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Saturday, July 15, 2017

On Regrets

One of the things that we all hear from someone in our lives is "I have no regrets."  On the face of it, this sounds admirable.  After all, what's done is done, and it can't be changed so why ruminate about it?  And besides, if you are self-confident, you are proud of your actions, not insecure about them. Sorry, but I don't buy the pugnacious "No Regrets" philosophy.  I think that most people that claim that they regret nothing are lying.  Well, unless they are sociopaths - sociopaths generally have no regrets.

This topic is on my mind for several reasons, but I will focus on just one.  When I sold my marital home in 2015 and was packing up after my divorce was final, I couldn't find the case that held my old journals.  I have kept journals since I was a college student (in notebooks until 2004 when I switched to Microsoft Word; I forgot about the old written books completely for years).   Many old volumes have been lost, some I destroyed to foreclose the possibility of discovery by some curious family member or friend.  But I was pretty unhappy that the case of journals disappeared and I couldn't figure out what happened.  I let it go, however - chaos reigns for a while when a long-term marriage disintegrates; things can go missing.

Well, the case of old journals was in a neglected rented storage space controlled by my ex-wife.  She was clearing stuff out and came across them; returned them to me.  I plopped the case in my home office, opened it, grabbed a journal from 1982 and started reading - I am now up to 1990.

I was repulsed.  What a whiney, petty SOB that guy was!  Grasping, self-centered, ambitious (in a bad way), wallowing in self-pity and not much fun to hang out with, I suspect.  Also needy, and pretty lost.  He bulled forward when he knew better.  He often saw the facts clearly and ignored them. He claimed to love people, but he lacked the ability to consistently be loving.

One of the nice things about the human memory is its fallibility.  Many of the thoughts and events described in these old journals no longer reside in my head, thank God.  But after reading this stuff, I spent time thinking about who I was, what I did, what I thought.  I regret a lot of it.

But as a wise person said to me recently, "It is acceptable to look back, but it is impolite to stare." And humans are always changing, our bodies and minds now are different than they were several years ago.  So it is encouraging that I find the stuff in these journals to be repulsive.  My cosmic performance review still includes the phrase "needs to improve," but I am no longer on probation.

And I also forgive the guy who wrote that shit.  He was doing the best he could at the time. And he got up each morning and tried again.

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