Friday, May 20, 2011

On Regret: Or When Carping Your Diem Kicks Your Ass

This post will have two introductions, as I originally wrote it for last Friday, but Blogger went psycho and ate the world's posts for a day. Then it finally came back. In other words, Blogger was UNPREDICTABLE, which is actually this week's theme. So in blogging about last week's theme, because Blogger was unpredictable, I am, in turn, BEING UNPREDICTABLE. Which fits. So here's my unpredictably last-week blog for this week.

God I'm unpredictable.

Without further ado, here it is . . . And thanks again for having me, ladies.

Hello my lovelies! Let me start out by saying that I could not be more excited about this topic as my introductory blog post. For I am a great carper of the diems.

Basically, everyone has already said why we should all grab life by the horns and then pole vault over it to straddle it and ride it into the ground. That's how I think of my existence, and that's how I try to live. Everyone has already done a lovely job of telling you how living life with guts and gusto often leads you to better, more beautiful horizons. How, if we don't try, we never succeed. And, finally, how unfulfilling can be a life led in the shadow of regret.

I live by this credo, and I've succeeded by this credo.

I've also, on more than one occasion, been gored by those horns I was too slow to grab.

So I want to take a second to talk about regret, and those times when our battle cry of "Carpe Diem!" has left us lying, poleaxed, on a field of carnage that was once our life.

Living life hard hurts. I've got skid marks the size of Minnesota. I've fallen (and occasionally gotten trampled) far more times than I've managed that pole-vault/straddle combo. And there have been quite a few moments when my life's ridden me into the ground, rather than vice versa.

So what do we do when seizing the day gets us hurt? How do we deal with regret?

I've come not to believe in regret. Now, don't get me wrong. This is not to say I've not done any stupid things. I've done enough stupid things for ten little girls, and I'm doing at least two really stupid things RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT. Indeed, I oftentimes do something that I realize is both seizing the day and stupid. When I inevitably am lying on the floor seeing stars, I think, "Wow, that was stupid. And probably only stupid. So stupid I would regret this if I had any sense."

And I do regret! I spend a few weeks gnawing open my wounds so that they can't heal, going over everything I did that was idiotic, and telling myself, "You shouldn't have done that, dummy."

But then a few more weeks pass, and I stop berating myself so much. I stop keeping the wounds open, to punish myself, and I let them heal a bit. And then I'm able to pause, and think, and realize that I really, really needed that lesson.

Sometimes such lessons have been general, "I need to apply some brakes," lessons. In the past, my living hard has taken typically immature routes, and I've learned lessons that helped me cut down on or cut out certain behaviors. Nowadays, those lessons are usually about me learning to say "no," and learning to give myself what I need to stay healthy to write.

Other times, the lessons have been really specific. For example, I've never been sure if I wanted children, and I hid behind this screen of, "I'll have kids as long as I'm partnered up with a Breast, like Nathan Lane in the Bird Cage." Then I was called on my bluff in an otherwise silly relationship that crashed and burned, and that--for a few weeks--I really regretted even getting into. When I was able to think clearly about everything, however, I realized that having my bluff called made me admit some hard truths to myself, and to stop hiding behind shady excuses. So yeah, the relationship was a bust, but I thought through something really tough because of it.

Finally, some lessons have been ENORMOUS. Like when I realized I'd finally turned a corner in my life: I was older, I had responsibilities, I was kind of a mini-public-figure, and I shouldn't date people who'd been to prison or who have never had a real job. While most of you probably knew that already, it was a big moment for me.


Stop judging.

Seriously, though, carping your diem isn't about always making good decisions. It's just as often about making bad decisions. After all, it's as much through mistakes as success that we grow, and we learn a hell of a lot more about ourselves from how we deal with rejection than we do through being honored.

So live expecting to get hurt. Expect life to be bloody, a little embarrassing, and probably full of things you regret for a few weeks. And then let those bruises heal, get together with friends over some cocktails, and talk about what an ass you were and how much learned from the experience.

Because that's also what life's about.


