I listened to a podcast last night where a guy spoke about regret and how it differs from shame and how all of the cultures he's studied seem to show that regret is universally human and no matter what language it is discussed in, the same words seem to be used to talk about it. It's as if we are encoded to look back and wonder, ponder, what our lives would have been like if we'd only done this instead of that, chosen something or someone different, took a different path, followed a different dream, made different choices.
Regret is not shame and supposedly everyone but small children and sociopaths experience shame. We all know it. Some of us know it too well and it prevents us from being honest, from admitting even to ourselves who we truly are. It can also motivate us to change, to be different.
As I get older I think a lot about regret. Shame too, but not quite as much. There are some things I am ashamed of, without a doubt, but it is the regrets that I dwell on the most. I cannot say that I regret any of the biggest things I've done in my life, even marrying my first husband because of course I got my first two children from that marriage and he was not a horrible man. I don't regret divorcing him although I would have given anything not to break up our family which was absolutely one of the most painful things I've ever gone through.
I don't regret going to nursing school for any number of reasons. I don't regret marrying Glen Moon in the least. I don't regret being mostly a stay-at-home mother.
But I regret many of the things I did as a mother, the way I mothered, which (and oh, how I hear the echo of my own mother's voice here) I did the best I could.
But did I? Don't we all say that? Is that not the (excuse me) mother of all rationalizations?
So anyway, I've thought about all of this so much today as I've gone about my tiny life doing my tiny things, wasting my tiny time. I spent at least an hour trying to get a damn plant out of a damn pot and finally I asked my husband for help and together we ended up breaking the pot which was honestly the only way we were going to get that thing out of there.
Which seemed like a metaphor for so many of the things I do which I only do because I think I should and which end up taking all of my time in which I could be doing something I want to do. Truly want to do.
Stupid, needless regret.
"Where have you been?" She asked me. "I never see you walking anymore."
My tears welled up- that's how on the verge of crying I've been all day, and I told her that I've been a lazy slob and that I've had things I needed to do which is sort of true but mostly not.
"Yes," I said.
"That's a big house!" she said. And I immediately felt guilty. Of course it is. It's way bigger than we need and I know it. But I do love this house and buying it is not a regret. Which does nothing to mitigate my guilt.
I asked her if she'd like a piece of the palm I was transplanting and she said she would and I gave her some.
"Now you start walking again!" she said. I told her I would and also said that if she was ever out walking and passing by and needed a bathroom or something to drink, to stop by, that I am almost always at home. She said she would but I doubt she will.
She does not live very far from me.
It is all so complex, isn't it?
I suppose it's really only complex if we make it so.
They sure can make a girl blue.Delete
Wow. Regret verses shame......and pondering it deeply all day.......I had to think about that. what a Sunday you have had. Thank you for sharing these feelings. It makes me feel more *normal*.ReplyDelete
I guess that some of us are "in our heads" a lot more than we should be. But hell, that's how we're built. I doubt I'm going to change now.Delete
We don't deserve what we get and we don't get what we deserve. We can only hope that it sort of evens out and do our best to enjoy the good and get rid of the bad.ReplyDelete
So very true, Wilma. Thank you.Delete
That post read like a lovely river of words. So much to say. Sundays carry a lot of weight.ReplyDelete
That is it exactly! Sundays carry so much weight. Thank you for giving me that thought.Delete
I hear you .. learn, forgive, forget .. you're only human, and a damn fine one!ReplyDelete
I don't really believe in forgiveness. Well, for some things I do but for others? No way. And I don't even care if it's me that gets hurt in the end. I think forgiveness is a strange concept. BUT, having said that, it is quite easy for me to forgive a lot of things. I don't generally hold grudges. Now- forgiving ourselves? Whole other topic there.Delete
Yes, I was referring to forgiving yourself .. and yes, let me know when you find a trick to master that one ..Delete
I have many regrets, all related to men I've had sex with. I was not a nice young woman and I regret the hurt I've caused others.ReplyDelete
I had a horrible day. Lots of tears, angry cleaning and then cleaning while crying. We went to visit the big guy's parents and that was good. I couldn't see my father in law because he's still in the hospital and they have stupid fucking rules, but I got to visit with my mother in law whom I quite like.
We talked about everything, including how grumpy and angry the big guy is. Everything is getting to him, including his father's poor health. I'm looking forward to feeling better tomorrow.
Sending hugs to a damn fine woman:)
Oh honey! What do you regret? That you had the sex at all with them? Or that things did not end well? I wish you could forgive yourself for that.Delete
I have had so many days like the one you describe. The angry cleaning and crying. Ugh. I am glad you got to have a good talk with your mother-in-law. They can be so helpful when you're trying to work out the whys of a husband. And I understand why your big guy is grumpy and angry but I'm sorry that it's affecting you so. Of course it is.
Sending hugs back to you- one of the finest women I know.
