Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking Back Doesn't Mean Getting Yourself A Stiff Neck

Regrets.  Why are people so afraid to admit they have regrets in their lives?  'Regrets' has always had a very bad rap, with people saying it's wasted time and effort.  'I don't have time for regrets; they're counterproductive', is what is commonly declared.

But really, is there anyone on this planet without a single regret??  More importantly, is regretting really all that bad? Some of you are probably thinking that this is odd timing on my part, given that this is a new year, clean slate, fresh start, leave the past behind.  But this is also precisely why I thought about 'regrets'.  I think you can't really go forward without intelligently looking back.  And I say intelligently because looking back without much consciousness is worthless.  

To regret is to feel negatively about something from the past; to feel sorry that something happened, to wish it never did.  I don't see anything wrong with that at all and if you tell me you are a person with no regrets, I would walk away from you and know that you are a liar.  (Well, either that or you are delusional.  Either way, keeping distance from you would be wise).  

Regretting does not mean you don't believe that even painful things happen for a reason and that there are blessings to be found behind failures.  For me, regretting is an acknowledgement of mistakes made, either by myself or others. It is my recognition of dreams or hopes unfulfilled, ideals unrealized.  Regrets, to me, are useful because they highlight for me certain tendencies I have, behavioral and psychological inclinations I possess that I can still CHOOSE to change.  Looking back at painful things and wishing they turned out differently is normal and acceptable, as long as you don't go through self-flagellation and turn your experience of pain to suffering.  Pain is just an experience.  Suffering speaks of your perception and how you CHOOSE to experience such pain.  

I regret making certain decisions.  I regret NOT making certain decisions.  In these cases, I recognize that there were times I decided in haste even if everything in my being told me to step back and take my time, while there were times it was my tendency to give my power to someone else, letting them decide my fate.  The decisions themselves cannot be undone, but how I live the consequences of those decisions is still completely up to me, and so are future countless decisions I am yet to make.  Recognizing my mistakes and paying attention to the echoes of my regrets help me choose wiser and more consciously. As such, my regrets become gifts instead of prison walls meant to torture.  

To see an ugly or disappointing past and wishing it were better, sweeter or lovelier is normal.  But you do have to recognize that the past cannot be undone nor brought back and that there is no other option than to move along and live in your present.  Everyone's allowed to look back and actually you should!  Feel good about it.  Feel bad about.  It does not matter.  What matters is you know that the present is the only space where you have power and that NOW is when you can try to make sure that tomorrow will not be filled with too many regrets.