It’s a new year. The calendar has fresh edges, its center staples are tightly fisted in on themselves, the middle hole for hanging is pristine.
Blog posts are popping up within my inner tribe touting worthwhile resolutions and year end wrap-ups for 2015.
What about me? What do I want? What do I need to do? Where should I focus my attention?
The previous year will be hard to beat in some ways, and difficult to bear in others. There were losses, gains, mistakes, breathtaking moments, visiting places so awesome I carry the scent of them in my inner olfactory system and long for them in ways I can only describe as homesickness, reunions, career growth, regrets…
I don’t like that word. I don’t like how it sounds when I hear it spoken, or how it tastes when I am the one uttering its name. It’s a bit like the queasy feeling right before vomiting.
Charlotte Bronte called regret, ‘poison of life.’ She understood.
I’ve always been of the camp preferring to regret what I’d done than what I hadn’t. But why regret at all?
Perhaps it serves as an inner compass, a reminder of that which doesn’t feel good. Even if it seems wonderful for a brief second—the sinful thickly frosted triple chocolate cake tantalizing the taste buds—it will eventually lose its flavor, leaving behind an upset stomach.
Words said, or not. Sentiments shared, or not. Harshness. Personality traits surfacing which were previously unknown or unexperienced.
Moments of: Whoa! Where did that come from?
Rewind. Backtrack. Erase, erase, erase.
Can’t turn back the hands of time. Can’t use an ‘undo’ feature.
Suddenly I am reminded of the huge train station map in Paris at Gare Saint-Lazare, with its webbing of rail lines and destinations. That map could be all the good things of 2015, each locale an indicator of some joyful event. And in its center is the flag marked; ici.
Here. I am here. And it commands attention, draws the eye to it with unexpected tunnel vision.
It is the regret.
The empty socket a tooth once occupied. Thoughts keep congregating there, like the tongue in the gap of raw gum.
It can’t be changed. It can’t be plucked out.
But I do want to carry it forward? Can I leave it in 2015?
This is where I cede to Lucy Maud Montgomery: “We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”
I do not want to drag last years’ regrets through this new year and onto the next, year after year, stacking it up like cord wood on the back porch of an old cabin. Nor do I want regret to stain this past year, 2015, in all its colorful glory. A second doesn’t make an hour, nor an hour a week.
Is this my rant? My purge? Pardon the lead-in. It seemed necessary in some self-flagellating way.
So back to my original question. What do I want?
That’s my word, my wish for 2016. I want to stand in the middle of my map, ici, and understand myself, move forward through the coming months with grace and just enough mischief to be interesting—and say, “Oh yeah, I really regret that!” as I point to the ici flag and laugh.
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and one very spoiled German shepherd named Gretel.