Tuesday, October 07, 2008
the jewish high holy days of rosh hashanah and yom kippur are a time of reflection on regret and atonement. during the 10 day period starting with rosh hashanah, jews think about what they've done, who they've hurt, etc. and reflect on this and how they can do better in the next year. on yom kippur they ask for forgiveness.
so i was thinking about the concept of regret last week. mainly in regards to having to explain the concept to the boybarians in relation to the holiday.
so i was thinking about regret, driving along, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. it was so astonishing i nearly pulled over.
of all the things i've ever done, all the lines i've crossed and the boundaries i've squished or moved or obliterated, of all the people who might have one (or sadly, more) achey spot in their hearts with my name on it, i simply cannot regret any one thing i've ever done.
this is what nearly pulled me over. out of the blue. just like that.
whoa! this is new.
i can't. and it was as simple as that. and all those nights when i couldn't sleep, and of course that's when the dark thoughts come calling, all those nights i lay awake thinking about what a fucker i was to this person or how awful it was i did this thing, etc. all those nights and now i don't have to do it again. all those times i got that queasy feeling when a memory came up and squashed it because i didn't want to think about what an ass i had been or how stupidly i behaved, gone.
the thing is, to regret is to assume that what you did had no merit. that it was done with complete disregard to anything or anyone else and in total spite of what you know and who you are. which seems like a reasonable assumption to make, right? that you are 100% disregarding and 100% in spite of "knowing better." right?
but wait. to regret is to assume that at the time of the action you are working with 100% knowledge, firing on all cylinders, and that you were, in fact, at the time or at any time a whole and complete and perfect being with nothing left to learn, nothing left to know, nothing left to fail at.
while we all "should know better" sometimes we don't. sometimes we know but there's something else at work. for some reason there's room left to fail. and sometimes it's not clear until later. and sometimes we're just slow learners. A LOT OF THE TIMES we're just slow learners.
even if we're "smart" people. sometimes ESPECIALLY if we're "smart" people.
sometimes we have to go running over the same old ground what have we found the same old fears and shitty behaviors.
until we don't.
and isn't there merit in the finally getting it?
because how do we learn? how does a baby learn his first word? take her first step? that hot is pain? that biting is hurtful to someone else?
it's modeled, we practice till we don't fall, we hurt ourselves till we learn how to not, we hurt others until we learn what it means to actually hurt another person and then we stop.
it's no different as adults. young, middle aged, or otherwise.
we are all here for a reason. with our own path and our own timetable. if we miss a step or screw up the cosmic schedule, it's gonna come around again for another shot. the same step, the same moments. over and over and over until we. get. it.
a system that is at once totally awesome with the potential to be totally heartbreaking and shitty, too. at least until you. get. it.
and while others can be hurt by our cosmic schedules and missteps, they cannot dictate where we "should" be. they cannot hurry us along or shame us into "getting it." everyone gets there when they get there.
shit, it's a wonder anyone can "stay together" or have lifelong friendships or even come to like and continue to like a group of people (family) they never chose in the first place!
regret means the lesson hasn't been learned. regret functions simply to keep us down. you did this you are bad and now you must regret.
that's not how i taught my babies and that's not how i'll nurture my own self.
everyone makes mistakes. and mistakes are only mistakes until you correct them. then they are learning experiences.
regret impedes the learning.
now, that being said, i do not for one moment believe that i am exonerated completely for things i have done, people i have hurt, etc. that's not how it works. and that's not what this is about. because i don't beat myself up with regret doesn't mean the past is erased, and it doesn't automatically soothe the achey spot in someone's heart with my name on it.
that's a whole 'nother ball game that must be played in its own way.
as far as just the personal regret, when we keep ourselves from the lesson, from the getting it and moving forward, there is no way we can be "better" friends, partners, family. and by better i mean someone who got the lesson and knows enough to not squash the boundaries, to not cross the lines, to not bite.
so to all of you silly mortals out there, go easy on yourselves.
life was never meant to be lived in a day. because no matter what, there's always another day, one more chance to learn, and to get it, and to move on.
p.s. the tree up there is stainless steel. i don't know what that crow knows or doesn't know about that "tree", but he seemed pretty happy perched up there.