Saturday, September 08, 2007

No time like now

Alexander Graham Bell:

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.

Katherine Mansfield:

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it; it's only for wallowing in.

Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Fear not for the future, weep not for the past.

Sydney J. Harris:

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

A friend recently told me he regrets missing out on being with the one person who made his life happy and interesting. He said he had made so many mistakes he wanted to take back but didn't know how, and if he had it to do all over again... I stopped him right there. "Why," I asked, "are you wasting so much time and energy moaning and groaning over what you can't change? If the opportunity is still available, stop regretting what you cannot change and change what you can right now."

Until there is a time machine available to everyone (and wouldn't that cause a ripple effect from which we'd never recover?) and we can erase the past, we must live with the knowledge that the past cannot be changed but the future is still a blank canvas waiting for whatever we want to put on it. The problem is that we get so mired in the past we can't see the moment right in front of us or the possibilities just past the end of our noses. Learn from the past, repeat what worked, and learn from what didn't work, but keep moving forward.

It's like that faint, flickering glimmer of hope in the farthest and darkest corner of Pandora's box that would have been lost had Pandora not looked inside and simply shut the lid to make sure nothing else evil or bad got out. Stop looking at what got away and look for what's still there.

My friend made a choice to put a relationship on hold while he made 1000% certain that he was sure of everything and he chose the perfect time. The biggest problem with that kind of thinking is that you cannot ever be 1000% certain of anything and there is no perfect time; there is only this time, this moment, and this choice. Time and tide -- and life -- wait for no wo/man. I know it all sounds like nothing more than clichéd bromides, but they are clichés because they are true.

I have made mistakes, quite a lot of them over the years, but each mistake brought me to this moment and I regret none of them because at the time they seemed like a good idea and either taught me something or simply gave me insight into myself or someone else. Those are mine to keep, like Fate's door prizes, and like some door prizes they aren't what I wanted, just what I got. I also know that my biggest enemy -- if you can really term it an enemy -- is me because I sometimes forget that as long as there is the next breath, the next moment, the next heartbeat there is still hope and I can change things. Oh, I fall into old habits and once I notice that I do my best to change what I'm doing, but for the most part I am a work in progress and I keep learning and changing and, hopefully, growing. It all sounds so Pollyanna but I prefer Pollyanna to regret and spending my life in the sloughs of despond, and it gives me a new lease on life and a new way of looking at things, and I love to look.

I don't know whether or not my friend will take my advice and stop regretting the past, but I do know that all he needs to do is look up and see that what he wants most in the deepest part of his heart is still available if he has the courage to step up to the plate and take his shot. It won't be easy because there are questions to be answered and reasons to be given, but what he wants is within his grasp if he wants it badly enough and doesn't keep waiting to be 1000% sure or for the perfect time; he's not going to get that kind of sign.

For me, it's like writing. I fret over starting but once I get started the words come and at the end I have something worth sending out and being published. The first step is always the hardest because I agonize over it so much, trying to order things in my mind and plan out what I'm going to write, but I'm stalling, spending too much time thinking about what I am going to do than just doing it. It's that way for many things that I think are going to hurt, but I usually find out I wasted a lot of energy for nothing. Pain is sometimes good because it means growth, but more often than not I find that the pain is inconsequential or nonexistent and the growth is more than I ever hoped was possible.

I hope my friend stops waiting and takes that first step and follows it with more steps because otherwise he will spend his life regretting what he could have had all along.

What do you regret?

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