It’s that time of year. Graduations. Weddings. The ones you love the most move toward new opportunities, new cities, new beginnings. And you are left with memories, moments of a former time, happy celebrations….and, likely…regrets.
A family reunion forced me to experience what distance can keep at bay: the pull of time. Children are now in high school, the teenagers are married and mortgaged, and the parents now live in the twilight.
Just the time to start ruminating on my own encroaching mortality. The life I’m living and the regrets of the road not taken, the opportunity not seized. These regrets espeically nag around motherhood. Should I have worked less? Why didn’t I host more parties for the kids? Did I read to them enough? And speaking of reading, why was it so important for me to always carry a book for myself when we were at the playgounds together? Should I have been the parent playing tag and Marco Polo instead of the one trying to grab a few minutes of precious “me” time?
This leads me to think about just where do regrets come from anyway? They aren’t logical. There is no indication that any other chosen option would be ‘regret free’ or lead to any better life or satisfaction than what we currently have. Putting aside the calamitous decisions we may make occassionally (thereby creating serious misgivings), it seems to me that most of our garden variety regrets result from some sort of idealized fantasy.
We want to believe that there is a way of living with such certainty that we will never rue the possibility of “what if”. We long to have no doubt that our choices were the single best choices and all other possibilities paled beside them. My “regret” is that weird place of tension between this mental world I’ve conjured and the life I’ve actually lived.
That mental world is not life. It’s fantasy. And escaping into fantasy is removing myself from the life I’m called to live today. With all the doubt, the uncertainty, the what ifs and the choices that await me today.
I rather live my real life than the fantasy one any day. So, bring on the regrets I suppose. But may I not lose too much time in the present wondering about the other road. Likely I’d have the same regrets there as I do here.