"You regret what you want."
I'm going through drafts of potential blogs that never quite made it. This is one of them.
You've been lied to about regret. We think there's something wrong with it. We think it's a sign of a life misspent. Every living soul knows regret of one kind or another. But we've gotten the feeling that it isn't good, so we lie and say proudly, "I have no regrets."
That is nothing but stuffing reality in a sock. Not that that is strange. It isn't. It is normal to stuff reality in a sock.
I know deep and abiding regret. The big defense is always that, "Well I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't of done what I've done." It's really no argument at all. The calculus and sum total of our decisions are a whirlwind. The only reason we don't say "My life would have been so much better if I would have--" is because we can't actually see it. Please rest assured that your life would have been better if you had made some better decisions in the past. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.
There are two great monuments to regret that I am aware of. The first is the Kenny Chesney song, "Done a Lot of Things Different."
"People say they wouldn't change a thing, even if they could/oh but I would."
The other one is a quote from the movie "Magnolia." It is haunting and beautiful. It is sometimes crass and uses four letter words--but so does life. But some people prefer to shield themselves from life, so I gave you fair warning.
The following quote is an old man on his deathbed:
"Earl Partridge: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I went to her school for that grade. Grade - that's grade twelve. And we meet. She was... fucking like a doll. A beautiful porcelain doll. And the hips, child-bearing hips, you know that? So, so beautiful. And I cheated on her... over and over and over again. Because I wanted to be a man. And I didn't want her to be a woman, you know? A smart, free person who was something! My fucking mind then. So stupid, that fucking mind! Stupid! Jesus Christ! What would I think, did I think for what I'd done? She was my wife for twenty-three years... and I went behind her over and over. Fucking asshole that I am. I'd go out and I'd fuck and I'd come home and get in her bed... and say... "I love you." This is Jack's mother. His mother, Lily. These two... that I had... and I lost. This is the regret that you make. This is the... regret that you make and the something you take and the blah, blah, blah, something, something. Gimme a cigarette. Mistakes like this... you don't make. Sometimes... you make some and OK. Not OK, sometimes, you make other ones. Know that you should do better. I loved Lily. I cheated on her. She was my wife for twenty-three years. And I have a son. And she has cancer. And I'm not there, and he's forced to take care of her. He's fourteen years old. To... to take care of his mother... and watch her die on him. A little kid, and I'm not there. And she does die.
Earl Partridge: I loved her so. And she knew what I did. She knew all the fucking stupid things I'd done. But the love... was stronger than anything you can think of. The goddamn regret. The goddamn regret! Oh, and I'll die. Now I'll die, and I'll tell you what... the biggest regret of my life... I let my love go. What did I do? I'm sixty-five years old. And I'm ashamed. A million years ago... the fucking regret and guilt, these things, don't ever let anyone ever say to you you shouldn't regret anything. Don't do that. Don't! You regret what you fucking want! Use that. Use that. Use that regret for anything, any way you want. You can use it, OK? Oh, God. This is a long way to go with no punch. A little moral story, I say... Love. Love. Love. This fucking life... oh, it's so fucking hard. So long. Life ain't short, it's long. It's long, goddamn it. Goddamn. What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? What did I do? Phil. Phil, help me. What did I do?"