Part of being human is that we all have fears. There is no exception to this rule. I have yet to meet someone that I can call truly “fearless.”
Almost all of us have multiple fears, as do I, and as like most people, I have one fear that towers above and beyond all my other fears. The fear of regret.
All of my other fears, such as the fear of snakes, crickets or any other strange insects/reptiles that traumatized me in my youth pale in comparison to regret, because living with and having regret creates doubt in my thoughts and actions. It essentially becomes a domino effect. Once I regret one thing, I begin the process of asking myself many questions.
“Well, what if I did this or that instead? What if I my timing was better? What if I came on too strong? Or not strong enough?” Regret inevitably leads to these many soul searching type questions that can drive a person insane. Simply because we will never truly know the answers and any answer we think we may know is all subject to speculation.
Regret may be the reason I overcompensate for things at times, because I don’t want to ever have that feeling of regret. I know the pain it can bring, I’ve felts its sting of uncertainty and the level of insanity it can bring me to. It is certainly the reason I post many uplifting motivational and inspirational quotes. I do so to remind and surround myself with positive messages. Even if it first I don’t believe it, if I see it and read it enough I will begin to adopt all of those positive beliefs.
The truth is, I do have regrets and it is because I have these regrets that I can sit here and write about how terrifying they are for me to have.
Many of my regrets have to do with relationships. Certain decision I made during certain times in the relationship that either led to its premature demise or in some cases the extension of a relationship that once ended made it harder to cope with the outcome.
Not all are relationship based but most are. I regret other things such as actions that I missed out on when I was younger and even certain things that I did that I wish I did not that took a tool on me later in life. Certain opportunities presented themselves to me that I did not follow through on or took for granted at the time that I would do unspeakable things to go back and be able to do differently. All of these regrets, personal or relationship wise, I have had to live with.
I often am haunted in my sleep by my regrets; even many, many years after regrettable incidents happened. My regrets will occasionally cripple me emotionally for a day. This doesn’t happen often, but a few random days out of the year I lose all sense of motivation and I become lost in my own head. I begin to feel the sorrow or sadness of a missed opportunity or an opportunity where I feel that if I handled things differently, my life would be better today.
It’s not that I lead a bad life. In fact, I feel that I live a good life when compared to many others who may not be afforded the same privileges that I am. Yet there is always something lurking deep within me, deep within my memories…that what if…so many that it clouds my mind and can send me in to thinking, if only for the briefest moment, of what alternate world I may be living in had a made a different choice.
I have learned that it is best to control thoughts of the past and not block them out.
Having control over when and what I think about has been helpful because it allows me to choose the time and place on where I release my emotions. I used to bottle up thoughts and emotions from regrets of the past, now I make it a part of life, sort of like vacuuming my rug every now and the rug stays clean. As long as I tend to my rug every now and then, I will lessen the need for a deep cleansing. But a deep cleansing every now and then can have value too!
I no longer bottle up my emotions. I feel more in control and in tune with my thoughts, regrets and emotions than ever before. I have simply just accepted that the past is the past and can’t be changed. I honor what I can and I accept that what has happened has happened and that there is no going back.
This great fear of mine has proven to be a great life lesson and teacher to me in return. I can’t say that the benefits outweigh the regrettable experiences, but I can say I have tried hard to not make a bad thing turn in to a worse thing. Sometimes I have succeeded, others I have failed. Such is life.
It has made me see living in a different light. I take more risks, I take more chances. However when I do these things, I think them through completely. I fully understand the ramifications of living with regrets and living in the world of wonder, that is not the place for me.
I understand that every decision I end up making won’t be the best decision and that I am bound to continue to make mistakes along the road of life. However, at the end of each day, I want to be able to look in the mirror and say to myself, “I left nothing on the table anywhere today.” If I can say those words at the end of each day, then I know I have lived a day without true regret, regardless of mistakes made or any bad decision I may have made.
Author: Adam Wilkinson
Image: Youssef Hanna-flickr