Monday, February 1, 2010

Regrets...


Isaiah 43:18-19

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Regret…

'Pain of mind on account of something done or experienced in the past, with a wish that it had been different; a looking back with dissatisfaction or with longing; grief; sorrow; especially, a mourning on account of the loss of some joy, advantage, or satisfaction.'

Grief; concern; sorrow; lamentation; repentance; penitence; self-condemnation.

Regret does not carry with it the energy of remorse, the sacredness of contrition, or the practical character of repentance. We even apply the term regret to circumstances over which we have had no control, as the absence of friends or their loss.

When connected with ourselves, it relates rather to unwise acts than to wrong or sinful ones. --C. J. Smith.

Regret is an interesting feeling or state of mind. Some philosophers say feeling regret is irrational, or even immoral. But surely in some situations regret is appropriate. If we have done something wrong, or stupid, regret is our conscience or mind telling us that we should NOT do it again.

Regrets…

Guilt: bad things we've done, or good things we failed to do

Shame: bad feelings about who we are

Failure: despair over mistakes we made; or disappointment that we have not lived a life that anywhere near matched our earlier dreams.

God’s antidote for guilt is faith and forgiveness; and for shame; love and grace; and for failure and despair…hope.

Life wasn't meant to be easy and as I ponder about where I am today I am somewhat haunted by the nagging feeling of “what could have been” constantly chastising myself wondering “If only.”
Unfortunately most of us can't forget stupid decisions we made in the past or stupid things we said, or stupid ways we reacted to the actions and words of others and these mistakes have altered our destinies.

Of course we can't undo what has happened but some seem to plague me even today. I have sought to explore those things and examine them to make sense of them.

When I was a child there was this picture of my two older brothers in front of this huge Christmas tree and surrounding them was this huge assortment of toys from a massive train set to bicycles for each of them to this big toy robot.

When I was old enough to process the picture I remember becoming a tad bit pissed off.
This photo was made into a Christmas card that was sent to friends and family members. I found a box of them when I was five or six and tore a bunch of them up and threw them away. What brought on this little tantrum was one Christmas Eve when I decided to stay up one night to greet Santa. I did the cookies and snack thing like other kids, I got my blanket and curled up in front of the tree to await his arrival.
In the middle of the night my oldest brother awoke to see me sitting up wrapped in the blanket unable to sleep. He bluntly told me “boy take you butt to bed, there is no Santa Clause.”
I wasn’t shocked, nor upset I was kind of matter of fact about the revelation. I was holding that picture of my brothers hoping that the tree would be full of gifts for me.
I woke up the next morning and there were a modest amount of presents under the tree but I was disappointed that I did not receive my own train set. I received this shitty carved wooden train set. Truth is I would later pour lighter fluid on it and burn it.
I would never experience a Christmas similar to the one depicted in the photograph.

Years later as my parents started to have marital issues much of what resulted from my fathers gambling habit Christmas started to symbolize regret and disappointment.
One year I took matters into my own hands. As I said my father was heavy into gambling particularly horse racing.
From about the age of 10 or so up until the time my mother and I left home my dad would use me as his bank. Being a frugal kid he knew he could leave large sums of money with me and I would not spend or squander it.
I did however love to have that money in my possession. It was routine for me to have hundreds of dollars on me.
As another Christmas approached I remember listening to my parents argue over money and how “broke” my dad claimed he was that morning. My mother needed some money to buy gifts and wanted to get some decorations. My father bitched about how she needed to save her money because times were a “little difficult” Meanwhile in my room was at least $2000.
When my father went to work, I finally told my mom about my bank arrangement with my dad and I gave her $200.
For the longest I wanted a new bike, a good friend of mine had earlier received for his birthday this really cool 10 speed mountain bike. I at the time was riding this crappy 5 speed holdover from my middle brother.
I told myself fuck this I’m going to treat myself to something nice this Christmas. So I gathered a few friends and we caught a bus and headed to Berkeley near the UC campus.
We went to this really cool bike shop that had the best bikes. I fell in love with this beautiful Japanese touring bike 20/21 speed can’t remember but it was one of the most expensive bikes in the shop. After some cool accessories this bike ended up costing near $1000. Keep in mind this is in 1979. I gave my buddies $100 to get something to eat and to help them to get back home and I rode this bike all the way back home. I first rode it to Alameda to the beach and hung out there for hours. I finally got home just after nightfall.
I cleaned up the bike and put a tarp over it and hid it under the house in a crawl space.
On Christmas Eve after my parents went to bed I got the bike and put it under the Christmas tree, a Christmas tree I might add that had no presents under it. I added one present I got for my mom a watch and a nightgown.

