I love the magic of new beginnings – the excitement, the unknown, the mystery of the new road ahead. The fresh new steps on the path not yet trodden. To me, they can be seductive and yes, somewhat addictive. So that’s probably why I’m having a moan and a whinge now…
Because right now, I have no thrilling new beginning happening. Instead I have regrets. Six months ago, when I began my art therapy course, it was a different story. All very exciting, and that rush carried me through the first months with great enthusiasm. But now I’m in the inbetween stage, where the initial excitement has been worn down by the familiar, the everyday, and the plain hard work required. What was a courageous launch into the unknown is now not only well known, but also demanding much (too much!) of my time, energy, brain power and emotional fortitude.
And do you know what’s making it worse? (And here I confess to feeling petty and childish). Anna -my daughter – has just come back from her six months overseas trip. She had such a wonderful time, saw so many new things, experienced the wide wonderful world out there, and absolutely blossomed. I look at her at this amazing stage of her life – she has a world and a lifetime full of opportunities ahead of her. I am truly so very happy for her! I want her to live life to the full, and take hold of every wonderful opportunity that comes her way.
But suddenly I feel old. I am starting to feel my time for new beginnings has passed. I ask myself if it’s worth putting so much effort into things now. Can I even be bothered? Is it worth all the energy and sacrifice required? What was once a vista of a winding road leading into a future full of possibilities now seems to be more of a dusty track that’s seen better days and is in need of repair.
And as I look back at where I’ve been, I’m not seeing so much all the wonderful things that have happened (and I have had a life that’s been blessed with so many things). Right now I’m seeing the opportunities I’ve missed. Missed because perhaps at the time I wasn’t confident enough, disciplined enough, courageous, clever or far-sighted enough.
Or maybeI was just busy doing other things. When I was young, there was the wonderful sense of having so much time ahead. Now I’m realizing that the time for many things has passed. Options are not limitless, and taking one road (no matter how wonderful) means that others will never be explored. I won’t spend years building and achieving in a career, I won’t take off and live in a Tuscan villa, I don’t suppose I’ll live in the country and own a tea-shop. And I know that if I’d done those things I would have missed out on the wonderful things that I have had and done.
At this point in the road, I guess I’ve met up with REGRET. Up until now, he hasn’t shown himself too often. Suddenly he’s demanding my attention, and I don’t really like him as a travelling companion. He has none of that excitement that I experience with new beginnings.
I notice too that REGRET doesn’t always travel alone. There can be other companions that hitch a ride with REGRET – ones like grief, self-judgement, disappointment, envy and frustration. They swirl around him, and make the road and the view look even worse. They insist on travelling along, and demand that I give them some time and attention, that I make some space for them on the road.
But maybe it’s not so bad to give REGRET his time in the spotlight. Regret for the roads not taken, the things not done, the opportunities missed. Like all human emotions, I guess it’s part of that rich tapestry of life – and also part of growing up and growing older, of learning acceptance of limits and of the things that can’t be changed.
And I discover that sometimes REGRET can have a positive function. Some regrets encourage me to do things differently. For example, I had a much-loved aunt with whom I always meant to spend more time and keep in closer contact. But then it was too late, and despite all my good intentions, the opportunity to do so was gone. So now, when I have the chance to spend time with another favourite aunt, I take it.
What about you? Do you have any regrets? Big ones, small ones? How do they affect your life? How do you deal with them? Do they lead you to live life any differently now? I”d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
And thank you for listening to my whingeing – I feel better now!