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.
Montgomery is right, do not carry this regret forward into this year if you can help it. Your sadness about regret from 2015 hangs heavy in this post and that saddens me. You don’t say what it is exactly but I hope you find the Centeredness you seek this year and can concentrate on your achievements and the positive small elements that make up life. Wishing you peace and joy, Renee. 😀
Thank you Annika. Yes, there is way too much to be joyful about to live on the hanging threads of regret. It’s simply, onward. Happy New Year to you!
..”the middle hole for hanging is pristine.” You nailed it, Renee. I hung up my new crispy calendar in the old battered wall hole and laughed, glad that the shiny new photos of faraway beaches cover that tired old wall.
Cheers to being centered! MJ
Happy New Year, MJ. The hope and freshness of the coming year is represented by these small joys. It really solidifies the possibilities ahead. Let’s be centered together for 2016!
Regret will age a person faster than anything. Here’s to remaining centered in 2016, Renee. Happy New Year!
Jill, I am smiling at this reminder of how important it is not to bring on more wrinkles. Will cease regretting immediately as I calmly smooth my forehead. LOL. Happy New Year!
Yes, regret mistakes because it would be the second offense, but the first mistake.. The second offense but first mistake? Yep – the first the learning experience that should have prevented the mistake. Happy New Year, Renee!
I get it Frank, and thank you for that. If we learn from it, it wasn’t all bad or even unnecessary, perhaps preventing an even larger mishap in the future. Point taken. Happy New Year to you as well.
Ahh Renee, I too think it is better to regret what I’ve done rather than what I’ve not done, but sometimes life plays tricks on us and we can’t turn back the clock not even for a second. But…it is a new day, a new dawn, a new year. I hope and pray that 2016 brings you the centerdness you seek. Time to hang a new calendar and with it I send you a huge hug… xo
Feeling the hug, Sherri, and supremely grateful. You know and understand. I think women are especially hard on ourselves, setting standards and goals and expecting to just click through them without going off course. Regroup, center, and start again. Hugs right back!!!
Throw out those regrets with the old calendar. 😉 Happy New Year, Renee.
I love that Patti! Just do it! Happy New Year to you as well!
I like the concept of being centered; I’m working on the concept of balance for this year. Have a very Happy New Year Renee!
Yes, balance goes hand-in-glove with being centered. We must not only find our core strength, but find balance between the various areas in our life in order to maintain it. I think we’re onto something, Meg! Happy New Year to you!
I appreciate your honesty and candor. Here’s wishing for centeredness to grow and thrive in all aspects of your life this year and beyond!
Thank you so much Rosanna. If I say this is a blog about my journey, then I must present the waves and upsets along with the smooth sailing. I don’t think there are many of us alive who didn’t have at least a few moments of regret in 2015. Here’s to a bright and shiny 2016 for you!
The harshness..whoa, where did that come from… resounds with me. I definitely need an undo feature. But I might undo so much that there’s nothing left 😦 I think I’d better just move on. Very best wishes for 2016, Renee, whatever you decide to do. 🙂
Yeah, aren’t we harshest with ourselves? I’m moving forward. Here’s to hitting the gas pedal and racing through that yellow light! Happy New Year Jo.
Carrying your regrets with you, no matter where life takes you, does no one any good. Accept them for what they are, learn from them and move on. The best thing about them is you learn what not to do next time a similar situation arises. Happy New Year, my friend. May it be a good one.
Oh, thank you Monica. I’m listening…moving forward with high hopes. Happy New Year to you as well. Hope it’s your best ever.
A very thoughtful analysis of regret and the ways in which it’s necessary to help us move on positively as long as we can acknowledge it and then leave it behind. I hope you find the centredness you want this year.
Thank you Andrea. Regrets are lessons and not albatrosses. I’ll try to remember that.
There is a purpose to some of these negative emotions like regret and shame. You are right that they are guides, but they can’t control us. We need to use them to a better life. Lovely post!
Thank you, Luanne! We can just learn from them and move on…
That is probably the most eloquent depiction of regret I have ever read. It has left a lump in my throat and brought forward a lot of things I’ve kept at bay. Whatever your regrets, they should never be about the power of your written words. You’ve nailed that.
Wow. Thank you, Michelle. I’m so glad you found this meaningful. I thought about it, and decided I should just be honest and not sugar-coat a fine year-end recounting or an uber-positive forward looking one. Just the down-and-dirty. We all have regrets, right? And they stick, as you say, in our throats. The great what-ifs…
I think Charlotte B. put it quite well. As I’ve gone through the years, I have tried to cultivate an inner voice that is kind with my mistakes. Not easy but sure beats the nastier voice of regret.
Thank you Kay. We might as well be kind. There is precious little we can do with mistakes already made.
New years resolutions are long gone, but I still think Lucy Maud Montgomery is very right. Or almost. I actually try to never regret anything I have done, since I can’t change it anyway. Doesn’t mean I can’t say sorry or won’t learn from the experience, but like Montgomery says I just won’t carry it with me into the future. 🙂