You are too hard on yourself...ReplyDelete
I listened to all of this with a tender heart. I think there's some kind of beautiful symbolism in that pot that you and Mr. Moon had to break to free the plant. I guess the symbolism is obvious, too, but I'd dwell there. I hope tomorrow brings you freedom from Sunday; in fact I know it will.ReplyDelete
You are so right, Elizabeth. Sometimes the only way to get what we want and need we have to break the container all that stuff is in to root it out. Literally. Figuratively.Delete
And you're right. I've felt so much better today.
I hear a lot about "mother guilt", how we could have done things better or different, BUT, that's only how we see it when we look back years later. At the time of "doing the best we can the best way we know how", we can't possibly know there is a different or better way. That's hindsight, from however many years in the future. So there is NO guilt to be felt.ReplyDelete
Well, I wish I could agree with you but I think that even when I was deep in my mothering years I knew I could have done better at times. Other times, I truly, truly knew I was doing the best I could.Delete
Like I said, it's so damn complicated.
Reading this brought tears to my eyes for reasons I can't fully explain.ReplyDelete
"I hear a dove cooing and other birds singing their evening songs. Everything the lowering sun touches gleams and shines, some new leaves are rendered almost transparent by the backlight..." This is such beautiful, observant writing that suits the topic of regret like a musical lament playing in the background.
Your blog shows how much your children and grandchildren love and respect you because of who you are. You are a good woman Mary Moon - one of the best.
Oh, Mr. P! You've just about made me cry. Thank you so much. Such sweetness.Delete
We beat ourselves up sometimes and it doesn't do any good, does it? When we knew better, we did better.ReplyDelete
I think you are a terrific person, Ms. Moon!
You're so right. It does NO good and probably does us a great deal of harm.Delete
I don't think you could have made very many mistakes in your parenting considering how close your family is.ReplyDelete
I generally think about that stuff in the middle of the night when I can't sleep and then try and push it all back in it's room and lock the door wondering how it managed to get out. It does no good to go over and over stuff that cannot be changed or fixed. I think most of the things I regret or am ashamed of I have made some attempt at apologising for, I hope anyway. And then there's the regrets about things I couldn't or didn't do. I wish I had traveled the world when I was young but that's is something I didn't have the resources or freedom for. But of course, everything a person would have done different in the past would have made a different present.
There's a lot of wisdom and truth in that comment, Ellen. Thank you. The middle of the night is absolutely the worst time for reflection, isn't it? Do you suppose that anyone has figured out why we dwell on the guilt and regrets in the dark hours so frequently?Delete
I, too, believe in apologizing. I think it is an important thing to do and it is a positive thing to do, unlike asking for forgiveness which seems rather weird and lame to me. Just an admittance of wrong behavior and a statement of "I am so sorry." I wanted to hear that from my mother's lips for so many years and it never came. It was so hard for her to apologize. Maybe impossible. And maybe that's why it's something I try to do when I feel it necessary.
And you're right about how if we'd done things differently in the past, we would be living a different present but I don't think that necessarily means we would be living in a worse present. We do not know and it's all a moot point anyway, I guess.
Thank you for this. I read it last night and gave it thought. I was a person who didn't regret, a full steam ahead, damn the torpedos type. I had a brain injury, which changed me, but I really think the amount of time I am spending in my head now with regret is it's caught up to me. I'm in the last decade or so of my life and things are tugging at me. The look in the rearview mirror is long and littered with regret. It does no good, but it's there anyway.ReplyDelete
Well, honey, it's like I said- I think it's a very human thing to regret. Like almost all of our human traits, we probably overdo it but we really can't help it sometimes. I wish there was a way for you to ease your mind and let that view from the rearview mirror stay where it is- behind you.Delete
I think I'll embroider this on a t-shirt.ReplyDelete
Hope your feeling better. XOXO
That would be awesome!Delete
Regrets are hard, and I find that as we get older we feel them more. I wonder why that is? Are we getting wiser, or just feeling losses more acutely? When I was young I used to tell people quite confidently that I had no regrets, and now that just makes me laugh. Many of the things I now regret happened BEFORE I said as a young person that I had no regrets!ReplyDelete
(By "we" I mean humans in general...)Delete
Do you think that as we get older we realize more fully that the time we may once have had to fix our regrets or at least straighten them out a bit is becoming smaller and smaller? Less and less? Do you know what I mean? This is true for me. Did I want to go back to Europe and explore more? YES! So much! And I thought for sure I would. And now, I don't think I ever will which is sort of a hard thing to accept.Delete
It is complicated.
Yes, I think that's definitely part of it -- a recognition that our time is dwindling.Delete
I waste a lot of time feeling bad about things too. Is it universal for women? I sometimes analyze the things I feel fhe worst over. A lot of those things are situations are not even mine to change. Then I fuss over why I am like that. I am a strange gal.ReplyDelete
Such a melancholy post, and so achingly rendered, I know the feelings you describe so well, guilt for good fortune, regret for mothering mistakes in particular, the what ifs and could haves and maybes. But you know, we DO do our best in every moment. Perhaps in another moment we might have done better, but in the moment at hand, perhaps what we managed was all that we could manage. Your children are wonderful humans no matter the mistakes you think you made. Above all, they know they are loved, and that is really the crux of it. How you write, woman. Your words are like music, today a melancholy song, but such music all the same.ReplyDelete