Regrets

A new year changes the tides. The turning over is bittersweet for those of us less comfortable with change, as I am. A new year brings fresh possibility, but I often find myself sitting with a mix of trepidation and interest on December 31. The holidays are warm and familiar, filled for me with family togetherness and time spent wandering in my hometown. Those moments are difficult for me to let go of, shed each year with a few tears of indescribable gratitude. This year, however, I am approaching January 1st breathing in prayers. 

The ending of one year, no matter how politically or personally tumultuous it may have been, offers clarity, which like the clear winter sky, can be both beautiful and harsh. Without clouds above, the landscape is flooded with light, but the air can become frigid. Mental clarity, similarly, brings insight, but can, unfortunately, mix with regret.

We all live with regrets, some smaller than others, some more painful than others, but we each close our eyes and think back on moments when we wish we’d either done something or not done something… said something else and been kinder, or offered to help instead of fearing we were intruding, or been more socially graceful, or had reigned in our anxiety… The list goes on. 

Regret, though, is neither to be avoided (“No regrets!!”) nor used to self-punish. Regret is a sign that we have grown. I think back on my life, and yes, there are countless conversations I wish I had handled differently, relationships I wish I had never begun, career choices I wish I had not made, opportunities I wish I had stood up better for myself or others…The list goes on. 

Instead of stewing in the regrets that are there, I am learning to treat them more carefully. Instead of chastising myself for my mistakes, for things done and left undone, I think more generously about my regrets by focusing on how I have changed for the better: Ah yes, I know what I know now, that I did not then. I am a stronger woman now. I have healed from that. I am finding my voice. 

Regrets are common growing pains. When I mentioned this idea to a friend, he responded with resistance. “That is very negative,” he said. I do not believe regrets are necessary shackles of a conscious life, but I have found from my own experience and through talking with other sensitive souls, that we do, unfortunately, have regrets. We would do some things differently. However, we should strive first to soften the edges of our regret, instead of branding them “positive” or “negative.” Shifts in consciousness naturally guide us differently. Being kinder to ourselves, considering all the steps we take, makes perfect sense. 

The edgy magic of life lies in the unfolding. In the not knowing, then discovering. In dwelling. In finding, and trying again. From the old year to the new, we will carry our stories, steps, and missteps with us. But in 2018, every corner of our lives could use more gentleness. Let us not strive for perfection, but rather, for more creative understanding.