*This is taken from my April e-letter. I’m reposting it here because it seemed to resonate with many of my subscribers. Perhaps it will with you, too.
Last Monday, I visited with an old high school friend who I hadn’t seen in fifteen years. And yet, she’s lived within a couple of hours from me for many years now.
What took me so darn long, huh?
Truth be told, I’ve been holding onto a lot of regret. You see, she is one of many with whom I lost contact in my twenties. (For more on that, you can listen to my back-story on the radio here.)
And as the years passed and more distance crept in, it felt more and more difficult to go back.
Except, as I sat there with her, looking into her beautiful and familiar eyes, I realized that it’s not about going back.
Because there are chapters of her life that I’ve missed in their entirety – and I feel sadness and remorse when I consider that. Yet, it’s in the past.
And while it’s easy for me to look back from this perspective and see how I could’ve bridged gaps and made the effort to stay connected, I simply wasn’t there.
I wasn’t in the place that I am in now.
It’s the very experience of having let go – of having lost – that has led me here. It’s helped deepen my capacity for being with grief and pain (mine and others) and including it in the whole tender experience of being human.
When I focus on the regret, I forget who I was then and what I needed to learn. I’ve lost the context of my choices, my feelings, and my perspectives at the time.
You see, this is part of my story. And how I tell it to myself makes all of the difference.
It reminds me, actually, of the tape (yes, an actual cassette tape) that I stayed up into the wee hours of the night making for this very friend on the eve of her college departure. I chose verses from songs that represented the whole mix of feelings I had – and the experiences we shared – and pieced them together in an oral collage of sorts. It was messy and abrupt (each song ended as soon as it began) and yet, it was full of heart and meaning. It meant so much to offer it to her.
Perhaps regret is like wishing that each of those songs had been played out in its full version – without interruption or interference or, in some cases, even a painfully abrupt ending.
And yet, it’s the whole mix that creates – and tells – our story. And it’s in finding the meaning in each chapter or experience that we weave the most empowering – and truthful – story of our lives.
Holding onto regret is withholding compassion for ourselves – and our stories.
Because we can’t possibly know in the moment how it will all turn out.
So, my friend, I encourage you to lean into any regret that you might be holding onto and breathe some new perspective into it. Find the meaning, the wisdom, the goodness in the new path it set you upon – even if there is still pain for you around it.
Because you needn’t carry the extra burden of regret.