Regret. It's a sad, sour-sounding word that feels like it should be said with a sigh. And it's an even worse feeling.
Bold proclamations like "Absolutely no regrets" sound fierce and ballsy and proactive when someone as iconic and awesome as Madonna says them, but when I say them, or even THINK them, it feels hollow and false, because it is. I don't remember ever not having an active stash of regrets; I've had them, at times, before I even DID the thing I'd later bemoan. I've had regrets both large and small, though the minor ones feel totally lame and insignificant now ("HOW COULD I EVER HAVE LET MY DISGUSTING GLUTTONOUS SELF EAT THAT WHOLE PINT OF PHISH FOOD ON SATURDAY NIGHT?!?!?" Um, no.)
Here are a few of the bigger things on my regrets list -- stuff I still think or care about today (no Ben & Jerry's, thanks).1. Not moving back to DC, at least temporarily, before my father died. In November of 2010, my dad died of bladder cancer. He was painfully sick for 2 long, miserable years. I was living in San Francisco with a desk job in Silicon Valley. I visited him as much as I could while he was fading, and I'd made plans to spend a month with him in DC that fall, but then ... I couldn't. Because he died. I don't actually think he wanted me to move home; he preferred to maintain the illusion that he was strong and invulnerable, and that if I stayed away, I wouldn't have to witness his slow withering. He wanted to shelter me from the reality of his disease. But sheltering myself by not spending a longer period of time with him when I could have wasn't a decision I look back on with much pride. I was scared and I did the best I could at the time, but if I had another chance, I'd do it differently now.2. Not trying harder to bite my tongue and protect my then-relationship with a serious boyfriend. I was in my late 20s, a heavy drinker and not in the most amazing mindframe when I dated a guy I'd been obsessed with for years. He had almost everything I was looking for in a partner, but my drunken rages and out-of-control insecurity pretty much ruined the whole thing. When I was drunk, I was physically incapable of not stirring shit up by saying, well, whatever the hell I wanted at any given time. Usually something along the lines of "You don't really love me" or "You're flirting with the waitress." Neither of which were true then, though he eventually did fall out of love with me due to the intense bullshit I put him through -- and I can't blame him. I don't think we would have stayed together or "made it" as a couple, even if I'd been sober then (I stopped drinking a couple years after we broke up). But the trajectory of that relationship's demise might have unfolded in a slightly happier, more peaceful way. Plus, he just didn't deserve the crap I put him through.3. Not appreciating the things I had when I had them (see above). This is a more general regret, and a reminder for the future. I must start appreciating the sweet relationships and warm moments when they actually happen, instead of worry-plowing my way through everything and never giving myself a moment to enjoy the good stuff before it's gone.
I have other regrets, too, but this is already more ramble-y than I'd wanted. Do you have regrets, or are you superhuman like Madonna? What do you wish you'd done differently? Do tell.Follow me on Twitter.