My mother taught me to live my life so I can sleep at night. That’s a really simple concept, and it’s served me well. That doesn’t mean I’ve always lived it, but pretty much every time I haven’t, I’ve been sorry. There are many ways to have regrets: things you do, things you don’t do. The ones I do that I regret pretty much have to do with people. With experience, I’ve learned to listen to that small voice that says maybe I shouldn’t say that or send that e-mail. The small voice doesn’t always tell me when I’m about to insert my foot in my mouth, and I don’t always regret it when I don’t heed its quiet voice, but it has a good track record that I’m a fool to ignore. Words once said or sent can’t be taken back. Some of them damage relationships, some only my reputation. My biggest regrets are those which have hurt others or diminished what others I care about thought of me.
Thankfully, I don’t have many regrets over things I haven’t done. I’ve always pushed myself outside my comfort zone. But I’m also aware that one day it will be too late. Most of these regrets are fairly small. I wish like crazy I’d bought myself one of those real bats encased in acrylic at Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. I bought one for my son, but who has a bat from Dracula’s castle to put on their desk? I should have spent the extra twenty-five dollars. I also didn’t spend a weekend in Bali with friends when I had the chance. How stupid is that? And I didn’t see my beloved grandmother the night before she died, though I was traveling and in the area. I’d flown in late the night before and had worked all day. I chose to skip the three plus hour round trip to see both of my grandmothers and mother-in-law in the small towns they lived in, 30 minutes away in opposite directions. I was tired, and it was my 40th birthday. I went in one direction only, spending my birthday with two of the three of them; I figured I’d see her on my next trip there in a month or two. She was gone the next day–that one hurts. But I visited all three of those special ladies regularly before they died; overall, I have peace.
It is a constant struggle, though. Every day we make numerous choices, some to act, and others to do nothing. Some choices are good, others less so. I try to take my mother’s advice to live my life so I can sleep at night. I like sleeping well.
“We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” –Lucy Maud Montgomery