I’m not a resolute gal. Some would describe me as pretty laid back. Chill. But inside my head, there is some level of shoulda, woulda, coulda—not just on the precipice of the New Year, but over the full course of the 12 proceeding months. An almost silent whisper that nudges me awake in those seemingly unearthly hours before sunrise; a feeling of remorse—of something lost—or maybe not yet found. Perhaps a guilty glimpse of words left unsaid or to-do lists undone. Then, the sleepless misery shouts in the middle of the night, “ I need to change that.”
It’s regret. And in the morning, it becomes a resolution.
Resolutions only work in the present. That’s the tricky part. Having resolve alone cannot always amend the past. Words and actions intentionally aimed at others have a long emotional shelf life and the inherent damage from alcohol consumed, cigarettes smoked and the packed on pounds from too much binge eating, cannot be undone causing a heavy load of regret. The job offer we should have accepted, or that one love that got away.
Then there are the daily trivial trials that challenge us to the brink of insanity, causing unnecessary regret. In my household, that includes an overpopulation of rescued dogs. While I love animals, I regret having to get new carpeting. Having four dogs also puts me in the crazy-dog-lady category. I humbly regret the number of times I have run into my husband’s parked car, chosen the wrong paint color or forgotten to lock the front door.
These are the easy fixes. Resolutions that simply require measured attentiveness.
My teenage boys put me in a constant state of regret and resolution. I regret listening to them when they say they don’t want to go camping, skiing, out to dinner, to Europe, the moon or anywhere else that does not include their friends or Fortnite. And I have finally admitted defeat in the you-can-never-have-enough cereal in the house, facing the fact that growing boys can eat a box of Fruity Pebbles in one sitting. My only regret is that I keep going back to the grocery store to buy more.
But I need to remember that their time with me is temporary. When they leave home in a few years, I don’t want to regret a minute spent in their miraculous presence.
Regrets may be our most valuable teachers. We can learn to recognize and forgive ourselves for what we have done, or left undone. And that’s my New Year’s resolution.