Things I regret

Happily there are few things I unreservedly regret. There were of course events which at the time I would rather have avoided. Yet in retrospect even those trying moments afforded me a profit, the complete beneficence of which it wasn’t until much later in life I fully appreciated. I speak of those ticks of universal application which at the time we consider either trifling or unbearable but which later prove altogether the opposite. Not the least of those fortuitous happenstances is the very reason I am sitting at this desk peering at the river beyond the meadow.

In spite of my magnanimity and percolating gratitude, I have to admit there are one or two things which stand out as regrettable. I am thinking of one in particular.  What makes it so distressing is that I am the one to blame. It concerns a relationship gone sour.  I have had to confess that whatever wrong I may have sought to attribute to the other party is upon examination and reflection little more than an accusation of my own shallowness. Couching the remorse in these terms captures the pangs of conscience rather than the self-recrimination.

Regret is the emotion of wishing one had made a different decision in the past, because the consequences of the decision one did make were unfavorable. Regret is related to perceived opportunity. Its intensity varies over time after the decision, in regard to action versus inaction, and in regard to self-control at a particular age. The self-recrimination which comes with regret is thought to spur corrective action and adaptation. In Western societies adults have the highest regrets regarding choices of their education.

Arguably many decisions are reversible.  But some are not.  Those relating to relationships have that feature of “let bygones be bygones” which tends to open the door on renewed opportunity; but there are similarly other features such as “enough is enough” to which one may attach a less ambivalent approach to continued communion. Repeated conflict is logically an unimproving way to advance a goal. In the end it matters not who is right or wrong.

The paradoxical disadvantage of having so few regrets in life is that it accentuates the shortfall of those few. I find as a result I sense a greater necessity to do something about them. But sometimes you just have to let go.

Which brings me to the next juncture; namely, carry on. My partner for example is one of the most esteemed characters in my opinion. He has I know endured countless affronts in his career (being as he was in a very large national organization fraught with the battles of seniority and advance) but I have learned by witnessing his behaviour of recovery that he has succeeded to distance himself fully from those regretful incidents. This is no small compliment.  I by comparison continue to preserve whatever petty animosities may have disturbed me as long as fifty years ago.  Now that is a small compliment! What preserves me from complete self-annihilation for this unforgiveable mood of revenge is my proven ability to rise above it in an instant and to “let bygones be bygones”.  But first I must perform the ceremony of retaliation before completing the moral persuasion to forget about it. It’s that sort of thing I regret; and which by contrast distinquishes my partner.

Yet no two of us is the same; and, naturally we handle our own shortfalls differently. It is a philosophy which helps to remove some of the sting of inadequacy and regret.