Regret is a dangerous thing. It strives to tear down structures built with the blood, sweat, and unshed tears of a person who doesn’t understand the importance of her creations. Regret cannot be permitted to succeed in destroying the beautiful achievements of a man whose only crime is hiding from himself.
There’s a balance between appreciation and arrogance. There’s a balance between shame and embarrassment. Where does regret fit into that strained harmony? It doesn’t. It can’t. It has no place to call home. And so it invades our belief in ourselves.
There’s an oft-shared cliché, that says, essentially: one should not dwell in the past because one cannot change it and one should not dwell in the future because there is no assurance it will ever come; only the present deserves our attention.
Sometimes, clichés hold powerful truths. Regret lives in the past; it should be allowed to stay there.
Juan, I try to leave regrets in the past where they belong, but if truth be told I don’t think it’s possible to bury them there. They will find a way to surface and, if permitted, begin to nibble away at the hard shell built to hold them at bay. I believe regrets should be forgotten, but I believe, too, they can’t be.
I am reminded by a couple of things from John’s piece: First Sinatra’s rendition of “My Way,” a favorite song of mine, because as Sinatra croons:
“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
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.”
And then, I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” where by the end of the poem, Prufrock is careful to recall his own regrets, especially applicable for older men like myself who can almost see their youth bleeding from them. Prufrock asks the proverbial life’s question that every older man must ask himself when standing before the mirror:
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
Though he makes a kind of statement of acceptance and will to change:
I shall wear my white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
The somber regret is there, but there comes a point in any older person’s life that whether there is regret or not, it makes little difference. Certainly, we can have regrets, but no regret should be so great that it encompasses the very heart of us.
Agreeing here, John. Permitting regret in your present, and then lugging it into your future is a surefire way to guarantee yourself unyielding misery….