Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When Regret Isn't an Option

Last night I helped Felicity paint her pinewood derby car. It was fun. We were laughing and the boys were mocking us and I was in that place where you're aware it's a memory that's being made. So I was trying to allow for the imprint of it to be made on my mind and heart. My girls were complimenting my detail work on the car and I said inadvertantly " Yeah, you know some day I'd love to take a painting class. I wonder if I would be any good at it?" Felicity was horrified. "Why do you say stuff like that? You're an adult. You can't become an artist now. You have kids." I was taken back but also reflective. In a sense Fliss was right. I don't have time now to find out if I'm a painter right now. And on the other hand, I don't look forward to my kids being gone. In fact I dread it. I love the running to games and events and concerts that are a huge part of our lives, but at the same time when they leave this home and cleave to their adult pursuits I don't want to be left a shallow shell of who I once was.
In contrast, I've been thinking alot about the past lately. I guess along with the joining of facebook and the finding of and being found by many an old highschool classmate has brought with it some baggage of sorts. You know what I mean. Who hasn't pondered times gone by and found themselves awestruck by the effects of time passage. Our personalities morph. Our values and principals evolve. Positions we once were passionate about relax, and others are fanned from a smolder to a white hot fire. At the same time other, newer perspetives either mute or enhance ideals we once held in high esteem. Everything changes. Everything.
As I look back on who I once was and compare and contrast her with who I am now I see that the path is strewn with choices. Some have been wonderful and others not so much. Even in some of the more distateful decsions though, there has, of course, been beauty. Something of the Grace we believe in shines through. But I wonder....
Knowing what I know about the things that have taken place in my life - that is to say, knowning how I've grown from and through those times; knowing the impact they had on friends or family members, the blessing that was recieved in some cases, or the benefit that was given someone else in others; even knowing that though no positive element (at least not one worthy of the pain invovled) came from some of those moments. I don't see them as regrets. I believe in a God who worked so mightily through all the good and all the bad that I can't classify those things as regrets. The belief in the sovereignty of God won't let me. I don't regret them. I don't wish they hadn't happened. And yet ... some of those memories still cause me to wish I'd done things differently.
My question is this; is there a place between regret and satsifaction when perusing one's own past? Can a person realize their mistakes and see what could have been different without being dissatisfied with how things turned out?
If such a place exists, then for me it looks like acceptance. I'm not talking about words you wish you could take back or actions you are embarressed of. Those are just issues with forgiveness. I know we all deal with that on some level. What I'm talking about is looking back and wishing you'd pursued a dream or gotten involved in a group or organization. I'm talking about the loss of relationships. The opportunities missed. The doors you closed in on yourself. The ones you left open that would have been better to slam shut. When I look back over my life, I don't have regrets, but I do sometimes struggle to accept the fact that I didn't always "take the road less traveled" so that it couldn't "have made all the difference".
The thing is though, we tend to see many windows of opportunity past the age of 25 as closed. We sometimes think our carefree choices are behind us. And sure, the choices carry with them a greater consequence when we're surrounded by marriage and children and jobs and responisibilites. But it would be a sad world to live in if being married with kids meant that all the opportunities in life were over.
Accepting past choices and their consequences has nothing to with embracing the possiblities of what lies ahead. It's good to look back and take stock of what has happened and what the impact has been. But it's just as important to look forward with an attitude toward opportunity. I don't know what doors God will open tommorow, but I do know that this time around I want to walk through as many of them as I can. I know regret, ultimately is a part of life, even when you don't label it regret. And I know when I'm 80 I'll look back on 33 and think "You crazy kid... what were you thinking." But I hope I'll also remember courageously running through doors of opportunity kids in tow, husband closeby! And I hope the acceptance isn't quite as difficult to find.