Dee Chadwick
13 Feb 2022
I think that I envy those who can answer ‘no’ to this. Yet, I wonder if there really are many of us who can go through life without regrets. Some of us will no doubt have huge regrets over which we beat ourselves up over many years. Regrets that can act as a spurring on to higher aims – or to us closing down completely on some aspects of life.

Yes, I regret some of the choices I have made over the years.  However, rather than regret the things that I did do that maybe didn’t go as planned, or that I made a real mess of, my biggest regrets are around the things that I didn’t do. The opportunities missed, though maybe some lie behind the doors which I simply ran out of time for opening or hadn’t got the key to hand at the appropriate time. So, they maybe await that oiling of lock, or applying of a shoulder to aid the opening… though I guess most are ships that sailed long ago. So, best to be grateful that I may have had the opportunity to consider such things, set them aside and have a go at other things that may come my way – health and finances always being taken into consideration.
When regret is influenced by the actions of others, I have to accept that they, for whatever reason, made their choices, went down their chosen paths. Who is to say – our paths may cross at some future time.  Maybe like Buzz Lightyear, the aim shouldn’t be set by the calendar, rather …. to Infinity and beyond……… let the world be your oyster and may you find some pearls in there to add interest along your way.

I have been dipping in and out of the Winter Olympics, marvelling at the skills shown by the many athletes. This led me to wondering what support they had? Not only financial, but also personal. I wonder if they regret giving up huge chunks of their lives for training, travelling to events, and in the case of both Winter and Summer Olympic sports, maybe having to live apart from family in an area/a country that offered better training, better prospects for improvement. If, after all of the hard work, other opportunities set aside do not result in the winning of a medal, I wonder how many regret the choices that they made? I really hope that most see the actual taking part as a huge accolade setting them apart from we mere dabblers, Sunday players, holiday skiers, watchers of Dancing on Ice!
 My son began swimming by being very reluctant to set foot in a swimming pool unless with me by his side. When old enough to begin lessons, I actually had to hide behind other parents who would stand up to conceal me from his view as he clung to the hand rail of the parents seated area, his goggles seemingly filling with the copious  tears he was shedding.  His instructor would persuade him back into the water and after a couple of weeks of this, I could actually sit, watch and encourage without any need to hide. He quickly became a good swimmer, then a very good swimmer. The teacher took me to one side and said that she had swum backstroke for England, but she was sure that his stroke was going to be much better than hers. Great. So began the early morning drives to the pool before school and work. Then came the competitions – the galas. He hated these with a passion. Or rather, he hated the sitting around and waiting for his races. Sadly, this took place well before any mobile music or gaming kit was available. If these had been available, maybe things would have been different. Had I been a more pushy mum, maybe things would have been different. Would my persuading, cajoling him have led to him further developing his skills - but would the juice have been worth the squeeze? Something I will never know, rather - long story short – whilst he may have jacked in the squad swimming and therefore not had the chance for going on to ‘greater things’,  he still has a great skill for life.
Our children are not born clutching on to an individualised instruction booklet! We parent  in a style that is based on examples seen, maybe books read, hopefully adapting according to each individual child and their responses and reactions to the world around them. For me, as both a teacher of young children, and a parent, to encourage an enquiring mind has always been top of the list. To encourage a love of nature and the world around them comes a close second. Especially as the children of today will have to be sensitive to what is happening by way of climate change and be supportive of ways to counteract this. Though, sadly, with COVID, and political uncertainties, this seems to have dropped from the main headlines at present.
So – a nature appreciating, maybe a gardener parent, literally if not metaphorically. What do I mean by the latter? I mean a parent who presents their offspring with a metaphorically mown lawn. One where the offspring is unaware of the effort that goes into this being done – either by said parent, or by someone employed for the task. The weeds are magically removed, along with any stones or bumps along the way. The path ahead is straight – without any effort put in by the child, no resilience developed with strategies of how to cope with those stones, obstacles, problems along the way. An expectation maybe that life, like that lawn runs smooth and true.

We all make mistakes, which may lead to regrets. We may really wish that we could change what led to the mistake. This is like chasing the clouds. You can, however, change how you perceive a mistake. Changing this perception from one of negativity, self-beating-up to one of acceptance that you have actually learnt from your mistake. Even if that learning is seen as ‘only’ how not to do something! So long as you store this in the old memory banks and apply to future similar scenarios, you end up a winner. You are not your mistakes, though by choosing a positive way to handle them, rejecting regretting said mistake, you can easily shape the person that you are in a very positive way.

I have to say that I never thought I would be quoting former US President, Bill Clinton, and I have no idea how the quote slots in with ‘happenings’ in his life. But here goes - “If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” That quote led me off at a tangent about public mistakes – and does this add to the feelings of regret. Or is that something that depends very much on the character of the individual?

I have to say that this is coming from someone who I consider to be a belt and braces person, especially when it comes to health and safety – oh and finances where I am very risk averse! But ....

I have taken risks with people. I have worked with very violent clients in the past, especially in my voluntary work as counsellor with survivors of all forms of abuse. I have never been given grounds to regret these decisions as I worked hard to establish a strong basis of trust – two-way trust. With one client in particular I ensured that we were surrounded by very carefully laid down boundaries about behaviour and the consequences of these boundaries being ignored.  This client came to us having been rejected by psychiatrists and psychologists for trashing their rooms. Yes, I did have an alarm by my side and a colleague nearby and I made this clear to my client, though I never did feel the need to call either in to use. So, a risky risk well taken I feel and I hope that my client felt the same.

We all take risks when we let new people into our lives, no matter what the relationship. In some cases, the friendship, business relationship, whatever, doesn’t work out, so we chalk it down to experience and move on. With others, maybe we do look back and think – ‘what if’, ‘if only’ things had been different, I had done things differently. Maybe we learn for future relationships and move on, or maybe we go into the wonderful state of catastrophising wherein one cheating partner becomes ‘all partners will cheat, so why bother with another relationship?’ SO – decision time to remain a singleton, or take a risk, with a different person and acknowledging that you could well have been changed by your handling of the previous relationship.

Life is full of decisions. Life is full of risks. It used to be common when I was younger that parents asked whether you had on clean underwear when you went out ‘in case you had an accident!’ Guess that is one easily controllable variable and a good reason to keep that pile of dirty laundry down to a mole hill rather than a mountain.  I would never choose to do a bungee jump – but am left wondering if a small part of me again returns to memories from my childhood. Not the underwear this time, rather the oft thrown out parental comment – ‘If your friends all jumped off a bridge – would you?’ 

There are many other reasons, or possibly excuses, that we give ourselves when we feel the possibility of a risk looming up, but so long as you are satisfied that you have taken necessary, sensible, precautions then why not give ‘it’ a go, have a try, bite the proverbial bullet, step out of your comfort zone, stop coming up with yet more ‘what if’s’. You never know you might enjoy whatever ‘it’ is. If not, you can at least take that off the possibilities list.

It seems to be the general consensus that when on our deathbed, the things we regret are the things we didn’t try – not the things that we tried that didn’t work out.

So – what am I going to add on to my bucket list I wonder? .....the bungee jumping remains a non-starter, but I am sure there are plenty other things that I can manage not to talk myself out of! How about you?



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