Pondering Regrets, Large and Small

I had my first fleeting moment of Marie Kondo regret this weekend – that pang of realization that you purged something from your home that you would find useful right about now. One of the many things that exited my house in the great cleaning binge was my ancient stash of resume paper. I decided I truly didn’t need to keep a supply of thick, off-white paper, no matter how lovely, because paper resumes aren’t a thing anymore.

Two days later, I found myself in need of thick, off-white paper for an art project. You know what would have worked perfectly? Resume paper.

Oh well. I don’t actually regret tossing it. I hadn’t touched the stuff in at least six years and hanging onto belongings indefinitely “just in case” you might someday use them is a direct route to crazy town.

I’ve been pondering the idea of regrets recently, both big and small, after my aunt asked me if I ever regretted my divorce. The short answer was “nope!” but of course the real answer is more nuanced than that. There are definitely days where I think fondly of my time with a live-in co-parent. Someone to help clean the kitchen, tag in at bedtime, back me up when I ban the Kindles, or take a turn facilitating bath time.

But that’s a situational wistfulness that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the relationship I left behind. When I pause to catalog what I miss now, it reminds me once again of how much was missing then. So no, I don’t regret the decision.

I used to embrace more emphatically the life philosophy of No Regrets, believing that being happy where you are required celebrating the path – however winding – that led you there. No matter how secure I am in my divorce, I also can’t regret a marriage that produced three magnificent children, even if the relationship didn’t last forever. Own your decisions, always look ahead, bloom where you’re planted. I can do all of that.

Then a friend pointed out that claiming a life of ‘no regrets’ also means that you are unwilling to admit your mistakes, unwilling to acknowledge that choices made in your own best interest may have harmed others. It’s an excellent point, and one that has stayed with me.

I uninvited a close friend from being in my bridal party because we had one more bridesmaid than groomsman. What on earth was I thinking? Was visual symmetry really that important that it was worth deeply hurting someone I loved? Or how about the times I have lost my temper with my children when my exhaustion or stress or frustration bubbled over? Certainly I regret those moments, even after making amends.

On a less serious note, I took my children to dinner at Huddle House this week and failed to notice until halfway through the meal that my daughter’s chicken tenders were raw. Like, actually raw in the middle. Do I regret my meal choice for the evening? You betcha.

I wouldn’t change the divorce and I wouldn’t retrieve the resume paper from the recycling bin, but that doesn’t mean I never second-guess my decisions. We all have mistakes and missed opportunities in our past, things we could have done better or differently. A little regret can be healthy if we can find a balance between ignoring our mistakes and wallowing in them.

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