My mom and dad woke up before I did and I heard them asking each other where the bike came from. I just laid there staring up at the ceiling wanting to get the fuck out of that house.
At this point my parents marriage was over, they were only playing house. I tried to convince my mother to get the fuck out and finally she did. One day we packed our bags and headed to Alabama to stay with my grandparents.

This little change caused me to miss my graduation in California so I had to go back one school year which meant that I would graduate in 1982 instead of 1981.

All through my childhood I languished and bitched about what I lacked. Although I watched my dad gamble thousands of dollars I almost never received anything I wanted for Christmas and routinely was rewarded with my brothers hand me downs. My parents were not poor by any stretch my dad made really good money. At the time he was leading insurance sales agent at one company and president of another. He was one of the first black million dollar salesman in the country. Our home was full of trophies he gathered highlighting his success.

Ah but my dad loved playing the “we are broke card.” When it was my time to drive and when I wanted to take my parents car to my Junior prom my father bitched about not having the insurance coverage for me to drive the car, so my girlfriend at the time drove us. Hell in fact she drove me everywhere, to and from school, to the mall or wherever. I was ridiculed somewhat because obviously it was not cool for your girlfriend to be taking you all around. I would however point out that while they were running their mouths they were boarding a crowded bus.
But deep down I was pissed but I never let my girlfriend know it.

Recently in my moments of reflection I sit in my apartment and stare up at the ceiling like I did as a young child pondering and reflecting on numerous regrets and perceived failures.
As I pointed out I bemoan the fact that I did not have my own room, regretted that my parents never purchased that shiny bicycle I craved. As a teenager I regretted that my father didn't know more about me or my life and the things I went through.
I wished my parents would have encouraged me more to do better in school or engage in activities like playing the piano or some other instrument.
I regret not knowing another language, or learning how to swim better. I regret not telling a girl that I had a serious crush on in high school how I felt, I regret the fact that my grandfather never got to see me graduate high school, particularly since his influence helped me became a much better student.
I regret not being a harder worker when it came to my baseball career… I actually could have had one, but I was a lazy bastard.

We all have the ever present list of regrets which could be anything from a decision made in haste (The decision to marry and to divorce), an opportunity lost (furthering my education years ago). I regret not applying myself and making the most of my talents which has lead me to be in the financial situation I find myself in today. (I do however love my job, I make decent money).
The purchase of two homes I talked my first wife into buying when we were just fine living on base at the time.
Not taking a great assignment to Greece because I decided that it would not be good for my new family.
Leaving a great job at the hospital, if I had stayed I would have been making considerable more money.
Not paying more attention to my son, leaving my daughter after the divorce (If I had taken her she would have been much better off today)
No pursuing my political ambitions passing on a once in a lifetime opportunity (because of fear)
Words spoken or not spoken (harsh words said to my son and daughter and wives). A relationship which ended in a mess, (you all are a witness to that one)
Meaningless sexual escapades with women I could have cared less about nor can I even remember their names. My daughter put a stop to that shit… LOL!
An angry letter or phone call… too numerous to count...not being more assertive, not taking more risks, not being a better friend, father, husband, brother.

Regrets are strange things. We regret some things we could not have changed; we regret things that are far beyond our control.

Chronic regret, something I suffer from... its iron bars are forged from our memories, our guilty consciences, our grief. Regret is not just about the past, though it often begins there. Decisions or actions you made a while back determined where you are today and limit where you will be tomorrow. You wish you had done things differently or chosen a different path.

