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Woulda, coulda, shoulda

Posted on Monday, May 17, 2010 in Happiness, Honesty, Relationships, Self image

The Kid and I were on our way out Saturday night — he with his friends, me with Sean — when I caught a glimpse of him before he headed out the door.

He looked weird, even for a teenager.

“What’s that?”

“That what?”

“That, that thing on top of your head.”

“It’s a new beanie. Why?”

Why? He was heading out wearing something that made him look like a cross between a dweeby alien and Pippi Longstocking, the kind of thing that if anyone snaps a pic of him in it, he’ll look back one day and wonder, “And why, exactly, did I ever think I looked good in that?” — and he’s asking why?

I almost told him the truth, but, I didn’t. Moms of teenagers walk around on eggshells, anyway, so I wasn’t going to go there.

“Uh, you look nice, that’s why.”      

“Thanks, Mom! OK, see you later.”

“Have fun!” I said, but in my head I thought, if you can, looking the way you do!

And then I said a silent prayer that the girl of his dreams would show up another night, a beanieless night.

Sometimes I look at him and think, yep, there’s
a kid who’s perfectly OK making decisions
he’ll regret when he’s older.

But, don’t we all?

I certainly have had my share of fashion faux pas, especially in my hippie days although, honestly, the disco period wasn’t much better. Spandex and Lycra and jumpsuits, oh my!  Most people want to reconnect with old high school pals on Facebook to rekindle friendships; I want to reconnect so I can pay them whatever it takes to destroy those pictures!

Then there were the eras of the Bad Hair— the Pixie cut; the experiment as a redhead; the perm; the other perm a few years after the first …

All of that is entertaining, actually, if somewhat horrifying. Real regrets, however, aren’t that easily laughed away — the times we hurt somebody or lied; when we unleashed our anger
or were passive-aggressive; when we were more interested in being right than understanding or held grudges beyond their expiration date; when we had sex when we really didn’t want to or didn’t respect someone who did; when we stood by and did nothing while others suffered or let our inflated expectations destroy relationships. All the times we promised we going to stop doing whatever self-destructing behavior we did, only to be outdone by one too many Lemon Drops. Sending that e-mail or making that phone call …

(Of course, we often — foolishly — think others will have regrets about us, like dumping us.) Sorry; life isn’t a Nick Hornby novel most of the time.

Or maybe our priorities were screwed up, and we didn’t do all the things we wanted to do out of fear or inertia. Darwin wished he’d spent more time reading poetry and listening to music, although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what he regretted most when on his deathbed.

I have made a conscious effort not to live in regret. I’m made mistakes — many! — but the past is the past, right? Can’t undo it; just make amends, make changes and move on.

And I try to live life now consciously and purposefully so I won’t have anything to regret in the future, even though some researchers say that, compared with other emotions — anger, jealousy, disappointment, sadness — at least regret offers some positives; it can help us be better people in the future because we’re learned something about ourselves and we’re not going there again.

Yeah, well, maybe.

I’ve always believed that whatever happened in the past somehow got me to where I am now, and if I’m in a good place, well, what’s to regret?

Still, I am aware of my mistakes; one huge one, the rest not so huge. I don’t dwell on them, but I acknowledge them, and I have forgiven myself for not having the experience and understanding at the time.

  • What do you regret?
  • How have you learned from that?
  • If you could live a part of your life over, what would you do?
  • Do you dwell on past mistakes, or move on?

Photo © Angelika Bentin –

Bring on the comments

  1. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    Sounds like he feels comfortable and confident enough to express himself. And that is nothing to regret!

  2. Kat Wilder says:

    Dads — True; just hope he finds a girl who won’t want to “change” him!

  3. Edgar says:

    Regret – much more healthy than guilt, but still probably counterproductive. After all, you can’t undo the past, but you can learn from it. And, once you make apologies to those you have harmed with whatever actions you took, there’s not much more left to do. I do still think of things I could have done differently, but then, I would not have learned the lessons that I did. So, it’s all part of that mosaic of life, n’est-ce pas?

    As you say, living with purpose is the best approach – and do your best not to hurt any creature. Well, maybe exceptions could be offered for the likes of Dick Cheney, et al.

  4. Kat Wilder says:

    Do regrets have an expiration date?

  5. VJ says:

    My fav regrets, also political division . This from Andy Jackson: “”I have only two regrets: I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John C. Calhoun.” It needs to be mention that the famously fiery J.C. Calhoun was his VP at the time. And he was likely right about both, or at least that ‘bastard out of Carolina’.

    And I think his approach is likely right too. We’re too kind to our enemies, not appreciative enough of our friends, nor loving enough to & for our loves. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  6. Don says:

    It’s easy to dwell on past mistakes. But what we think are mistakes could possibly not be…We make decisions every day that could have positive and negative results. The only thing you can do is do what you believe is best at the time…and don’t look back…or you may stumble.
    .-= Don´s last blog ..How do you learn to trust again?…. =-.

  7. KC says:

    My younger boys wear some of the ugliest clothing or hats! My 12 yr. old thinks having his pants waist at his knees is “cool” my older son love to dress like Peewee Herman… Both are very bright boys, smart in ways beyond their years, they just don’t give a shit what others think of them. At times I want to say something and I have to bite my lip! I have to remember the Disco days, the late 60’s “hippie Days” the long hair and the tie dyed bell bottoms. Lately, it’s been comments on Facebook that have gotten my hair on the back of my neck to stand up. My older son is constantly using the “F” word in his profile posts and I don’t think that they realize that every relative they have sees those posts… I’m going to have to figure a way to let him know without being confrontational…. or he may block me! LOL
    Always love your topics Kat,
    .-= KC´s last blog ..A wild night in San Francisco =-.

  8. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    Oh, this cracked me up! Teens are a whole other world, aren’t they…

    As for regrets, it’s hard to live any sort of real life and not have a few. But like you, for the most part, I figure it’s all gotten me to where I am and more importantly WHO I am.

    That said, for the sake of my children as much as what I’ve lived for many years, if I could do one thing over, it would’ve been a better divorce attorney.

  9. Kat Wilder says:

    Edgar — Yeah, we’d make different mistakes instead. As for apologizing for those we’ve hurt, I do think that’s nice — essential in the 12-steps — but in some situations it can be damaging, don’t you think?

    VJ — Yikes! Well, I’m not into hanging but, sure, we tend to be harder and those we love because we’re counting on their compassion, forgiveness and love for us. When that goes away …

    Don — We make many decisions every day that could have up- and downsides. Sometimes, it’s just getting out of bed!

    Hey, thanks KC — one could say I think toooo much! I like it that your boys don’t care what others think (as long as it’s not antisocial); it’s a cool teen who can be his own man, so to speak, when everyone else is doing the lemmings to the sea thing. That means they’re confident. You may take credit for that!

    BLW — I hear you! For me, I was willing to give up some things so his dad could afford to stay close by. That mattered more than fighting for a somewhat fairer split.