I regret the conversations we never had, the time we did not spend together. I regret that I never told him that he made me happy, when I was in his company. The world was the better for his being in it. These things alone do I now regret: things left unsaid. And he is gone, and I am old.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Wake
Neil Gaiman is kind of a hero of mine. This quote is one I have known for some time, but after Riley died it struck a chord with me. I did tell him that he made me happy when I was in his company, I did tell him the world was better as he was in it, but still I regret. I regret not saying enough, I regret not saying it one last time, I regret not having more time with him. I am not old, but I feel ancient. A wise old-young widow woman.
There are things that I never told Riley. I never told him how I loved the way he interacted with my family, how I appreciated how he would help everyone he could, and how much better my life had become for him being in it. These are the regrets I have. Along with being completely useless during the last few days of his life.
Regret: a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do. Whether they are big or small, they can drain you of so much. They make it hard to sleep at night, hard to wake in the morning. They bring with them self-doubt and self-loathing. They come and go as often as the changing tide and with no warning.
“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
― Mercedes Lackey
Well in my opinion it’s true. Those two words “if only” start off sentences that will always make me sad. “If only he hadn’t gone,” “if only I had told him to come back early,” “if only, if only, if only.”
But in reality, there was no way to have known, there was no way I could have helped. I had no medical degree to tell the hospital that he may have had swelling, I had no abilities to see into the future, to warn him to not go home at that time. It breaks what’s left of my small shrivelled up heart to admit it, but there was nothing I could do. I could not save the man I love but I will wish until the day I die that I could have.
Why do we regret? Why do I regret not telling Riley I love him more often?
We regret the choices we make because we worry that we should have made a different decision. That we could have done better, sometimes that the other person involved deserved better. That we should have done a particular thing or that we shouldn’t have. We regret them because we compare them to the perfect outcome for a situation. The issue of course being that we cannot change the past, and for some reason we continue comparing our unchangeable decisions to this ideal outcome.
Why can’t we let these feeling of regret go? A lot of the time it is because of how we look to others after we make certain decisions. We are good people, right? We make a decision based on we think is a good idea. But when someone calls us up on our decision, panic sets in. This person doesn’t like how we have acted? Are we a bad person? Did we do something wrong/bad? So we get stuck on this fact, this fact that we have messed up (even if we haven’t), and it just goes around in our head, keeping us up at night and plaguing us during the day. But it doesn’t get fixed, even if you apologise (if you were in the wrong) you have still got this feeling that you don’t look like a good person anymore. And to make things worse, it’s the whole ‘in the past’ thing which means you can’t change it! Distress!
So how do we let go of those regrets?
The choice we made in the past is done, and we can’t change it. THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING YOU CAN DO NOW! We can be satisfied with our choices, and see them as “good enough” instead of always hoping for the perfect choices.
But also, learn from your mistakes. Tell people you love them more, tell people you don’t want to hang out with them. Have less regrets by living the life you want!
I can’t go back and tell Riley one last time that I love him, I can’t tell him not to drive that day, I can’t put a positive spin on the accident. But I can learn from this. I can change what I say or do, and don’t.
I won’t say “have no regrets” because there’s no such thing. There are regrets, as small as having thirds at dinner even though you are full, to regrets as big as… well, everyone’s biggest regret is different. But they can’t be all bad. They made us the people we are today.
“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
― Steve Maraboli
Riley and I having a picnic (Tea and gingernuts) in the fort.