Shining a Light on Loss and the Myriad Possibilities
Last night as I was going through my bedtime routine a sudden unbidden memory of driving to my sister’s house in the coastal range of Oregon east of Coos Bay. I was listening to a book by Jonathan Franzen called Freedom. In the part I was listening to a man had made a series of mistakes in his relationships based on his obsession with saving songbirds from predatory house cats allowed to roam free. He had taken a noble cause and ruined his life with it as well as causing misery to most of the people he cared about, driving them out of his life. Instead of allowing himself to regret some of his behavior, he doubled down on it and isolated himself more.
I have done this a few times with some relationships instead of feeling regret and acting to correct some action or attitude, I found it more important to be right, to win the argument at the expense of other people’s and my own feelings. It is a very dark place to be. As I was acknowledging the memory. I experienced the regret of a future in which I will never go back to that particular house my sister and her husband lived in or even that part of Oregon due to the limited amount of time I have left to live and the fact that my sister and mother moved south to California in the last couple of years, and I have no particular reason to go there. But there was such a pang of loss embedded in the thought. I am pretty sure it had to do with having a purposeful connection with a beautiful place that caused that deep feeling of future regret.
I know I could go there again for no reason except to be in that place, but I also know I want to spend my precious time with people I know and love. The choice is pretty easy, but, for that moment, I experienced a deep sense of loss. The older I get the more this happens, sometimes about not getting to somewhere I’ve wanted to go, but will for very good reasons not get to. Because life is short, I will have to make choices that will leave other possibilities to wither and fade. That is the way it must be. But, if I can wholeheartedly embrace choices that connect me with the people I love I will also experience new places and come to love them. Regret is a warning that life is short and time is limited. There are many ways to respond to regret: depression and grieving, anger and frustration, acceptance and love for those memories. The actions I take in response can lead to bitterness and more regret or to seeing all the choices available to me that might lead to a more satisfying life. Of course, life will do what it does and the choices I make will lead me where they will and I will never know which was the right choice. Regret is there to be pondered more than acted on. Will I regret more of my lost futures or past actions, if I am living an open-minded curious life I am sure it will always be there to make me think a little deeper about my actions and choices.