Category Archives: regrets

A Cautionary Tale

I have a friend. A dear friend; the dearest possible friend. We met when I was in my early 30s; she was 25 years my senior. We were (are) both writers.

When I moved away from the town in which we both lived, we began a correspondence. An almost-daily correspondence. At first it was letters via snail mail (which would cross in the mail), then fax, then email. We were quite intimate with our conversations, covering the whole emotional ranges of our very different lives.

correspondence

Thirty Years of Correspondence

We talked very eloquently about our divorces, our marriages. We talked about infidelity. We talked about our children and various problems we had with them, their illnesses, their marriages, both successful and failed. We talked about ourselves, our histories, our futures, our feelings, in excruciating detail, because that’s what writers do. We talked about our glory moments and our devastations. There was nothing off  limits for us to discuss with sometimes brutal honesty. As we saw it at the time.

Imagine my astonishment when about three years ago she mentioned that she had kept–was keeping–all that correspondence. It was all boxed up, in her office closet.

This is stuff that could wound, hurt, devastate her children, my children, my husband. This was personal, very confidential stuff between two people. It never occurred to me, not once in all these years, that what we had written to each other had been saved. I assumed she let it drift into the ether as I had.

But her reasoning, she said, was that one day she would cull through it, excerpting it, writing the book of our friendship.

She is elderly now, and doesn’t remember the tortuous times we wrote about. She doesn’t remember the emotional firestorms we went through that we dissected, how we helped each other through rough patches, how we helped each other understand the motivations of those who slashed us to the core.

Needless to say, since this revelation of the existence of these papers, I have been far more judicious in things I say to her. I mourn the loss of that intimacy, and am a little bit resentful that I have to edit myself in this way.

When I asked for these papers, her caretaker (a family member) said she wanted to go through it for family history.  When I told her it was private communication not meant for others’ eyes, she was unmoved.

I had terrible thoughts of my friend’s children reading our letters and having their worlds rocked by what they read—the truth about their mother’s most intimate inner musings–and her friend’s unabashed opinions.

So I became determined, absolutely resolute, that this material would be shredded. I began to get insistent. I may have hurt some feelings in the process.

Yesterday, seven boxes were delivered to me by FedEx.

I breathed a sigh of relief that it is now in my hands, and no one will ever read it.

I do not regret baring my soul, naked, with both beauty and ugliness, to my dearest friend in all the world, but I’m sorry that we did not have an agreement beforehand about the disposal of our correspondence.

This is a cautionary tale.

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Filed under Aging, family, regrets, relationships, Writing, years

Rightmindedness

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to that word: Rightmindedness.

We have a thousand opportunities every day to choose our mindset. If we get our minds right, we can choose happiness, joy, freedom, love, light, loyalty, sunshine.

Or, if something we don’t like happens, we can allow it to color our whole day, our month, our year.  A moment’s temptation can throw us off a diet, for example, and in a few days, all the good hard work that’s been done is erased. Or, we could choose to not let that happen. We could choose to put our minds right again, and not let a small slip throw our world into chaos.

The same goes for fear and anxiety. We can let it run our lives, or we can live with self-forgiveness and let old conflicts go. When new situations arise, we have the power to choose our reaction to them. If we behave ourselves, what do we care if others misbehave?

I read an article about how human minds seek out similarities. We like finding coincidences. We match up things that go together. We say things like: He looks just like so-and-so, except for…”  And that also goes for series of events. In one day, we could have a flat tire, have to wait so long at a professional’s office that we miss another appointment, get some bad news and have to deal with a miscommunication. Each of those things has the potential to ruin our day, if we let it, especially if we run down the litany of everything that went wrong to the spouse or loved one.

Instead, we should run down all the great things that happened. All the miracles that we’ve bunched together, all the coincidences, all the moments of synchronicity and delight. All the good things that people did for us, all the nice things people said about each other.

We’re not in control of much in our lives, but we are in control of our attitude. I know people who are negative, and I know people who are positive. I’d rather hang with the positive folks. The socially fragrant ones help me enjoy life.

