I don’t like dogs. Tomatoes are gross. And I refuse to have regret.
Yup I’ve said each of these things. To which they are true.
Although when others hear my generalizations of likes and dislikes, I become permanently labeled with my stated partialities.
Tomatoes for example: on their own—without food companions—are disgusting. But turn those killer tomatoes into a salsa or sauce and I’m head-over-heels in taste bud heaven.
And then there are dogs…
Now if I was being really clear, I’d tell you that I’ve been chased down and attacked by German Shepherds. Not once – but twice. I have a scar on my knee as illustrative evidence to corroborate my story. So, specifically I do not like German Shepherds. And now, when seeing one in my path, I try to have no “smell of fear” for those evil things to whiff so I can escape un-chased and unscathed.
In all fairness to my dog-disliking there is more to know. I do not like dogs that jump on me with the weight and power to knock me down. Nor do I appreciate dogs that hump my leg, especially when the lipstick comes out. That’s just wrong!
The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t go into that whole spiel when telling others “I don’t like dogs” or “I’m scared of dogs.” And in the same breath it’s also not conveyed how I’m joyfully happy around big bouncy Labs, silly Dalmatians, and puppies—I love warm fuzzy puppy tummies.
In the end, I just accept that many of my friends think I’m fearful of dogs and hate them. It’s just too much effort to fix the label they’ve given me: “Dog hater” and “Girl who is scared of Canines.”
So now you know about the dogs and tomatoes – I guess I’d better explain myself on the last generality about regret.
I sat in front of a friend’s desk one particularly slow workday as she said, “Sherry, I just have so many regrets. Don’t you?” And until that moment I had never considered the thought of regret.
We were the type of friends quite comfortable with silence. I don’t know how long I sat there rummaging through my head—looking for regret. She uttered something bringing me back into the present. And like a confused dog, cocking my head to one side I replied, “I guess I don’t have any.”
My curiosity got the better of me, wanting to know what she regretted. Because we had grown so close she began to tell me of one regret after another. Clearly a list she knew well and had no hesitation in recalling.
As she went down the list my heart sank. Her regrets had become permanent self-generalizing labels. She once treated a friend (me) badly, therefore she was a terrible friend. I disagreed, I loved her dearly. Her husband and her met on unusual terms, thus she considered herself a husband-stealer. I knew the story—the details—and this label she’d created was a twisted skewed version of the facts.
I’d heard enough.
“Look, I’ve done some of those things too—but I don’t regret them. Those things I’ve done…they aren’t ‘me’ anymore and I don’t keep my list freshly updated, checking in on it to remind me of my mistakes or screw-ups. Because that’s all they are—just oopsies. Not labels. And those moments have made me who I am. And you my friend, I know you. Because of all those things you’ve done and been have only proven to make you wiser. Stronger. Better.”
Her narrowed eyes welled with tears. She desperately wanted to buy into my point of view. She’d been carrying a heavy bag of her own unforgiven junk. Regret and guilt are not meant to be carried in this manner. For proof, I told her of some of my most hideous “oopsies”—things you only tell your most trusted friend. And in doing so, I could show her what I learned and how I got wiser, stronger, better.
After some more silence she said, “But don’t you regret what you’ve done?”
Thinking through my words carefully I said, “Sure. But the difference is I did regret, and I don’t anymore. If I hold onto regret, I hold on to what has been. If I drop regret, I can see what could be. And I’d rather go there—to what I could be—rather than stay in the past that feels heavy and wrong and reminds me of my junk and crap and oopsies.”
That day, I think she finally looked at regret differently. We never talked about it the same way again. It was a 180° different way of living in the present than being plagued by regrets of the past. And for me, letting mistakes become lessons—learning to forgive myself so the screw-ups can transform—is exactly how I’ve become that girl who refuses to have regret.
So regret? Yes…I’ve had it. But I also transform it so that in the end I don’t have any. I refuse to have any. You CAN label me with that. I’m sticking to it. And while you’re at it, please stop saying I’m a dog-disliking-fearing, tomato-tossing chick.