are the people who screech into the grave, having lived their lives to the fullest all the while learning, loving, building, creating, taking risks, growing and enjoying most of their life journey. It could be that there are a few apologies along the way, but kudos go to people who live presently enough to understand what is truly important to their own happiness. People that follow their own path (especially when it requires making difficult changes or decisions), tend to live with very few regrets.
Regrets in life are such sad, mournful things. A heavy bucket of them can pin a person down. The good news is we can tweak what isn’t working in our lives, and hone what is before it’s too late. We can indeed lighten the weight of our buckets if we are open to suggestions.
As human beings, we seem to only learn from our own mistakes. Despite that, I have revealed a few regrets of my life here as a cautionary tale.
1. Cleaning instead of playing with my children
For some reason, I could never do anything at all, ever, unless I was organized and my house was squeaky clean. I wouldn’t leave, go outside, or to the store. It was difficult for me to even play with my kids. I had this picture in my mind about what my house needed to look and feel like in order for me to function as a happy mom.
I had to project perfection in order to actually enjoy play time. My poor kids. Now I look back and regret not savoring their childhoods more. In my heart, I don’t think being a slob is okay, but I know that most of the cleaning and organizing fed my need for perfection. Children grow up fast. The house can wait. Trust me when I tell you that you will have years and years of a clean, quiet house when your kids leave the nest.
2. Worrying about reactions to my opinion
I always had a problem “speaking up” in my life. I was afraid of offending someone or getting into an argument. I learned to keep my opinion to myself. This basically comes off as having an empty and uninteresting personality. What I have learned is that the more I know, the more confident I am speaking my mind. I have learned to respectfully express myself, and it’s empowering. I regret not speaking up in given situations along the way for fear of “rocking the boat”. The expression is a healer. When we don’t express ourselves and our opinions, we harbor resentment and anger. These feelings turn into regrets in life over time.
3. Blaming my mother
So often, when we are riddled with problems, (as was the case with my unhappiness and my eating disorder), we look to place blame somewhere, on someone. I went through many years of blaming my mother for everything about myself that I didn’t like or couldn’t control. I never asked for help or took ownership of my own behaviors. I simply sat back and rested on the crutch of playing the blame game. Kids do not come with instructions.
My beautiful, generous mother did a fine job raising me. She wasn’t perfect, but she loved me and she tried her best. She didn’t deserve my wrath, my anger, or my pointed finger. We all dance in the shadow of our own upbringing and it affects the way we raise our own kids. But my mother is not at fault for the way I chose to live or mask my pain, and I regret making her feel guilty.
4. Not traveling more
When I graduated from college, several friends of mine did some fun things. One went to Europe for a whole summer, flying by the seat of her pants, exploring every nook and cranny with just a backpack and a passport. One whole group left in two cars and simply headed out west, with no set plan. They found jobs and settled into very different lives far from where they grew up. I moved back into my parents’ house, met a boy who lived one town over, promptly go married, and started having children. Now, of course, I love my husband and my children, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but if I’m being honest, I do regret not being more adventurous and traveling more when I had no serious responsibilities and the chance.
5. Backing out of plans
In the throes of my eating disorder, and with my lifestyle in general, I could never be spontaneous. For example, because of my weight and insecurity, when the time would come to head over to a the party I would somehow suddenly not feel well, or simply not want to go out and socialize. Part of my the disease is about isolation, and hiding. I backed out of plans at the last minute, or canceled abruptly all the time. It’s a coping behavior, plain and simple. I regret these actions tremendously because I essentially missed so much of the fun parts of life. When I find myself doing this now, I put a stop to it as quickly as it starts. Plans are for today- and tomorrow is not guaranteed.
