We all look back at moments in our lives with some regret. We think about those decisions we made long ago where we wish we could take a re-do. Oh, to have the ability to hit the rewind switch, and apply the wisdom that comes with time and experience. And in a few instances, I’d be happy with a more simple and definite; ctrl/alt/delete.
In my past life, not to be confused with a former life in which I cavorted with the likes of Cleopatra, but in my recent past, I’ve said or done things I regret. The spectrum of regret ranges from the completely inane, to the somewhat inconvenient and of course, a few rather serious, questionable decisions. If only I had held in that fart in fifth grade, Judy Smorstad would not have glared at me in utter disgust. What was I thinking buying that expensive orange turtleneck cashmere sweater I thought was so snazzy on me? It made me look like the Great Pumpkin. I also recall a curly perm in eighth grade given to me by one of the Nichols girls. I believe it coincides with a rather bleak period in my dating history.
As the regret arcs to the inconvenient I recall not noticing my drivers license had expired which resulted in a nearly $300 fine. And had I stopped at four pitchers of Blatz beer at Zahasky’s that one night in college, I probably wouldn’t have made out with a particular underclassman. I rue the day when I ordered curried chicken while on vacation in Israel. I would have avoided throwing up all over Willie on the train ride home from Jerusalem back to Haifa. I’m pretty sure Willie shares that same regret.
The pendulum of regret swings up to the more serious and points to my decision to study anthropology instead of something useful, like business. Had I chosen the practical instead of esoteric, maybe I would be supporting Scott instead of the other way around. And then there’s the tattoo. In a moment of giddy delirium, I decided I needed a tattoo that really represented who I was; a veritable work of art. The Calvin and Hobbes tattoo on my upper arm is where I now direct nurses to plant the needle when I get my yearly flu shot. Right smack in Calvin’s ass.
These decisions, plus the multitudes I haven’t mentioned, are just threads in the fabric of my life that make it a complicated crazy quilt instead of a simple and boring white oxford. For the most part, they only affected my life, and frankly, I probably wouldn’t do any of those over again.
What I would do over, are those actions that affected other people. Mostly that translates into Henry and Scott. If I could hit the back-space key in my life, I would have questioned more when Henry’s first grade teacher said he would catch up in school; that she didn’t think he had a learning disability. We should have insisted on testing to make sure and then we would have started intervention sooner. I regret that I didn’t take care of myself better when I was younger. I know this body is fifty, but I want to keep up with my kid like other healthier parents are able to. These knees and hips don’t allow me to run anymore and I miss that. I wish that I had gone into my relationship with Scott a better communicator. For too many years I kept so much to myself. I didn’t think he would like my imperfections, so I concealed them. And when I needed to talk, to come clean and reveal the true me, it was really hard to find the words.
Since there is no rewind button, and I cannot cut and paste a better story line into those portions of my life, I deal with what’s been written. I hope that my decent memory will serve me well as I remember those regrettable decisions and not repeat them. I also have the sense to keep them in the context of my life experiences back then. I don’t beat myself up either because I understand we make choices and take chances based on the facts we have in that moment. Maybe writing about mistakes helps someone else avoid them.
When Henry looks at my Calvin tattoo and asks when he can get one, I point out a couple things. He can do whatever he wants once he’s an adult, but I make it clear that tattoos hurt a hell of a lot more than a shot, and that they are essentially forever. I tell him to really think about what he chooses so he can feel good about it the rest of his life. It is a decision he will live with for a long time. While I have a little regret about a comic character forever inked on my arm, it’s a poignant reminder of my youth. And a reminder that potentially everything about my life is a cautionary tale.