I’m working on getting my mind right, one decision at a time, because that will make life a lot more fun. And it will also make the world a better place.

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Filed under Beauty, connections, Discipline, Friends, Fun, goals, Goodness, Honesty, Joy, peace, Personalities, regrets, relationships, Spirituality

We Choose Our Lives

Those of you who are parents have undoubtedly said to your pre-teen or teen, “You’ll remember these times as the best times of your life.” We worry that they want to grow up too fast, cutting short many childhood experiences, in quest for the more alluring adult activities. I was one of those kids; perhaps we all were. Eager to get out of high school and get a job, get out of the house, get on with life.

Well, the same holds true for today. Now that I’m “of an age” I’m in no hurry to get older, but am I taking advantage of who and where I am right now? Am I enjoying my life today to the degree that some day I’ll look back and say, “Man, those were some good times.”? Or am I too busy worrying about this and that and making appointments and meeting deadlines and paying the bills to stop and think: “I’ll never be a human again. I’ll never be in this type of material body with its strengths and its difficulties. I’ll never live on such a magnificently beautiful planet like this again. I better literally stop and smell the flowers.” It’s true that I don’t know what lies on the other side of the veil any more than anybody else, but I have my idea about that, just as you have your idea about it. My point is, from every place I find myself in the future–whether it’s next week or a thousand years in the future–I want to be able to look back and say, “I took advantage of everything that was offered to me back then.”

We’ve also probably counseled our children not to burn bridges or close doors on our options, because they don’t know what the future holds. The same holds true for us. We don’t know what doors we’re closing on our future when we act irresponsibly.

There are long ugly stretches of my history that I would just as soon forget, but those are long behind me and that is not the way I choose to live today, or tomorrow, or for the rest of my days. I want to be conscious, aware, engaged, happy with who I am and what I’m doing. I want to be able to look back and know that I was present, not pining for what was, nor spending my days daydreaming about what could be in the future. There’s value in some of that, certainly, but I believe that we will some day have the benefit of perspective on our lives that we currently have on our childrens’ lives.

We’re only here once. Let’s do good works, be kind to one another, and be proud of who we are today.

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Filed under Aging, Death, dreams, Dying, Fun, Goodness, Possibilities, regrets, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, time, years

Those Waves of Grief

It’s been two years since my mother passed away, and every now and then I am blindsided by onrushing waves of grief that are so intense and severe that they verge on disabling. They don’t last very long, because I refuse to dwell in the guilt that always accompanies grief, but when they happen, they always surprise me.

My mother and I were good when she died. We had a stormy relationship from the very beginning, but by the time she breathed her last, we were good.

Last week I realized that the waves of grief stem from personal reflection and memories of things I wish I could apologize for. I’d like to just call her up and say, “Mom, I’m so sorry I was such a little shit.” But I can’t. She’s gone. And I have to live with the fact that there are years of amends I can no longer make to her. She never demanded or even asked for any kind of apology. She loved me with a parent’s unconditional love and affection, rewriting history in her mind as she grew older until we were all perfect children in her memory.

I have only to trust that I’ll see her again, and if those things are still important in that place where we’ll meet, I’ll have the opportunity to make it all good then.

In the meantime, these waves of grief and guilt are testimony not only to my enduring love for her, but my personal spiritual growth that allows me to reflect and realize these things. Wherever she is, I know she understands.

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Filed under Aging, Death, family, regrets, relationships, Spirituality

What do you mean, “Forgive and Forget”?

My friend, not long ago, was whining about some slight that she was still churning over, when I tossed off the oft-used, but ill-considered phrase: “Oh, forgive and forget.” She stopped in her tracks, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “I will never forget, and I have no idea what forgiveness means.”

Hmmmm.  I had to think about that. This happened several years ago, and I’m still thinking about it. Of course we don’t forget. And what is forgiveness, anyway? I have an idea these days about what mercy is, but forgiveness has eluded me.

