regret

Small Courage

Árbol de Hierve el Agua (San Isidro, Oaxaca, November 2010)

"I was reading an issue of Men's Journal magazine. The lead article was '100 Things To Do Before You Die.' On the list were things like climb Mt. Everest, parachute from a plane, hand feed a shark, etcetera. I skimmed the other things they suggested should be on everyone's list. I had no desire to do even one of them.

Then I thought is there anything I would like to do before I die that I haven't done yet? Hypothetically if someone is living fully, they're doing what matters (or is important) to them whenever and however they can.

There's something dubious, even pathetic about having to make lists of tasks to do before you die so in doing them, you can be sure you will have really 'lived.' The Japanese say 'live every day as if your hair was on fire' and within realistic bounds, that sounds about right.

Most of the time we know almost as soon as a situation arises whether we will regret not doing it afterwards or not if we say no. We also know most of the time that despite our many fearful, well behaved inner voices telling us not to do something, that we should ignore those voices and go ahead and do it. Because when we do and it works, it makes us bigger and life richer. If it fails, we hurt for a while but then heal and move on.

You don't need to climb Mt. Everest to have led a fulfilled life. You only have to have the courage, and usually it is only small courage, to say yes. Say yes and do something when your first, second and third instincts may be to say no because that frightens me."

~ Jonathan Carroll

On the Back of Every Mistake

Café Terrace at Night, Vincent van Gogh, 1888, Oil on canvas

Antilamentation
by Dorianne Laux, from The Book of Men 

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Living with Regrets

"If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them…We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.” 

~ Kathryn Schulz, from "Don't Regret Regret," TED Talks, Nov. 2011

[Thanks, Brain Pickings!]

See also:

 

Missing the Boat

Edward Albee, 1991 "All my plays are about people missing the boat, closing down too young, coming to the end of their lives with regret at things not done, as opposed to things done. I find that most people spend too much time living as if they're never going to die. They skid through their lives. Sleep through them sometimes. Anyway, there are only two things to write about —life and death."

~ Edward Albee, from “Edward Albee and the Road Not Taken,” by David Richards, New York Times, June 16, 1991