Many people get to the end of their lives with crippling regret. Whether it is unfulfilled dreams, things left unsaid, unresolved issues with loved ones or the scars of deep resentment that they held like a knife against their own side for so many years that it kept them from living the best life possible, regret is a weighty affliction.
My husband had a lot of regret; he took it to his grave. I never quite understood that for him it was a part of the horrible mental illness that robbed him of the life he deserved. We had many discussions about regret over the years and when he left this world tragically I knew I had a choice to live in fear and regret or live in love and gratitude. One decision would keep me firmly rooted in the blackness of deep despair and the other would allow my children and I to see our lives in a different way, and take all of the opportunities we could to live the very best life.
The truth is I do not have a lot of regrets. I have talked a lot about the struggles Kirk and I faced early on in our relationship and the truth is I could spend a whole lot of time wishing that we could go back and change that but the lessons that we learned is wisdom that can never be taken away from me, and those lessons led us to a place of being able to love each other from our whole hearts, not for what we expected the other to be or what we expected in return for our love investment…but just simply to love each other unconditionally, without regret. I can only speak for myself in this scenario, I can only say that I achieved that; and knowing that it is possible opens up a whole new world void of age old fears about love, loss and worthiness.
People ask me all the time how this is possible and I have given it a great deal of thought.
I ran into my neighbor today and she said “Are you OK?” I replied yes. She looked at me sadly for a moment and than said “Are you?”
She wanted to take my pain and it is a common thing. People are loving and inherently good and we instinctually want to free others from any sort of pain but the truth is it’s my pain, my lessons, my receipt of love and loss. There are days I feel the pain in every limb, it swims in my blood, and it can consume me if I were to allow it but I do my very best not to.
“The finest souls are those who have gulped pain and avoided making others taste it.”
A life well lived will never be void of pain or loss. The thing about life is nobody gets out alive, so while we can and should empathize with others, we should not saddle ourselves with the heaviness of another person’s pain and we should only carry ours until we have learned the lesson. Let it soften, let it dissolve. We never “get over” the immense loss of a person we love but for me the absolute gratitude for all I gained from my life with Kirk will always outweigh the pain. I wouldn’t take back one second of laughter and love, to avoid one moment of despair.
I am learning a lot from my children about how I want to live my life. I know that I have not fully emerged from my cocoon but I will when I am ready. I will be forever changed by the loss of my husband to suicide but I will never be diminished by it.
I had an aha moment of sorts the other day when I heard my oldest daughter say “I don’t want to have any regrets.”
She knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she wants to achieve but she often forgets that in the equation of life she needs to always come first. Loving yourself, caring for yourself, investing in your own worth is always the most important thing. After you achieve that, everything else is relative. How can you truly say you love another with your whole heart if you haven’t learned to love yourself? How can you expect another to invest huge amounts of love into you if you yourself have deemed yourself unworthy of the investment?
We have all lived with the heavy burden of regret. It weighs us down. Decisions cannot be unmade but the truth is even a bad decision is just a lesson. Most successful people will tell you that they learned more from a bad decision or from a mistake than from the times when everything went just right.
So how do we live a life without regret? Is it possible?
“When we live each day with kindness, compassion, and communicative love, there is no business left unfinished. There are no regrets or words we should have said, but didn’t. There is no need for closure or forgiveness or apology of any kind.”
― Tyler Henry, Between Two Worlds: Lessons From the Other Side
I have broken down a couple of things I have learned in the past several months and I hope that they are helpful. As always, I welcome responses, my blog is based on my experiences and opinions, and I am always open to what has worked for others. While we should not heap our pain unto others we can help by sharing our experiences, it often lets others know that they are not alone in what they are experiencing. We are in a weird and scary time currently and never have we been so divided but I would like to believe at our very core, the majority of us share the same values and truly just want to be happy.
Don’t be afraid of love
Love yourself and love others. Be loving and kind in your words and actions. Give love to others without the expectation of getting love in return. How someone loves you is not a reflection of you, how you love is a reflection of you. Every one is on their own journey, if you love them, love them where they are, not where you want them to be. At the end of our lives we will never wish that we loved anyone less.
Pursue what sets your soul on fire
It is never too late to pursue the things that set your soul on fire. Never allow age to be a road block to the things that you desire. With age comes wisdom and wisdom should not make you sit quietly in a corner and watch the seconds tick by.
Give your heart a voice
Our thinking minds allow us to only make safe decisions. Don’t be afraid to take chances and let your heart have a voice. Those who never risk pain or heartbreak also never experience the freedom of true love. Fear is a terrible motivator. Sometimes the very best things in life live on the other side of fear.
Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, when we hold grudges or hold unto the pain of disappointment or bitter resentment we are punishing ourselves and that is never the intent.
Mistakes make great stories and great stepping stones. Take the lesson and move forward without allowing the fear of mistakes to hold you back from trying.
Always be true to you
When you are your true, authentic self you will not be right for everyone and that is ok. In time the right people will be in your life and one true friend is better than ten fake ones. Being uniquely and unapologetically you allows others to do the same. Your connections with the right people will be better and stronger because of it and best of all you will like yourself.
If you are thankful for what you have it will always seem like more. You can focus on what you don’t have or what you do have, you get much different results with one simple decision. Gratitude breeds abundance. If we live a life thinking about we don’t have we live in a constant state of “have not” which can be exceptionally draining.
Mean what you say, say what you mean
One of my favorite books of all time is the tortured unrequited Love story of Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering heights. If only Cathy had told Heathcliff what she had told Nellie how different their lives would have been! We should never allow fear to hold us back from saying what should be spoken; in the end we will regret the things left unsaid.
Advocate for yourself
Nobody is going to hand you all the things you want and deserve. If you want something, fight for it.
It turns out that some of the best things in life are free. Laughter is one of the very best things. Life doesn’t have to be all serious, all the time. Laugh well, laugh often.
What are you doing to live a life without regret?