Regrets 101

“I’ve got a bad case of the 3:00 am guilts – you know, when you lie in bed awake and replay all those things you didn’t do right? Because, as we all know, nothing solves insomnia like a nice warm glass of regret, depression and self-loathing.”
― D.D. Barant, Dying Bites

I am thankful that computers don’t fill a room anymore. And those punch cards that the young people of today have never seen, who misses those? These are my thoughts today as I am crocheting at 5 a.m.. Gotta love my canine alarm clocks and their small bladders. My mind wanders when I crochet, and often my destination is regret, the land of could have, should have and wish I would have. When I discover that I made a crocheting mistake 10 rows back, I wish I would have been paying attention! I grumble, but the fix is easy. I unravel all my hard work, fix the stitch and begin crocheting again. No one will know. But me. Usually the whole world knows I screwed up or behaved badly, or maybe I just feel that way.

I am 64 years old, and my regrets could circle the globe. I can’t erase my past choices and behaviors, and playing “If only…” is a losing fantasy. So what do I do with my bag of rotting regrets? If I can right a wrong or make amends for my poor behavior, then I can change a regret into a learning experience. Damn those learning experiences! What about the “road not taken”? I had many forks in the road and I decided which way to go. That is my reality, and what could have been is not real. Now I try to live in reality as much as I can. Imagination is wasted if I try to create a new past; better to use my imagination in the present tense. I try not to create new regrets by staying in the now, and paying attention. I am getting short on time for do-overs.

A spider weaves a beautiful and ornate web,and without a thought,we destroy it. I am sure that the spider does not regret its choice of corner, or the design of the web. I had a life with Roger and we built a web of relationship, love, memories, dreams, anger, tears, laughter, and more love. Dementia destroyed our web, and unlike the spider, I had so many regrets that I was afraid of being buried alive. I should have loved him better. I should have realized that he was irreplaceable. I shouldn’t have yelled at him when he started to behave differently. I should have known that this was the last walk, the last bike ride, the last smile. Sit and listen to a group of caregivers and you will hear litanies of regrets and guilt. I sat and listened to my fellow caregivers, and shared my pain. I stayed long enough for the miracle of self-forgiveness.

An Adventure

Roger loved to tell stories, and people loved to listen. We shared many experiences that later became funny stories or “adventures”. Unfortunately, a lot of our adventures initially started or ended with WTF! As in “How did we get HERE?” or “What’s going on?” There was usually some swearing involved, and a discussion about who was to blame. Only later did we see the humor, or good fortune in our wrong turns or mistakes. When you take a wrong turn, and your hike ends at a trailhead over five miles from your car, you first swear, then decide who is to blame(I told you so!), and finally consider your options. We shared our predicament with a friendly looking couple and asked for a ride back to our car.They were not going our way, but kindly offered to take us to our car anyway. We had a great time talking about our children and commiserated about the difficulties of dealing with teenagers. Before we knew it we were back to our car. This soon became a story, one of many, about our hiking adventures. The more Roger told the story, the funnier it became, and we were able to laugh with others about our predicament. Our lesson? Read your trail map…carefully.

Another hiking adventure! A friend recommended a trail, and said the road to it was a bit bumpy, but quite doable. So we set off in Rogers 2 door Saturn Coupe, and turned up the road that would take us to the trail head. At first the road was just a little dusty and bumpy, but conditions quickly deteriorated to a dust bowl and mountains and valleys in the road. And then, just to make things interesting, there was absolutely no way to abort the mission and turn around. It was keep going or else! We crawled up the road, held our breath that our low riding car would not bottom out, and swore. Miraculously, we made it to the trailhead and hiked one of the most beautiful trails we have ever taken. Photos from the day captured the glorious scenery and our smiling faces. We braced ourselves and headed down the road from hell. We had no car or human casualties, but we did have an inch of dust on our brave little vehicle. A car wash was our next destination, but our adventure remained shiny and new. Lesson learned? Be cautious of road condition reports when your friend drives a 4 wheel drive SUV and you do not.

Of course, not all our adventures were “the road less travelled….”  or “Life is a daring adventure…” poetic happenings . Sometimes the adventures we experienced were very painful, and the “daring” was just showing up and hanging on. When our son, Tyler, was very ill, we had to travel a road of fear, worry and lots of courage. Adventure means “encountering unknown risks, usually involving danger”. My adventures in aging are full of unknowns and some danger.I could hurt myself writing or crocheting, or I may always stink at playing the banjo. Can I show up and fail? Can I show up and be myself and risk telling the truth? What if so and so doesn’t like me? We all know how this story ends. Death may be the biggest adventure of all!

Last Sunday, Susan and I thought we were headed to Lyons and then home. How did Denver get in the way? By the way, Coal Creek Canyon was beautiful. But that’s another adventure/story….

I’m 64

When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now…
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?

John Lennon and Paul McCartney
On October 31, I turned 64. Life snuck up on me and I cried “Boo Hoo!” My birthday suit has certainly aged in 64 years; lots of wrinkles, drooping, sagging body parts and salt and pepper hair (more salt than pepper). Me,and my vanity, are horrified by the city maps of spider veins on my legs. My legs were one of my best features in my 20’s and 30’s, but the years of standing on hard floors selling books finally caught up with me. Now I am grateful my legs hold me up, and I can move my legs for exercise and take my doggies out for a spin. We don’t say or write the word “walk”, because Roscoe and Mia get too excited, race to the front door and whine until they rule the sidewalks. If I ruled the world, I would be at the front door whining to get out too!

It is now a week since my birthday, and I have not been able to cure cancer or bring world peace. And of course, I am still bitterly disappointed in my attempts to right all the wrongs my HOA board has caused. I have decided to dial my intentions way down. I will get out of bed everyday, drink lots of coffee and then? Well the “world is my oyster” and if I get irritated enough I will become a pearl. Guaranteed, because we all know that life offers lots of irritations. So I will scratch when I itch, and grow through the pain. The pressures and pains of my life are forming diamonds too, so at 64 my jewelry box is getting full. I do like bling.

I must have learned something in 64 years, right? Or did I just get old? If I continually ask myself “How important is it?”, I can prune a lot of dead wood from my life. My grief counselor talks about the gifts of grief in between the tears. Recognizing that there are a zillion things that aren’t important, means I can devote my time and energy to the few things that are important, like love of self, family and Mother Earth. I have learned that we are all family, although I can’t see Donald Trump as my brother, and I still disown him. The “pursuit of happiness” is not a gun in every toddlers hand. Kindness is quiet and soft and does not need ammunition to be effective. I think I am finished warming up in the bullpen and ready to replace my old self who has given up too many joys. If you see me crying (and you will) I am washing and shining my pearls and diamonds.