A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” John Barrymore
In the last few weeks of my Mother’s life she was bed ridden and relied on an oxygen mask to breathe. It was not like her to ever be at the mercy of a hospital bed, but she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and I knew we didn’t have much time to spend together.
Painfully I sat with her day and night, speaking in depth about the fond, and at times troublesome memories her past.
After reminding her of the hilarious jokes she used to share, I asked if she had any regrets. For a brief moment her eyes widened. Her right arm reached out to mine. Her words were faint, but clear as day.
“Michelle, I don’t regret a thing. Sure, I have made mistakes, but doesn’t everyone? No one’s perfect. We’re here to live, to laugh and to love. That’s it.”
Through the tears I took her hand and gently kissed it. It was one of the last things she said before her passing.
Many of us live with the aching feeling of regret—wishing and hoping for a chance to go back in time to create or complete something we did or didn’t do.
The most common regrets I’ve heard are:
- Not having the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life others expected of them;
- Working so hard that life was not enjoyed to the fullest;
- Wishing they had let themselves be happier.
Sometimes we must take a full reality slap to let go of the past and embrace the present. After I ended an 11-year relationship my friends asked, “Do you regret being with him?” After all, he was emotionally and physically abusive, which was why many have wondered how I could not have regretted such an ordeal.
“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ~ Charles Dickens
To their surprise, I didn’t regret one day with him. Every day turned into a path of inner-knowing; a turning point to which I could develop a deeper understanding of my own actions.
In order to overcome what I have regretted in the past required some self-reflection. By accepting the past as it was and learning how to forgiving myself helped me embrace the change that otherwise deemed regretful.
There are many ways in which one can live life to the fullest without the burden of regret, and here are just a few…
Eliminate the word “if” from thoughts and speech
Most of the time the words we mutter over again to ourselves and out loud are, “What would have happened if… ” or “If had done that, then…” Of course, one must take responsibility for their thoughts and actions, but at some point a decision which you didn’t make might have helped you gain perspective in this present moment. It does take time, but one can learn to accept life as it is now and concentrate on how one can be happy in any current situation.
It is our human nature to want to achieve personal goals and aspirations, yet at times it takes some disappointment to find the growth. With awareness is a strength to move forward without regret. Many of us will not have everything at every point in life, and it is important to learn from the sorrow.
Stop being a people pleaser
Saying yes, when you really mean no, is a habit many of us share. At times we want so badly to please others that we sacrifice our own happiness in the process. The fact is, every one of us deserves to be happy, and when we agree to things that contradict our own thoughts and actions, we relinquish the pleasure of life’s most precious experiences. Do what you feel is right and what flows effortlessly through your heart.
It’s your turn. Have you been able to let go of regret? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.