Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lesson #23: Regret is what I regret the most

I have done plenty of things one should regret. I forgive myself those things, because one, I don't believe in living a life of regret, and two, I try daily to be conscious of wrong doing and to make up for things I do wrong when I know I've done them.

Unfortunately this is a modern mindset of mine. When I was younger, I blundered through life, breaking hearts and not paying attention. Most days, I try not to think what this has cost me.

This weekend I spent time with my best friend, a man I've known forever, someone I love dearly. When I was 14, I counted red sports cars as a game. I told myself when I reached 50 cars, the next boy I saw would be my true love. This man was the one I saw. He was my true love.

I didn't believe it. We were family friends, we'd basically grown up together, he was older than me and he annoyed me and intimidated me more than anything. By the time I was 20, I'd warmed up to him. We had a brief moment of "what ifs" between us then -- he was between relationships, and I was looking for a way out of the one I had. We entertained the thought that he and I might make it, that we might be lovers and friends and not ruin either. But I didn't trust it could happen. I was still young, still intimidated by the verocity of my emotions, by my distrust that I could ever be happy, by my distrust in myself to do anything right.

And so, the greatest mistake of my life was to break his heart and walk away.

The consequences of that one decision have weighed heavily on me for so many years. It changed my life, set me on a course that propelled me into the far reaches of the cold hard nothingness of empty loneliness, it affected my children in more ways than I can write here, it destroyed my chance of ever having a "normal" relationship with anyone ever again. My heart collapses into itself whenever I think about it.

We remained friends throughout the years. He periodically came into my life, just when I would settle down and start to grow comfortable with whatever compromise I had recently made, and he would shake things up. He would show me what an illusion my current happiness was because he wasn't there with me.

I spoke to him about all this, this weekend. And he told me he did that on purpose, that he thought of me throughout all those years, that he wanted me to regret sending him away and periodically popped up just to remind me what I'd given up.

Though we are best friends now, and this is usually ancient history for us now that we've forged a new relationship that works well for us, the knowledge that I spent so many years miserable because of that one mistake makes me almost sick to think about. Usually I turn off all thoughts of my disappointing past and try to only look toward the future, one I can shape with more forethought and conscientiousness. One that involves no heartbreak for myself or anyone I love.

If only I'd been so thoughtful and so brave all those years ago ...

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