As I wrestle with these regrets and as I have offered my humble opinion to a dear friend recently battling with past regrets… regret may be a prison but unlike most cells, there is no lock on the door. We are our own jailers. Regret is not always healthy and chronic regret is not God's plan for us. We can open that door and be free. We get one chance at this business called living and I know I can’t go on poisoning my mind and constantly shaming myself with these chronic regrets.

Some who will read this may or may not be shocked my the revelation that I have considered suicide on several occasions and on each occasion I was given a sign or a symbol to carry on.

I am slowly learning that life can begin again... I know I must first forgive myself in order for me to heal and also to keep me from poisoning the lives of those who loved and supported me.

Was talking to a friend recently and I was talking about how harshly I have treated my youngest daughter and how I was continently criticizing the decisions she has made and I came to the realization that… she is just like me. He only sin is the fact that she did not have the life preservers afforded to me. Although she is going through some difficult times she shuns help from me or anybody else. I am the same way, she gets her knuckle headed ways from me.

Here I am sitting in this beautiful office… an office with 25’ ceilings and a huge picture window as I look at a wall of the fascinating people I have an opportunity to meet.
I did live in a wonderful home with someone who did love and supported me but obviously was too blind to see it.
Yes I am currently experiencing some trivial difficulties, but I work with wonderful people, I drive decent car, I live in a decent place. Do I wish I made more money yes, but I won’t go hungry anytime soon and my only debt is my car.

And yet… despite myself… I was given another sign... I have been given another chance by God to redeem myself, God please don’t let me screw this up!

I always considered myself to be a smart man but obviously it took me 46 years and closet full of skeletons and those pesky regrets and personal failures to figure things out.
Better late than never I guess. Now that I have taken the time to profess these things somewhat publicly let us see if I am smart enough to follow my own advice.

I won’t eradicate 46 years self imposed mental anguish overnight but I must strive to be a better me.

Thanks for reading.


Ok we will now resume normal blogging activities…

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Those who do not learn from their past are doomed to repeat it. For those who have been in a failed relationship, before they leap into another new one right away, they need to spend some time alone learning about themselves and what part they played in the failure. Otherwise, the problems of old are carried on into the new. That's why rebound relationships so often fail. And why those who end up with someone they were with while still in another relationship cannot trust the one they cheated with. Blaming other people is futile; you cannot change them. But you can change yourself, if you are honest and willing enough to do so. Professional help is sometimes very helpful; brutal honesty with self is hard to come by. Most people cannot see themselves clearly, and need an unbiased unrelated person to help with that provess. Guilt and remorse are self-indulgent if there is no change in conduct. It also helps to ask for forgiveness from those that we have harmed. Good luck with your new resolutions and life.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for salvation from any person (other than God) you are not going to find it. No thing, relationship, person, vacation, job or anything else on earth can give you peace. Only you, and your relationship with the Lord, can do that. Stop blaming (self or others) and start changing. Tell the truth (to yourself and others)and learn to truly love (yourself and others) without strings or exceptions. And learn to say "I am sorry" and mean it.

Just Sayin' said...

For the longest time, even now when I let it, I have had asshole disease.

That means no matter where I am in life, fifteen years ago I was an utter asshole.

Recovery is impossible. Life is just an accumulation of more and more asshole-ness.

Fortunately, my better half gave me an antidote by way of some obscure (to me) Oriental philosphy. It's "hungry ghosts".

They're all those memories, which by definition can't be changed but are seemingly lively. They rear up and gobble up your life in the present. They'll take over if you let them. See: they're hungry and you are the one that is doing the feeding.

Nowadays, when I find myself caught up in one of those closed loops of regret, if I am lucky or somewhat self-aware, I'll shake myself and say, "Hungry ghost". And proceed to mentally tag that one, put it into its grave, learn/relearn its lesson and let the damn thing leak away.

There's nothing we can do about the past except remember it. So here's the other side of the trick: I now work hard to drudge up another memory that is positive. We're not all bad, there's stuff that we have done that is smart, cool, worth hanging on to. At least I hope so.

PS. Snoop, hang onto that birthday card gif for four years, then it'll be right.