“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be.” –Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things
“Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” –Tim Lawrence from The Adversity Within Blog Series
I work with teenagers who are fond of saying things like: “I don’t believe in regrets.” When I hear them say this, I silently add on: “Yet—You don’t believe in regrets yet.” My life is not riddled with regrets, but I do have some, and it seems to me that only an unstudied life could yield a life without regrets. There are, as Tim Lawrence suggests, things in life that “cannot be fixed…[things that] can only be carried.”
I regret hating my body for so many years. Like most women I fell prey to believing my body would only be beautiful IF. If it was a certain weight, height, curvature. Mostly now, I love my body. Not in that tube top wearing, belly dance shaking, “I don’t give a fuck what you think" kind of way, but in a slightly more self-conscious, “I still care what you think, but not as much as I used to," kind of way.
I regret letting jealousy of my brother consume me for so many years. As a teenager and young adult he was perfect in all the ways the world we grew up in defined perfection, and I frankly hated him for it. I can’t reclaim the time I dedicated to ugly fuming over his success. On the whole I don't know that he was too fazed by my fuming, but my venom was definitely a poison for me.
My biggest regret is hurting the man I loved because I was too scared to be honest. I loved him, but I never should have said yes when he asked me to marry him. At that point, I was a partial version of myself, desperately unhappy in the life I was leading, and I was in no way ready to commit to lifetime partnership. But still, I said yes. Then when the doubt was so thick that there was no other option but to face the truth I did not know if I could survive, I called our wedding off. Most adult decisions don’t fit neatly into the categories of right or wrong. I find that language is inadequate in providing a genuine descriptor for this most heart-wrenching decision in my life. The decision was right in many ways, and it was deeply horrible in others. I will always feel guilt and sadness for hurting a man who was good to me, who loved me, and who I loved in return.
In her closing to Tiny Beautiful Things Cheryl Strayed writes: “Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.” I turn thirty soon. I suppose thirty is not truly old enough to claim the wisdom of age or the grace of years that Cheryl Strayed speaks of. I’m still very much a student of forgiveness. The man I loved, and will always love (even if marriage is not in our cards), says he has forgiven me, and I believe him. I’m learning—continually learning—how to forgive myself.
The horrible things that happen to you, the horrible things you do to other people, the horrible things you do to yourself—they linger; they become a part of the fabric of your soul. There is no point in running from the fabric of your being—tempting though that fantasy may be. And there is no point in entertaining the fairytale that some bright day we’ll rid our lives of all the darkness and just dwell in shiny happiness. The wise Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron advises us to lean into our discomfort. Leaning in does not make discomfort go away, but it can change the nature of your relationship to your fears or regrets or sorrows. So I remind myself to continue to lean in, even on the days when I feel like the heel of the universe, even on the days when something senseless and unspeakably horrible has happened. And on the days when I can listen to this advice, I find, remarkably, that I can still breathe in the darkness.