Last night, before going to sleep, I decided to increase my education level and ability to communicate to a larger range of people by watching a number of Ted Talks. One of the ones that really struck a neuron was this one on “regret”. It was called “Don’t regret regret” by Kathryn Schulz. She compares Johnny Depp’s shoulder tattoo that used to read “Winona Forever” (after their divorce and forking over plenty of money, it now reads, “Wino Forever”) and her own tattoo that she got when she was 29 as her case-in-point. This does not happen to everyone, but despite her careful planning and preparation for the decision, Kathryn felt remorse the second she walked out of the tattoo parlor and nearly had a full body whine in the middle of NYC. When she got home that night, she berated herself and beat her head against the wall, repeating mentally the four stages of “the regret dialogue loop” throughout the night.
1. Denial “Make it Go Away!”
2. Bewilderment “How Could I Have Done That!?”
3. Punishment “I Could Kick Myself”
4. Perseveration –Take these three phrases and repeat in an endless fashion
Her point was that we are ingrained as a culture into thinking we should forget the past, not regret our mistakes, have no remorse….however, she poses the idea that perhaps, if we are truly alive, if we are experiencing love, have goals, dreams, if we want to do our very best –we SHOULD have regret when things go wrong. In fact, the very inability to experience regret is a characteristic of sociopaths and people with brain damage.
But perhaps, rather than beating ourselves up to the enth degree, so that we actually hinder ourselves from moving forward by crippling the very legs that could be propelling us onward, there are other ways to approach bringing our regrets to the dump:
1. Know it is Universal –We ALL experience it.
2. Laugh at Yourself –It seems impossible with some of the larger regrets in life, but in essence, laughter connects any negative aspects of what we regret to the positive plane in our lives. The plane that allows us to take a negative lesson and use it for good.
3. Use the Passage of Time — We all probably have had experience with this one; time heals the pain of wounds.
There are some things that we cannot change, acts of idiosy for which there is no medical insurance to cover us, we are left exposed, having gone through a painful experience and further carrying that pain and guilt with us. No Ctrl + Z to “undo”. No way to “unfriend” someone or “unfollow”. As a culture we are becoming incredibly more used to not having to face life’s hard realities –if you don’t like the compilation of what you have ended up with, throw it away, scratch it all out, and start fresh.
Regret is the feeling that we have alienated ourselves from the reality of who we are, who have the potential to be, what we have the potential to achieve.
Now, I have myself at a similar crossroads. One where choices have been made, and I am repeating an inner dialogue that may not be all too helpful. It’s because I care that I even over-analyze it all. Feeling like I have alienated part of myself from the reality of who I am. This is not a crossroads that is laced with regret, although there is some lingering for sure. Instead, it’s this place where I need to laugh at myself, so that the positive and negative can merge together and move me forward with ease and grace. You see, I have a pile here, in front of me, consisting of various experiences, mistakes, relationships, all sorts of kaboodles and doo dads, that I have accumulated from the many bits and pieces of my life. I have a hint of a sway towards perfectionism and therefore, I am not entirely satisfied with this mound I see in front of me. But, as with many of you, I am about to enter, yet another new phase. A phase in which I want to take all of the best parts of this “Emily” and leave all the worst parts behind. But perhaps, working with this daunting immersion into the next step, sifting through and organizing this heap of junk, is rather like my little countdown to the step itself.
I began with this enormous task in front of me to begin with: “70 DAYS!” I proclaimed, depressing myself with the very thought of such a long time. Wishing I could somehow throw everyday overboard and just be instantly at ZERO. Somehow, with persistence, patience, and paying close attention to what new things I have acquired along the way, I am staring not 6, but 5.5 days in the face. What if I take that 5.5 days and chunk it down even further?
1.56 Days until I deem it a “pamper me” day.
2.37 Days until the next Farmer’s Market to load up on garlic to eat loads of before I get on the plane.
And then just 2 more days until I pack everything up and take my last walk to Chamonix.
I’m not actually sure if what Kathryn said in her talk has anything to do with all of this, nor if I wove it together the way I wanted to. It just made sense in my head. So I might REGRET hitting “Publish”. But hey, it wouldn’t be the first time! And it could be worse, I could have spilled tea all over my computer keys again.
This is NOT me writing about regretting coming to France; actually, on the contrary, I am taking a step back from experiencing those four repeating phrases of regret and looking at the load of things I have acquired from all the bits and bobs of this trip. Taking tally of the whys, ands, ifs, and whens, and trying to bring everything full circle and decide what to bring in my backpack for the next leap. It’s me trying to make better decisions in conquering the next mountain, to work towards becoming my best self, and achieve what exists as the “highest potential”.
For the record, I loved Kathryn’s tattoo; she showed it to the audience towards the end of her talk. It was on her arm and it was a compass to help remind her to stay focused on her own true north, and to never stop exploring. The audience loved her tattoo also, even her tattoo is an analogy of this simple reminder:
“Your own regrets are not as ugly as you think.”
Thanks for reading all 1111 words,
— Emily —