"Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention"
-- Frank Sinatra - My Way
On my death bed, that’s a line I’d like to say (sing?) to myself.
Unfortunately, though only 52, I already know I won’t be able to say it, not truthfully, anyway. I’ve known it for quite some time. It’s sobering to acknowledge I have regrets that are no longer reversible. Not fixable. Permanent regrets that I will carry with me to the grave. And the potential to garner more in the years I have left is very real.
Some regrets spring from inaction, and some are based on my actions. Words are my specialty, and I have occasionally used them to be hurtful. I have a vast vocabulary, and the gift of glibness, and I have used these gifts, at times, to wound others. I have brought joy to some people’s lives, but the laughs don't resonate like the tears.
As I've grown older and more sentimental, regrets have taken on a deeper meaning. Reflecting on and analyzing my life and my behavior prevents that behavior from falling under the radar. I see my life pretty damn clearly, warts and all. I insist on living this way, as I live in absolute fear of denial. It’s a very raw way to live. I've wondered if I'd be a better person had I fogged the mirror more often, looked a little more obliquely at my life instead of the constant stare down. For lack of a better phrase, cut myself some slack. Maybe I would be a different person. But not better.
I cannot muse over this subject without introducing the concept of ‘self loathing'. It plays a significant part in my life, goading me to focus on regrets more than my accomplishments, to recall how I've hurt people rather than on the good deeds I've done. It's a rather vicious circle, chasing my tail. If I ever caught it, I might just devour myself.
I know when I look at my life on paper, with both parents having been dead for more than 25 years (over half my life), and our family twice fractured from suicides, there is tremendous opportunity for regret. But, interestingly enough, had my dad lived on through my adult life, I would never have been completely free from his reign of control, and would not be the independent man that I am today. Yes, as I have written before, his death was the beginning of my life.
Like I said, it’s a raw way to live.
Having led a decidedly solo existence, there are relationships that were proffered through the years (female and male) from which I demurred, and these choices fill up much of my well of regret. I think there may have been a diamond, or two, in the rough amongst them. Yet, I never pulled the trigger. My life would be richer had I done so.
Oddly, with two divorces on my resume, neither of them finds its way onto my list of major regrets.
With the luxury of time, I can look back and see that my attempts at the ultimate union between a man and a woman were admirable, considering the dysfunctional dynamics between the sexes that I had witnessed in my life. My idealism was at the steering wheel with each choice to marry, and when reality grabbed that wheel and yanked us into a drainage ditch off of Route 66, we were toast. There really is no place for blame in either failure. I got in the batters box, adjusted my cup, then my helmet, tightened my glove, dug in my back foot, and took my swings. I struck out my first two at bats. It happens. Life can be Roger “F**king” Clemens sometimes.
Fatherhood has crept slowly, but surely up the list, and now is nudging for a primetime position. Because I think I could have been a loving, effective, even wonderful father does not automatically a good father make. The roadway of life is littered with damaged sons raised by fathers who had the best of intentions, but their ‘daddy’ tool belt was missing all the key implements needed to construct a boy into a man.
But never giving myself a shot at it is proving to be regretful. And painful.
So what do we do with regrets, as the road ahead of us becomes shorter than the road just traveled? Denial is not an answer I would ever cling to. Sure, I can file them away, knowing they may resurface at any time, triggered by things as mundane as a TV commercial, or a song, a particularly poignant passage in a book, or even a cartoon.
I don’t sit writhing in pain and morosely re-assessing how I’ve lived my life. I realize that to not have regrets means one of two things: I never took a risk; or I risked way too much too often.
Life clearly is a risk, for me. I know there are other ways to look at life. More positive, upbeat, even cheery outlooks can be chosen. But for me, the concept of risk and reward are almost always lurking in the background when a significant decision emerges on my horizon. I am a calculating man. When possible, I try to view all angles, anticipate all consequences, and identify all potential dangers.
But there’s that ‘Clemens’ guy out there on the mound, and he’s awful tough to hit. Preparation can prove to be a waste of time when life throws you a hard slider up at the chin.
Do you swing, or let it hit you?
Another decision. Another potential regret.