Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What does it mean to Regret?

I used to be a Girl Guide. I could produce photos but, in this case I choose not to. To be perfectly honest I didn't really like being a Girl Guide. We will ignore the fact that I tried to get every badge in the book. I was (OK, am) also an overachiever. Not really liking Girl Guides would not have affected my badge attainment rate as this was a goal I could accomplish from the comforts of my bedroom. It is possible that my distaste for Girl Guides was foreshadowing of opinions to come. Obviously Girl Guides was overrun with Girls. I don't really get girls. I've discussed this elsewhere.

But I have one very strong memory of Girl Guides. One of our Girl Guide-y activities was to spend time visiting with the elders in a nursing home. We were each assigned a resident and we were to spend time doing something that they enjoyed and, I suppose, learn about who they were. Myself and one other girl were assigned to an old gentlemen who liked to play cards. I can't remember what game he liked to play, but I was bored. I didn't want to play cards. [This too could be foreshadowing. I still don't much care for sitting around and playing cards.] But I humored him and I played and he was a funny old man and he enjoyed our company but as soon as I saw my escape, I made it and asked to be placed elsewhere.

But the other girls adored my little old man. They all clamoured to be the one to play cards with him in my place and I hovered from a distance with whoever I was assigned to next and watched him charm them and tease them and they giggled and soon he had about six little girls crowding around him and giving him attention and I wanted that attention too.

And I regretted that I'd asked to be placed elsewhere. I remember nothing about the resident I sat with next but I remember wishing that I was back with my little old card-playing man. I even asked one of our leaders if I could go back with him and I was told no. And I was sad. And I was angry -- probably at myself. It was my choice to leave his side and go to someone else. So I stayed far away and avoided being near what I regretted. I don't remember how old I was (9 or 10) but this was a valuable lesson.

You can do nothing about regret but learn from it. I can think of little else in my life that I have regretted since. I tend to make my choices and I live with them. I regret none of my teenage antics, but I got lucky a few times and none of them caused me or anyone else harm. I wish I had made more efforts to be more athletic in my youth (especially post high school and into my 20s) but I also didn't really have any friends or role models to influence those decisions. Maybe I was too much of a follower? I regret the years I didn't write a stitch but I had other goals then and I was satisfied. The writing came back.

I regret that I didn't travel more before I was married and had kids when I lived at home and had a sizable bank account that I was afraid to nip from the surface of (and GOD I regret not knowing I would never have a sizable bank account like that again). But, there was no one to travel with. And I was a different, less adventurous person then. And I was pretty into school and that cost money. I did apply to go to France and take a course in the summer of 91, but as you might recall, that previous fall was when the Gulf War started, so in the name of my own safety, I never went through with my plans.

I regret none of my past relationships or friendships (including my marriage). Things turn out the way they do for a reason (again, I've written about this before). If I was the one to leave a relationship, I've never looked back or wished I'd made a different call. If someone has called the ending on me, after sometimes very long periods of mourning during which I knew I would have taken them back if they'd asked, I eventually always knew I would never want to start over.

I can only remember one guy wanting to get back together and he had wisely left me because he wasn't ready. He was still in mourning from someone before me but he had already taken things a shade too far with me by the time he realized this. He'd tossed out too many complements. Touched my feelings. Fawned over me and told me how amazing I was. Showered me with attention I'd never seen before. This guy also has the dubious honour of doing the most romantic thing a guy has ever done for me. He played his guitar and sang me a song to tell me how important I was despite the fact that he couldn't have a relationship with me, not then. I shed a lot of tears over that one. Four years later when we ran into each other at a friend's wedding and we went out on a date again, he told me of his regrets about me and I gently turned him down. I forgave him for his past choice despite the hurt I'd felt but, I had no feelings towards him anymore. I was numb. 

I am a different person now, I said.

I don't know what you mean, he said, you seem like the same person to me. But the difference was that I had moved on. I had loved other people after him. Or I was already interested in someone else. Or I was scared of letting my heart go after the past hurt. Or maybe all of the above. Regardless, I didn't go back and that was the last I heard from him.

I remember one other guy who I thought was trying to get back together with me and when I told him I wasn't really sure I wanted that (before he even brought it up) he squirmed with incredulous indignation because that wasn't what he was trying to do. Set aside the obvious wounding to the male ego I had delivered, I walked away from that encounter humiliated for even bringing it up.

Today I found some old emails, both ones I sent and ones I received, that I didn't know I had and they made me cringe and ache. The sender/recipient of these emails recently told me that they regret me. And I don't know how to take that because, in my world, there is nothing to regret.

So in trying to understand this regret I found this:

Know exactly what you regret.
Take responsibility, don't blame.
Be kind, always.
Apologize where necessary.
Grieve openly.
Learn lessons.
Forgive yourself.

Don't forget, I've had to do the same.


Tri-Guy said...

Chin up - the off season is not that long. Before you know it you'll be back in that smokin' hot little room falling off your trainer. Seriously, everything happens for a reason.... our job is to do our best to figure out the why part. You can never go back.... so look to the future and make plans for tomorrow, as it really is only a day away and it will be here faster than you can ever imagine.

Carly said...

Oh how I've struggled with regret in the past. Unlike you I tend to mill over events in my life wishing I had said this, or done that. I do my best now to talk myself out of this way of thinking but sometimes I just can't help it. It's a tricky balance, and I admire your approach here Kim.

Kim said...

thanks you guys..... Oh yes, training is a good way to block regret....lol.

I'm playing it a bit tough Carly, though. I mill and I stew too, especially about people. And nope, I can't help it. But eventually it works its way through. It always does.

Lisa said...

I was reading through this as if I wrote it and remembered a blog entry of my own that touched on a lot of the same points:

I hear you Kim...loud and clear...:))))

Kim said...

Yes Lisa, I am sure you do. There are multiple things going on here as usual. And I did re-read that post and yes.... yes.

Gail said...

Hi Kim, meant to tell you we added you to our blog list. Totally off topic but wanted to let you know.

Kim said...

Awesome, thanks Gail!!