Regretting your choices?

What choice do I have?

In the face of this pandemic, I’ve thought a lot about my past and whether I truly enjoyed the freedom of seeing my family almost every day, going to farmers markets, taking classes, going to museums, having adventures with my kid, or sitting way too close to the couple at the next table. Heartfelt moments with my people and with our world.

In fact, being so limited in movement and places to visit is depressing. I feel confined and controlled and out of control all at once. Yes, I know “freedom is within!” but I also go to that dark place.

I’ve always valued the moments of my life. But, I can’t help but wonder if I could be valuing life more. Even more.

More more.

Like, saying ‘yes’ to more time with family, and making more joy happen. Like being able to sit inside, with no childcare, no prospect of outside play (it’s currently smoky from the forest fires), and still stretching, reaching for the capacity for presence and a little more joy. Making meaning and joy where before there was none.

Daydreaming of the path not taken.

I time travel a lot. I sit and obsess about the past. How did I get here? What could I have done differently? I wish I could turn back time and undo bad decisions: the things I said, the colleges I chose, the friends I had, my career path – well, almost nothing escapes scrutiny in this fantasy. But time travel isn’t real. And it’s a useless exercise. In all my years of regretting stuff I’ve never thought, “Next time I’ll definitely do this instead!” Of course, I’ve learned a few things along the way: to choosing health, to being careful with finances, and so on.

But, in terms of knowing how to make good choices….I’ve come up with nothing new. What a bummer.

So, now what?

If you’d made some different choices do you think you’d be better off? More comfortable? Maybe you’d have picked a country home and not a one bedroom in the city? Maybe you’d have shacked up with someone different back in February? Maybe you would have driven to be near your family? Maybe you would have been kinder? Maybe?

What good can come from this?

I could drive myself mad with thoughts of the path not taken. Philosophers have grappled with this for eons. But I’m also a hopeful person.  I try to find the silver lining. So, if you made a poor choice, or something didn’t work out as planned because of the pandemic, it’s not comforting, necessarily, to hear that everyone is currently going through this.

I get it. I’m with you.

My instagram feed is filled with happy people on beaches, traveling to be with family, publishing books, getting projects done, or day-drinking and eating oysters and living off a healthy savings account. It’s easy to get stuck comparing lives. I wonder what decisions I could have made differently…

But I didn’t. And you didn’t, either. And that’s OK.

What I suggest instead is to see the tiniest possible speck of good in a moment.

A cup of coffee.

Fresh air (or semi-good air inside your room)

Good health.

The possibility of living many more good years.

The ability to make good choices again in the future.

Learning what your authentic life might look like.

Being OK with delay.

To be OK with the big Wait.

No one knows how to make choices. No matter what they say about the topic in books, sermons, advice columns, long conversations with your mentor or a parent.

I haven’t found the answer in any books or advice either. I’ve checked.

You know what? No one knows how to make good choices. No one knows how their choices will work out. 

So, if things are working out, it might be practicality, it might be luck. Might be both.

I’m in-between my last choice and the choice I’ll make again in the future. 

Being in-between choices may be a huge opportunity to learn more about who you are. I’m certainly trying to do that. Being stuck might be hard because it’s a confrontation with all the things that may not work, and the hard reality of planning a more authentic future.

Glennon Doyle writes in Untamed that her 30’s were a time to learn how to grieve and to accept a lot of hard realities. And, mostly, to stay and wait while she wrought a future more in line with her true self.

“The truth of my thirties was: Stay on your mat, Glennon. Staying is making you.”

And second, regretting our past choices is useless. The only thing we can do is choose to find something lovely and worthwhile about our situation. And poor choices at first could always turn out to be the exact right thing, or at least, it will be ok to meander down the ‘wrong’ road for awhile.

What do I do with the choices I’ve made? 

Whether you need to wait and see it through, or whether you need to actually enjoy your situation. Do it. If you need to drastically shift things right now, do that, too. Either way, these are the options as I see them:

  1. Wait (be in-between choices).
  2. Make an authentic change right now.
  3. Find a way to enjoy the present.