We are here to care for ourselves in our pain, our fear, our disappointment, jealousy, and regret. That’s our job–caring for ourselves in those moments of darkness. Not to make it go away or to make it better, but simply because it is there.
It’s like when we hold a crying infant. We are our best comforters when we are soothing the baby because she is crying not in order to make her stop. (Though I’ve been there too and it’s a far more stressful place to be, i.e., needing the baby to stop crying. It’s human but it’s also tricky because when there, I’m asking the baby to care for me.)
I’ve been thinking about regret in particular lately because I’ve been writing about it. Everybody is afraid of regret. In the self-help world, it seems to be a dirty word. NOT regretting is the morally superior position. You’re a loser if you admit regret. You can’t change the past so let it go! Every memoir with regret in the title proclaims with many exclamation points that there are NONE!!!
But what if it’s okay to have regret? What if the only issue with regret is what we make it mean? About ourselves? About our future? What if it’s just something we have in the moment it makes itself known to us? Oh. There’s regret. Hello regret. Is there anything I can get you? (What would regret drink? Lukewarm tap water? I just don’t see regret with a fancy coffee drink or frozen marguarita though I think regret would feel better if she did try a fun beverage.)
I think of Rumi and his poem Guest House, telling us to greet every part of ourselves, welcome them in. What he doesn’t say is, it is the welcoming that creates the opening for leaving. Or dissipating, or absorbing. But again, that’s not the point. We ought not make an opening as a technique, so that it will leave (but it does happen! At least, until it comes back.)
What heals regret? One might say psychotherapy or coaching through witnessing or thought work, perspective, understanding, compassion, love, time. Maybe it’s through this that we expand, clear a bit of space on the bench next to our grief for great losses in our lives or current situations that are chronic in their pain. Maybe it’s part of what gives us depth and complexity, helps us be a help to others.
I’ve found that my regret has come from not listening to myself. And so, healing comes from listening, really listening, and then–this is key–acting on what I hear.
Creativity has been healing my regret. Making something fastens me to the present moment. I am awake and curious and experimenting, testing things out. What I didn’t do then can never be retrieved. But this making of something, done one day and then again the next, is restorative. It allows me to recultivate the neglected places, reclaim lost aspects of myself.
People say, you can’t go back but the good news is, there is no need. The access point is here, right now. And we always have that.