Brando is our blue CRV. HB rode in Brando’s back seat. Five-point-harnessed, the wild curls of a doll’s red hair tangled around her fingers, an abandoned half-empty bag of fruit loops wedged between her leg and the seat, she whined, “I don’t want to go to Nana’s.”
“Someday,” I said, “when your Mama is old, you will pack up your own little girl and carry her to visit Mama. And your daughter will wail, ‘I don’t wanna go,’ and you’ll say this: It’s important.”
“I don’t wanna go,” she said again.
“It’s important,” I said.
It isn’t often that while I’m doing something I acknowledge, “I will never regret this.” On the contrary, I have frequently acknowledged the opposite while continuing ahead on an ill-fated path.
I regret exiting the dirt track at Lowe’s Motor Speedway by climbing the 20-ft fence. I regret letting a good friendship sour in one reckless, thoughtless weekend. Ancient and unaffiliated events; both fueled by too much alcohol.
But last Wednesday, while driving for our weekly visit, I thought, “I will never regret spending one afternoon a week visiting my Nana.”
I can see why HB protests. It’s me and Nana and Papa sitting in a cool, dim room chatting. We talk about sisters and children and politics and Clemson football. We talk about jobs and earning a living and entitlement and paying bills.
I imagine it’s pretty boring for HB. She retrieves Papa’s pink yard stick from the hall closet and Nana’s miniature purple bunnies from the back room. She reaches up to the M&M dispenser Papa keeps on the counter, fills her palm with candy, and shoves them all in her mouth at once.
Then she goes outside, commandeers the ancient red tricycle, and turns the wheels with determined feet, squeaking around the patio and driveway.
“Your Nana and Papa are getting old. They won’t be around forever.”
That’s what my father told me in 1995 when he suggested I go to Clemson where Nana and Papa could keep an eye on me from the weekly football tailgate.
It’s not forever, but it’s been 17 years. Charlie and I got married on their 50th anniversary. My daughter’s middle name is my grandmother’s maiden name. There are now a few things I will never regret. Like going to Clemson.
Understand the implications
At 18 I told someone I didn’t believe in regret. “Simply learn from the decision and move on. Or make the right decision in the first place.” Eighteen-year-olds are so smart.
I’m old enough now to know cowardice, true cowardice, in all its lurking forms. And I have regrets now.
Regret is a sour emotion. It seeps into our mistakes, leaves a bitter aftertaste. Regret breeds cowardice.
The possibility of regret, just a whiff of it, causes indecision. I know there are choices I made simply to avoid regret. Choices I avoided to prevent regret. Let someone else decide. Let someone else live with the regret.
Every time we decide not to choose we are, in fact, choosing to let someone else’s decision change our fate, choosing to pass up opportunity, choosing inaction over action. And every time we choose we risk failure. That’s just how it is.
Failure by someone else’s hand might remove our own regret. Might feel like the outcome wasn’t our fault, like the circumstances spun beyond our control. We are the passive victims of some other person’s mistake. Garbage.
I will never regret this.
It’s a strong mantra. I don’t think I can apply it to every choice I make. At 5 a.m. it’s hard to remind myself I never regret the run I took, just the one I skipped.
It’s impossible to wipe clean all regrets. There must be risk for there to be a reward. And sometimes I fail.
But the possibility of regret does not frighten me anymore. At least, it doesn’t frighten me into inaction. Instead, I work hard on the choice, while it is still mine to make. Then I take action. Do something to own my own fate. I’ll own the regrets, too. But I’ll probably have fewer of them.
I'm lucky and now and then I find myself thinking, “I will never regret this,” which is followed quickly by an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
So how about it? One regret? One thing you do that you know you will never regret? Share in the comments!