Well, the other day I happened upon an interesting article on forgiveness, and the author said that forgiveness was simply allowing another person their path.

That was kind of a stunner to me, and I’m not sure I’ve finished assimilating that simple bit of wisdom.

We all have our paths. Some wind around in a convoluted manner, some take us through very dark places, some have us living the glamorous high life and some appear to be cut short before they’ve really begun. It is my personal opinion, belief and faith, that we all have the same destination, eventually, but it’s going to take us all a long time to get there, not just the 80 or so years we have in this life on this planet. But my path to that destination is my path and your path is your path, and if you do something that offends me, well, that’s your path, to be mildly offensive now and then. I certainly spent enough time being offensive to people before I decided not to do that any more. That’s a part of my journey.

I’m not finished considering all the ramifications of this simple raindrop of wisdom. A theological question I’ve wrestled with for years now, was answered in a simple four-word sentence: “Allow them their path.”

Could it really be that simple? Are all the things we wrestle with that simple?

Probably. We’re the ones who make our lives difficult.

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Filed under Beauty, Goodness, regrets, relationships, Resentment, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth

What makes a good life?

With death always comes reflection, whether it is the death of a loved one or a favorite celebrity. Today I’m wondering: What makes a good life?

It isn’t money, that’s for certain, and it isn’t cool stuff. It isn’t good reviews or a successful career, either, or any of that stuff. I’m coming to believe that life is made up of days well lived, and days are made up of moments.

Every moment, I have a decision–at least one.  Do I want to be happy or unhappy? Do I want to lead with my heart or with my cynicism? Do I want to be critical or see the best in people and their efforts?

And along with those decisions, I have a lot of little actions, too. Will my tongue be sharp or gentle? Will I act in a way that sustains the earth or in a way that is expedient? Will I take care of myself or succumb to instant gratification?

The Urantia Book says: “The keys of the kingdom of heaven are sincerity, more sincerity, and more sincerity.” Sincerity is a decision, made moment by moment.

Today I will speak gently to people, work to beautify my garden and provide nutritious food for my table, and make it a point, with sincerity, to let my husband know how much I appreciate him. Today I will proceed with love in my heart, extend the mercy to others that I would have them extend to me, and give raspberries to my neighbor.

If I can do all that, then this will be a day well lived. Strung together, these days make for a good life.

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Filed under Beauty, Gardening, Goodness, regrets, relationships, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, The Urantia Book, Truth

Gratitude – and a Rant

I know I have pledged to keep this blog about gratitude for the month of November, and my gratitude knows no bounds, literally. I have a wonderful husband, family, job, dog, house, friends… every detail of my life (except one) is quite wonderful, and I am exceedingly appreciative.

The one exception is my skin. And I’m going to rant about this because I just had another biopsy (the third just this year) because I ruined my skin by sun worshipping in Hawaii for seventeen years.

The first time I had a squamous cell carcinoma cut off my chest, the dermotologist said, “Oh, yes, you’ve ruined your skin. These things will be popping up like mushrooms for the rest of your life.” He was right. I’ve had literally dozens taken off, and had a very serious bout with melanoma that will continue to haunt me. I caught it early, but as the oncologist said, “We don’t consider anyone cured of melanoma until they die of something else.”

All because I loved being tan.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I have just had what we all think is a basal cell carcinoma biopsied from the middle-finger knuckle on my left hand. Basal cell is not that big a deal; it grows and the scars are ugly when it’s removed (I might need a skin graft–my second), but it’s not life-threatening. All because I liked having that “healthy glow” from a suntan.

When they cut one off my face, I almost fainted a half hour later in a department store and had to sit on a big canister of popcorn in a display and put my head between my knees. Imagine having someone cut on your face because twenty years earlier you wanted to wear a strapless dress and not have a tan line.

My gym offers a deal when you buy multiple tanning sessions at a time. I am here to tell you, living proof with scars from my face to my ankles and a perpetual cloud hanging over my happiness, tanning is expensive.

You can’t afford it.

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Filed under Cancer, regrets