Many years ago, I stumbled headlong into an intense affair with a handsome but unavailable Swede. I clearly recall walking down Michigan Avenue arguing both sides of the debate with myself, the yes / no of it all. I still hadn’t made up my mind when later that day I bumped into a male friend, who, sensing my dilemma, offered the following advice, “It’s the things you don’t do that you end up regretting.”
Looking back over the years and weighing up the have done with the have not done, I can honestly say that I feel a greater sense of regret for those things left undone, i.e. not meeting the handsome and mysterious Frenchman in Paris. A little voice in the back of my head questioned that decision the minute he stepped off that train. And he wasn’t the first Frenchmen that I sometimes wonder about.
So what about the other side of the coin? When it comes to relationships, is it possible to still do something and regret it? If so, to what degree? Someone once asked me how many of the relationships that I talk about in my book do I regret? The answer is none. I had high hopes that those magical moments would last. And when they didn’t I felt sad, angry and disappointed.
And, so, I think my friend is only partly right. I believe the regret you feel in not having done something is in direct proportion to the desire we feel for the person, object, or activity. As for regretting the things that I’ve done, with the healing benefit of time, I realize that in spite of the hurt and pain, given the opportunity I would still make the same choices.
Singer/songwriter Adele’s song “Someone like You” expresses it this way:
Regrets and mistakes they’re memories made
Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?
Adele is right of course, memories are better bittersweet than bland, just like dark chocolate or the skin of a plum. And I am better for having tasted them.