6. Thinking I was fat
I obsessed over being fat. I thought a size 8 was fat. I thought a size 12 was fat. Now I hover between those very sizes and I marvel over the thought that at one point in my life, I truly thought it meant I was fat. Along with feeling fat comes the feeling of worthlessness. The fear of looking fat always haunted me. Long ago, clothing was made and tailored for each individual figure because women came beautifully packaged in all shapes and sizes. Now, if you don’t fit a “one size fits all” ideal, you simply feel fat. At this very moment, I regret wasting so much time on this very subject. I regret even writing this last sentence because it gives the subject more time than it deserves.
7. Harboring resentment
So many of my days were spent angry, alone, and resenting a life that I alone chose to live. I wallowed inside a murky mud puddle of negativity for most of my young adult life. I blamed my mother, I was mad at my husband because he went off to work while I took care of the house and kids. I resented everything and everyone around me who had what I didn’t – an actual true life. Instead of confronting my feelings or changing my behaviors, I simply let the resentment pile up. I regret the time I wasted harboring resentment more than anyone will ever know, and more than I can ever write about.
8. Spending too much money
Money in, money out. I tend to adjust my spending habits based on my income, which is foolish. I regret not saving money earlier in my life. Having a bit of money saved is the foundation that freedom and stability rest upon. Like it or not, both are essential for personal happiness. Instead I squandered my money on unnecessary material things. Things purchased “in the moment” for instant gratification is a deep regret because they mostly consist of things I don’t remember and don’t have in my possession today.
9. Being overly critical of others
I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to people and their behaviors and one of the main regrets of my life. When someone is being rude, for example, I immediately think that particular person is just a total jerk when maybe he or she is just having a bad day. It doesn’t excuse the rudeness, but it does explain it to a degree. We all have our moments. When I see reality shows about addiction – like “My 600 pound Life” or “Intervention” I am a little too quick to be disgusted.
I often think, what the hell is wrong with these people? Why can’t they just change? But then I remember that we often criticize the weakness we see in others because we know how transparently it lurks inside us. I always regret choosing criticism over compassion. Criticism in this context consists of negative energy that my body, soul, and mind thrive without.
10. Not taking my makeup off before bed
Oh, the dreaded makeup removal! It takes 2 minutes, and yet for years I simply brushed my teeth and went to bed (most nights). I regret this because it’s gross, but also because it aged my skin prematurely. If you wear makeup, take that shit off before bed. Then slather on some serious “night renewal serum” or some such shit and let it work its magic. Getting old sucks, but with a little routine skincare we can look as beautiful as we feel inside.
11. Waiting too long to put fitness first
Fitness wasn’t always a part of my life. I remember being lethargic and sedentary. I waited way too long to enjoy the benefits of simply moving regularly. The biggest surprise of a solid exercise program is that the emotional benefits far outweigh the physical ones. Physical activity is one of the keys to a happy and productive life. Exercise changes our minds, and that it what’s needed for growth.
12. All the things I didn’t finish
Our life tends to be filled with starts and stops. We leave so much of it incomplete. My mission this year to simply finish what I start. I proclaimed publicly that I would run a half marathon, and I would actually finish writing a book. My whole life has been spent giving up when the going gets tough and I regret it. This year will be different because I am choosing to be different.
13. Living ungratefully
So many of us take our lives for granted, and we live as though every day is a given. It isn’t. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. As soon as we begin to live in a way that reflects gratefulness for each new day, each new chance we get to become fulfilled, we start to really see how beautiful our life can be. I regret not coming to this epiphany sooner.
The wonder of regrets is that when we lay them out, we learn so much about ourselves. What do you regret? Can you make it right? Some things we can’t change because we just can’t go back in time. But we can certainly change ourselves and our actions moving forward in a way that reflects what we have learned along the way.
These days, I’m grateful just to open my eyes and begin each day with a happy heart. I am learning to push myself to finish what I start, and I’m even taking my makeup off before bed! When I’ve got something to do, especially if it involves my kids or something fun, I throw down my washcloth and walk away from my chores. The dishes stay stacked in my sink and the laundry stays in a dirty pile. I let it go because the moment I am seeking is happening now, and that mundane, life-sapping shit can wait.
Well, what are the regrets of your life? Share your thoughts in comments below.