"The only thing you regret are the things you don't do." ~ Michael Curtiz, Director (Casablanca, White Christmas, et. al.)We all have regrets. Even knowing we didn't cause our children's spiral and we couldn't control their deepening thrusts into the vortex of addiction and we certainly cannot cure the disease, we doubt ourselves on a regular basis.
We ask ourselves what we could have done to prevent our children's struggles. It is only human nature, and we are human after all.
We begin looking backwards, searching for the invisible, the vanished. We are looking for something that is no longer there. In looking backwards we stumble and sometimes fall. We stop looking forward and in doing so lose our focus on ourselves and our journeys.
Try it sometime. Try taking a walk in the woods or even on a smooth blacktop pathway, looking backwards. It's not easy walking while looking behind, at where we've been. It's actually comical to imagine.
When we stop moving, regret can be easy. Looking into the abyss of the past, the silence of the done, the finished, the evaporated, what is no longer visible, can be more consoling than exploring the exhilarating unknown of our future selves. We fashion our own version of what transpired and allow The Addiction to take hold. Regret can become second nature if we are not careful. We wallow in it. We stop moving. We become an easy target for The Addiction, stuck in our own shit.
The past is the past. We do not require additional looks back to remember. More precisely, the past is indelibly etched in our minds and our souls. The pain, heartaches, failures AND victories are all there, forever. The past never really goes away. We don't need to be constantly looking for it, relying on it, leaning on it, dwelling on it.
It's a part of us.
The past is part of what makes us who we are. As a part of us and with our pilgrimage inaugurated we can be buoyed by our past. There is no need to obsess or camp out in the past. Obsession with the past brings with it the four horseman of our apocalypse: Shame, Blame, Regret, and Fear (with its travelling companion - Paralysis.) We become immobile. Any introspection or self renewal becomes poisoned.
And The Addiction wins.
Our children are left alone.
The beacon of parents relishing fulfilled lives, fully involved in the present, striving, seeking, laughing and improving is snuffed out, stifled and shattered. When we go back to the past we truly get in our own way. We cease to progress along our pathways and regress into regret, stumbling into self pity and the tragedy of depression.
Sometimes we'll even seek out those distractions we had long since abandoned, the over-depedance on something, anything, that had detoured us from our journeys - alcohol, sex, chocolate (one of my favorites), fat (ok, another), fast food, drugs, gambling - those unhealthy diversion we know kept us from showing up 24/7. As parents of children who have succumbed to addiction, during the course of beginning our recovery we have awakened ourselves from the sleep The Addiction wishes upon us, the sleep of doubt, inactivity, idleness, self loathing and seclusion. The Past had forced this sleep of death upon us. Our obsession with it left us exhausted and lifeless.
The little curator inside of us will keep the past experiences filed away, accessible for when these are required as gentle reminders of detours taken into destructive behavior and a grand memorial to our progress and fortitude. We can visit the museum when we wish. Regret would rather we live in the cold archive of the past, where we would have remained isolated and stuck.
Instead we have become doers, seekers and participants in life's adventures. We renounce regret and embrace our own beauty, wonder and splendor with all of our divinely-bestowed imperfections, past failures, missteps and destructive tendencies The Great Creator had given us to eventually catapult us to our next level, our own best selves.
Eyes forward, we look ahead, not behind. It's a much more comfortable journey now, isn't it?
We are who we are. We haven't gotten this far by being perfect. We are human after all!
Our victory comes when we truly accept ourselves and reject that look back. We know we are on our way. We replace regret with Gratitude and rejoice in the journey ahead and the challenges and joys attendant with the unknown.
What's that up ahead? Let's go check it out!
"My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my success and my talents, and I lay them both at His feet." ~ Mahatma Gandhi