Before my parents died I used to pride myself in not having regrets. I would proclaim it quietly, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to brag about it, but whenever I was asked, “What do you regret?” I would give the answer I had worked out in my head, the answer to the things that I had done in my life that I wasn’t necessarily proud of:
“I don’t regret. I don’t regret because even though I’ve done bad things, or I haven’t done things, it has led me to become the person that I am today, and I do a disservice to myself to spend time regretting because it implies that I’m not happy with the person I have become.”
Since my parents have died I have worked hard at not regretting things. I have told myself that I did tell them I loved them enough, that they knew that I was here for them no matter what, and that I was a good daughter. I’m very blessed because I don’t have to work hard at convincing myself: I know I was a good daughter to them, and for the most part I consider myself blessed to have had them in my life for as long as I did. Some people never get the chance to have 2 people work so hard to raise them so right, and I had that chance and embraced it for all it was worth.
But, that is not to say that there aren’t some things I would change. And that’s the essence of regret. Dictionary.com‘s definition says “to feel sorrow or remorse for.”
I didn’t realize this until today. I was reading a book by a guy who had mustered up the courage to ask his mom about his “dad,” the guy who had left when he was a kid. Initially he thought (after researching on his own) that his father was dead. But after talking about it with his mom, she located him and gave her son his phone number and address.
That moved me to tears. I haven’t even gotten to the part in the story where he does or does not meet with his father. The thing was that he had that option to.
All I know about my birth father is a name hand written on my birth certificate, and maybe – maybe – a picture of him on a motorcycle in Florida. My mother never talked about him, never told me about him, never told her sisters about him. He was this sperm donor I was always going to eventually get around to asking Mom about – in fact, had come close many times. But never did. Partly because I had 2 parents who loved me and I didn’t feel the sting of missing his presence, partly because I didn’t want to hurt her by bringing up the past, and mostly because I didn’t want to hurt my Dad’s feelings. I never, ever, ever wanted him to think he was anything less than the father that I had always wanted and needed. In that respect, I’m glad I never brought it up.
But some part of me wanted to know. I could say it’s just for the other half of my genetics, but I am SO much like my mother I wanted to see if I had gotten anything from him.
I don’t have that option anymore. Sure, I could hire someone and spend a lot of money, or maybe try to get on some TV show, but it’s not that important and what are they going to do with a first and last name? And maybe he lived somewhere in Florida in late 1983?
I don’t have the option of getting the information from my Mom. I won’t get her side of the story. I never got around to asking her that tough question and I lost my chance.
I can honestly say I regret that.
I can also honestly say that it doesn’t completely make me dislike myself. It sucks that I won’t ever know, but the only thing I can do is learn from that tough lesson that I can’t change and try, next time around, to ask the tough question when I need to.
Regret doesn’t always imply that you would have completely screwed up your life (or fixed your life) after making one decision. Regret means identifying something that you maybe, possibly, could have done differently. Mourning (or being thankful for) the loss of that path, and then remembering it so that next time you don’t do the same thing.
I guess that’s probably a pretty elementary lesson to learn. But I spent so much time saying that I didn’t regret anything that I missed out on learning so many great lessons. I guess I’ll have to start with learning this one, and work my way backwards.
I just regret not starting sooner!