Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Endings: The Growth From Regret

Let's face it, we all have things that we regret in our life.

We regret that boy/girl we dated.

We regret the way we handled that breakup.

We regret the way we treated our siblings growing up.

We regret doing that one thing we always said we'd never do. Or even a couple things we said we'd never do.

We regret doing that one thing multiple times.

We regret not taking school seriously.

We regret not handling that situation maturely

We regret that argument that hurt someone so badly.

We regret not going to the gym this morning and instead wasting that time on our phone.

We regret not putting our all into something we knew full well was within our capability.

Sometimes we regret our personalities.

We regret that time we were dishonest.

We regret talking about someone behind their back.

We regret not helping others enough.

The list can go on and on! Hind site is SO 20/20 right? There are those out there that have the opinion that having regrets about your life, or occurrences in your life, will somehow take away from this experience on Earth. My opinion is the opposite, but is easier understood if explained.

I recently had a talk with my husband Camren where I told him some of my regrets. These regrets don't hold me down day to day, but I am human and I remember my life. I will occasionally pick through my brain and take a look at the past. I remember the laughter, the happiness, and the joyous times. I also remember the pain, the sorrow, and the anguish. There must always be balance, so there will be good days and bad days, that's just life. However, the most painful things I remember in my life are the things caused by my own decisions. Things that, for me personally, stole my happiness. Things that I could have done differently, but because I chose the paths I did, I now live with some regrets.

Number one, it's OK to have regrets. It's OK to make mistakes. If everything in your life is always 100%, how will you grow? How can you appreciate the 100% days if you've never had those 60% days? Those 22% days? Those -624,797,985% days?  The one thing you shouldn't ever regret, is having regrets.

This is my opinion that is different than many others...having some regrets is having a constant reminder of what not to do again. Having regrets is a sort of safety net for me, IF I choose to use it. Because let's be honest, we all have those mistakes we've made that we go and make 25 more times before we get it right. My personal regrets serve as a reminder of how to better conduct my life so I can achieve happiness. Those regrets may not have made a great beginning, but I can make a great ending! I can take what I have learned and apply it to make a brighter future. This doesn't mean that more mistakes won't be made, but regrets don't have to be a dark cloud hanging overhead. If you can take those regrets and change them, mold them into a lesson instead, those lessons can be like bricks used to build a strong foundation to stand on.

Let me give an extremely personal example.

My marriage with my late husband was difficult at times because of some choices he made and some choices I made. We had very poor communication skills and when you put that with personal mistakes in a marriage, it's a recipe for disaster. We would have, sometimes several days a week, knock out drag out screaming fights. We would go back and forth accusing each other of things and bringing up past mistakes each other had made, things we said we'd "forgiven." This would always, 100% of the time, end in both us feeling pain and heartache. Our words to each other were vicious.

During these fights he would always shove the advice he learned in therapy at me. "Don't point fingers in a disagreement. Don't ever assume anything, ask instead. Don't instantly go on the defensive. Don't take literally everything so seriously." I can promise you I never listened to his advice and I could not ever, ever take a joke.

At the end of February 2015 there were two consecutive days where we had the worst two fights we'd ever had. The first day and the first fight ended with me questioning to myself, for the first time, if I should continue in that marriage. The very next day, and the second fight, lasted 6 hours. It ended at 4:55am with my late husband yelling to me "Erin you're safe now. I'm on the ground, you're safe." I walked out of an upstairs bedroom to see him jump up and run downstairs to our bedroom after he saw police walking up to the door. No more than 10 seconds later his parents and I heard a gunshot.

That second fight ended with him taking his life.

Can you imagine the regret I felt and still struggle with at times? 

Why didn't I handle our arguments more maturely?! Why didn't I give 100%?! Why wasn't I more compassionate?! Why was I fully submissive in that relationship?!

These regrets I used in a negative way. Going through the grieving process these regrets were a black cloud. They brought me down to a deep, dark place. A place that I will sometimes still stumble into.

Fast forward. I met Camren and decided to start using the advise I was given by my late husband. I took those regrets, those black clouds, and turned them into lessons. I turned them into bricks that have contributed to giving us, almost a year later, a strong and steady foundation for our relationship and marriage. I can very honestly tell you that Camren and I have not had one fight. Have we had disagreements? Of course! Every marriage has disagreements. The problem is when those turn into fights. When we have a disagreement we talk about it. We reach some sort of agreement or understanding through calmness and respect. I don't point fingers at Camren. I don't bring up past mistakes. I don't get defensive, I instead listen and apologize accordingly. I don't assume. My biggest accomplishment is chilling out!! I went from "stick up the butt" to very sarcastic. That has saved me because there are things that Camren says that have turned into a big joke between us. I can remember my late husband saying some of the exact same things and it causing major offense and a fight. It takes work to remember to do these things and to remember to act appropriately, but the more you do something the more it becomes you.

I grew from my mistakes, from my regrets. I would love to say that my first marriage didn't have all of those harmful things I described, but if it didn't I wouldn't be the person I am today. I wouldn't have the successful marriage I have with Camren. I owe so much to my late husband for the success in my marriage to Camren! I still give his advice to many people daily.

Regrets can only take you down if you let them. Use them as fuel. It's ok to take that occasional look in the past and grow from it. The goal is to progress is it not? So progress then!! Be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. Accept that mistakes happen and then smile because you were given an opportunity to learn and become a better you!

"Nobody can go back and start at the beginning. But anyone can start today and make a new ending."

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