I like to think that I have regrets, but for most of them, I do not allow them to run my life. I have learned something from most of them. And some, well not really regrets, more like a bad decision that may have had some spectacular results. For instance, perhaps a poor decision was to get married so young, but I would not change the fact that I have two great sons that were a result of that marriage.
Some regrets are easy to shrug off. I regret not staying in college. But I made a choice and I made the most of out my job/career. I could go back to school, but I do not really see that happening. It is not that important to me now. So I have moved on! Easy peasy right?
I regret taking my health for granted when I was younger. Now I am paying for it but I am also doing what I can to restore it. Not so easy, but still workable.
But what about those regrets you have that concern a lost loved one? What do you do with those? Ahhh...not so easy. You cannot change things once the person is gone. So, do you just shrug it off and throw it into the pile of other "mistakes" or "bad decisions"? What happens to them after that?
Before my Mom passed away, I had a chance to really get to know her. I'm glad that I was able to embrace who she was, the good and the bad. I came to learn that most of her criticisms about me had more to do with her issues and not mine. And, it just made me love her more. It was great to have a real Mom and let myself be a real daughter to her. I used to look forward to spending time with her and my Dad and I cherished every moment we had together. When she passed I had no regrets. I felt that she and I made amends and my conscience was clear.
With my Dad, I felt the same...somewhat.
Although he was not able to be the same kind of Dad he had been to me as when I was younger, he was still my Dad. He couldn't make repairs on my car or fix some darn thing that was broken in my place. (note: he did once clean my filthy oven on one of his last visits!) But he was able to share stories with me now. He had slowed down and was taking the time to talk to me. I always looked forward to seeing him and I never felt that spending time with him was a burden. I tried to get him to live with me but circumstances were not ideal. The times he did spend with me were always enjoyable and I'm happy that we both made amends to each other and became so close during his last year.
We used to have some interesting conversations. Once, a couple of years ago while we were sitting at my dining table we were discussing a family issue. He said "Me-jia, don't worry about it. You and I know the truth and nothing else matters. Let's just agree to that and never worry about it again". I loved that he and I had this special bond.
I will never forget leaving his apartment on Super Bowl Sunday. It was the night before he fell ill and went into the hospital, exactly a week before he passed away. We had spent a good day together. He was a little more tired than usual that day. But at some point after the game he said, "I had a good day today. We watched a good game and had some good food". When it was time for him to go to bed, I got him all tucked in. He asked me to rub a little lotion on his back and then he wanted a pillow to prop him on his side a little. I turned out the lights and just as I was about to close the door I could see his face in the light, he said "Careful driving home Me-hija, I love you". To which I replied " I will and I love you too Daddy". That was the last coherent conversation we had with each other.
But I still have regrets.
I know I should be saying to myself "you did what you thought was best" or "How were you to know"? and then move on. Besides, all the worrying in the world is not going to change anything. So brush it off, right? Ah yes, but not so easy.
So, I did a little research on regrets and I found this nice little blog on Wikihow.
To summarize the blog, here are the highlights:
- Determine what the regret really is
- Ask for forgiveness and make amends
- Accept the circumstances
- Deal with toxic relationships
- Grieve for your regrets
- Recognize what you have learn or gained
- Write out a plan or agreement for yourself that identifies how you could avoid having this sort of regret in the future
For most the part, I have gone thru steps #1 thru #4. This is what I do for most of my mistakes. But with my recent issue, Step #5 is a tough one. I still have not had that good cry. I'm sure it will come and I know I need to before it wears on my physically.
Number #6, yes, this is how I normally handle mistakes or regrets. I ask myself what did I learn and then I can normally turn that ugly thing into something positive. Boy, I've had so many. And I'm not talking about those silly regrets we have all done at some time in our life. (insert smiley face)
You see, what I did was I broke a promise to my Dad. Oh yes, he and I discussed it and he said he forgave me, but I can't help feeling badly about it. I wish I had never broken that promise. I thought I had time to make it up to him....but time seemed to slip away fast.
One day he told me something and asked me not to repeat it. It was something that pained him so much that he had tears in his eyes. I hated to see him like this. It wasn't right. He was so old and fragile and it killed me that he was in this pain. It wasn't a physical pain.....but an emotional one.
I didn't know what to do. And then, I broke my promise and repeated what he said to me. I repeated it to another sibling because I thought it was the right thing to do. Our dad needed help and I thought we could help him. Well, that person told another person (with good intentions) and they told another person and that person confronted my dad with the information. You see, the "information" was about that last person. Then, finally, my dad came to me with it. It was ugly. Of course as the game "telephone" works, by the time it had gotten back to my dad the information was completely distorted. On top of that, additional "stories" were told to him about me that were completely false. I tried to tell him I did it because I was trying to help. Isn't there a quote about good intentions? It was of no use, the damage had been done. I broke my word and now my dad was embarrassed and hurt, not so much that I had broken my word, but that this ugliness was out there. He felt he was the cause. I am not concerned that the person harming my father was exposed. And quite frankly I do not want to spend any more energy on them. I only regret that I did not keep my word to my father, and as time went on I came to realize the outcome would have been the same regardless of whether I tried to help or not.
As far as the false stories told to my dad about me, well, as I explained to my dad, it is a good battle techinique and it is called creating a diversion. From all the war movies he has seen he knew exactly what I was talking about. In fact, we had a little chuckle about it. I will never forget the day we talked about it. We were having a late breakfast at El Camino Restaurant in Whittier. I looked at him and said "Dad, let us pretend for one second that what you heard about me was true" To which he agreed. Then I said, "Does it change anything? Does it make up for how you have been treated?". To which he sadly shook his head and replied, "No".
I do not blame anyone else. Although I question the motives of the last person confronting my dad, that is not for me to deal with at this time. I should not have broken my word. Which brings me to #6 and #7. What did I learn and what could I do in the event I'm faced with this again. I suppose there are many things I learned but for one I learned I don't want to be a person of promises. When I am gone from this earth, I want people to remember that my word meant something.
"It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath. ~Aeschylus
So, what would I do if ever in this type of situation again? .
In the situation with my father, I could have simply asked his permission to repeat what he told me in hopes of helping him. If he said "no" then I would have needed to respect his answer. I could have asked my sibling to go talk to our dad in hopes our dad would also spill the beans. Then, I could have just stepped out it. I do not always have to fix everything.
I have also learned that sometimes things have a way of working themselves out. I do not always have to intervene. But what if someone is being harmed? What if that person is someone you love? What if that person is a child or an elderly person?
It is a tough one and there are many answers.
Maybe I need to go back to #5 and have that good cry and see what happens after that.