The river moves like sludge this morning. Its free-flowing surface is becoming clogged with chunks of ice that dip and bob as the waters flow towards the rapids that have formed beneath the bridge where the ice has gathered on either side and created a narrowing in the river. Once through, the waters rush forward, racing towards the sea, or the next impediment to their progress.
The river reminds me of life.
We move along, picking up hurts and pains, clogging our flow with things we refuse to let go of, tell ourselves we cannot forgive or forget. We come to a narrowing, deposit bits and pieces of our past and dreams unlived that keep piling up along the banks and then race through whatever opening we can slip through, hoping the way ahead is clear.
Sometimes it is. Sometimes, like the river racing through the rapids, the way ahead is marred by a curve that creates space for ice to gather and impede the river’s flow.
As C.C. and I have both been battling a cold this past week, I have spent a fair amount of time lying on the couch watching Netflix movies. (After I watched the new season of Grace and Frankie of course) In one movie, the protagonist asks the hero as he’s about to attempt, yet again, to kill him after the hero has, yet again, foiled his plans for world dominance, “Did you actually think you could get to the moment of your death and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do?”
I don’t think you can — get to the end of your life and not carry some regret for the things you couldn’t do. I also don’t think that’s what matters.
What matters is, what we do with our regrets for the things we’ve done we wished we hadn’t. How we choose to live our lives because of the things we regret yet cannot change.
Are we willing to quit using our regrets as an excuse to continue to behave badly? To continue to not do the things we want to do? To live our dreams fully?
Are we courageous enough to face our regrets and say to those we’ve hurt, “I behaved badly. I’ve hurt you. I apologize. I am committed to doing better.” — and then… live the better.
Are we willing to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, “You are not some automaton destined to live by other people’s standards? You deserve to live life on your terms, and as long as your terms create better for everyone, go for it!”
See, that’s the crux of it. Whatever we do, it must create better for all, because if it isn’t good for all, it’s not good for the one either.
And when I live my life by that maxim, my regrets no longer have the power to clog up the river of my life, no matter how stuffed up my head feels because of a cold or how deep the Arctic freeze that is clogging up the river outside my window.