Sophie Littlefield said...

wow nicole...did i ever need that post today. every single word spoke straight to me. i seized somethign ill advised and hung on hard, and yeah the ground and the blood and the trampling. thanks for the reminder that there were lessons in there (there WERE!) and that i'll get up again soon. you're the best.

Martha Flynn said...

Ah crap that is a string of endlessly good points. How I deal with rejection is *not* awesome and I need to work on that. Lesson digested! Hugs and thank you. (Please also make sure next week's post changes my life a little.)

Unknown said...

Nicole--First off, WELCOME to the Pens! I've been off carping a little too well the last few weeks and have been MIA :)

Fabulous, fabulous point about mistakes vs. success and rejection vs. honoring. Loved this post and was extremely appropriate for today.

Thank you!!

Rachael Herron said...

I only regret two things, and they're both regarding dead people, so I heed that and try to carp my diem with people before they (or I) kick off. Sounds bleak, but doesn't feel bleak. It's nice to remember. WELCOME TO THE PENS!

Gigi Pandian said...

I'm so happy this post appeared today, when I'm quite aimless, rather than last week when I was crazed with no time to *think* about carpe diem-ing while I was practicing it ;)

I even had time to click over to your related post about rejection, and that is AWESOME that you had the guts to apply for a Rhodes! I only applied/was rejected for a Marshall; but not to be defeated, I made my way back to the UK through a Euromasters grant.

p.s. A few weeks is way too long to suffer regret. A few days is much better :)

Nicole Peeler said...

Sophie: You will get up, and fabulously, but I wish I was there for a cocktail to hear all. ;-) Bouchercon!

Martha: I will be sure to do so. *writes "change Martha's life w/ Grog post" on the to do list* ;-)

Lisa: Thanks for having me, ladies! Love to be here. ;-)

Rachael: We should all carpe diem dead people, fo' shizzle. *hugs*

Gigi: Blogger, in being unpredictable, was perhaps smarter than we thought. ;-) And I did the same thing to Europe, by just going to school there anyway. Haha! Also, I do regret being so regretful. I am metaregretful.

Juliet Blackwell said...

This is great. Upon reading it I realized that I've been bragging (for quite some time) about never regretting anything, and then wouldn't ya know something blew up in my face and made me regret what I'd done...but now that a little time is past, I realize there was a lesson to learn and now I'm in the "cocktails with friends" phase (wait--what do you *mean* you're not here to drink with me and hear my endless rantings???)
So thanks for a post that was (rather frighteningly) perfect for so many of us to read today!
*SOOOO* happy to have you here!!!

Natarsha said...

I would just like to say , well said. This is a timely reminder, but the first time i've heard it put this way. It was like you were speaking directly to me, and yet it gave hope ... gave hope to me, to rethink how i'm placing myself in this world. Thankyou for your words of wisdom. All the way from New Zealand :)

Nicole Peeler said...

Juliet: I do the same thing (bragging about never regretting anything). And there are things I probably should regret more, but I think it's very much a psychological thing about how we're going to interact with the world. I just think regret is, while normal for the short-term, such a bitter pill for the long-term. I know people destroyed by regret (or just really annoying in their regret) and I think the "cocktails" phase is the best thing to strive for. ;-) Also, I would give anything to be directly involved in the cocktails stage with you guys. Can I just move in? Maybe that will solve everything. ;-)

Thanks, Natarsha! Glad you enjoyed the post. And all the way from NZ, at that. ;-)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Nicole, so glad you're all the way here! Welcome! Your post reminded me of something I heard in a summer program I took on one of the Lakota tribal colleges some twenty or so years ago. The guy teaching a class on Lakota spirituality, who was, as I recall, a white guy who probably wanted to be an Indian, asked the class a question he'd once heard from a medicine man, or maybe a priest: Who would, if given the opportunity, live life over again, but only on the condition that you do it making all the same choices and mistakes you made the first time? One man said he would. He was a recovering alcoholic and a priest (definitely not a medicine man). I took the point to be about regret and courage and worth remembering. Thanks an evocative post.

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