I am unlearning a lifetime of habitually believing that to regret is to sentence myself to a lifetime of always looking back, never moving on.
Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward is the impetus for my unlearning.
Now, I could be cheeky and try to turn the tables on his teaching by saying, “I regret reading this book! It’s making me change my mind about something I thought was one of those unalterable life truths.
Fact is, I don’t regret it at all, which in this case, is a good thing because I can’t unread what’s already read.
Regret makes us human. Regret makes us better, writes Pink.
I’d also add, it makes our journey richer – as long as we enlist our regrets to improve our future.
Like, when you say something to your best friend that is insensitive or snarky. Regret rides in fast (at least for most of us it does) compelling us to apologize and make amends.
Pink calls those ‘regrets of action’. The premise being, I have a chance to recalibrate the present by owning and making amends for what I’ve done to harm/hurt another.
The more challenging regrets, he expostulates, are ones of inaction. The roads not taken. The deeds not done.
Those are harder to course correct, and in more instances than not, according to Pink, seldom are.
Those are the ones we carry with us to the grave.
Which gives credence to the oft-quoted Mark Twain aphorism (which apparently he never said)
Letting go of the past is the decision to release ourselves from anger and regret while holding ourselves accountable for our own healing, journey, life..
Sadness for a loss, sorrow for the hurt we’ve caused others or felt ourselves, grief, they may remain, albeit more quietly than when fuelled by anger and regret, but they do not consume our thoughts nor govern how we move through each day.
It isn’t that we forget what happened. In fact, looking back, mining the past for lessons, gifts and value is, I believe, important and integral to our human journey. Unburdened by regret means, we choose to ease the sting out of the memories so that we can be free to look forward in anticipation of the infinite mysteries of tomorrow confident in our clear-minded, light-of-heart approach to the future.
About The Artwork
Yesterday, I stepped into my studio thinking I’d begin working on some ideas I have for Christmas dinner nametags (I know. I know. I’m compulsive and like to get an early start. 🙂 )
The muse wasn’t interested in Christmas decorations. She was much more concerned about me taking care of my emotional well-being.
Which is what art-journalling is about for me. – Release. Balance. Breath. Space. Contemplation. Allowing. Accepting. Becoming.
I am in awe of the muse’s ability to create space for me to flow and release. Flow and release.
And in that release, allow whatever is within to appear. A signpost on my path.
Do I regret those almost five years I spent in an abusive relationship? I regret how painful my journey of transformation was to those I love. I regret the harm it caused everyone around me. In that regret comes my duty and accountability. To ease their pain, to create space for healing, I had to do the work to heal and reclaim my life.
No. I do not regret that journey. I know my decision to take it was from a place of great confusion, grief and pain. On that journeu, there are so many lessons that fuelled my personal journey into becoming. Me.
Ultimately, I lived through it. And that is a tremendous gift.
And, as I have just started reading Dan Pink’s The Power of Regret, I am still pondering, musing, and imbibing his words and ideas – so, I’ll probably be creating and writing more on this theme I’m sure! 🙂
Pink begins his book with the story of Edith Piaf and how this song became her anthem three years before her death. We played this song at our French/Indian-born mother’s Memorial Service March 3, 2020.
I stopped to ask if there was anything I can do to help.
She smiled through her tears, thanked me for stopping to ask and told me no. She was missing her past and no one could give that back to her.
I agreed and asked if I could give her a hug in the here and now. She quickly replied, Oh yes, please.
And so, two strangers stood heart to heart creating a bridge from the past to the future.
Sometimes, when the past is fresh in our minds and we feel burdened by its harshness, all we can do is mourn its absence.
Sometimes, when the heaviness of our mourning brings us down, and words cannot ease our pain, a stranger’s attention gives us hope that tomorrow will come.
That woman in the park had a story. In that moment, it wasn’t her story that mattered. What mattered most was that she was a human being in distress.
I couldn’t fix what was wrong. I couldn’t change the past.
All I could do was share ‘love’ to help her continue to keep moving towards the healing that comes when the past drifts far enough away, we no longer feel the urge to carry its pain, darkness and sadness.
In that moment, for her, I was an oasis devoid of memories of the past.
In that moment, for me, she was a beautiful reminder of the power of Love to heal.
You will take many steps today. If you’re following the science of healthy living, 10,000 will be your goal.
Those steps, as with every step you take throughout your life journey, will affect the quality of your life. Whether taken in resentment, anger, angst, or, harmony, joy, and love, their impact on your body, mind, health and journey will always be felt.
The steps matter and apparently, according to researchers, so do the number. 10,000 steps a day have value by improving heart health, body health, mind health. No matter the number, every step adds the quality of your journey as you age.
However, when you imbue each step with Harmony, Joy. and Love, you create a world of beauty all around and within you.
How we take each step, who we take each step with, what we imbue into our steps matters.
Make your’s count by creating beauty, joy, harmony and love with every step you take.
Recently, a friend and I were talking about something they’d done about which they carried a great deal of shame.
“I’m not sure [the other person] will forgive me,” they said.
“Do you want them to?” I asked.
“Oh yes. I really want to rebuild the relationship.”
“Have you forgiven yourself?” I asked.
I kind of knew the answer. My friend is human. We, humans, struggle with the realization that forgiveness starts with self-forgiveness. Without it, we are asking others for something we don’t believe we deserve.
My friend replied, “I don’t know that I can. I feel so guilty.”
Now, I was raised Catholic. Guilt is part of my DNA. It has taken me my lifetime to unwind its sinister strands, and still I find it lurking in darkened corners of my psyche when I try to battle stormy seas through ego not love. In those times, self-forgivness, compassion, love are essential.
Self-forgiveness takes practice. It requires self-compassion and a belief in our human condition and the understanding that, no matter our good intentions or love for another, we will at some point in our lives hurt others, especially the ones we love.
One of the first things I had to do after assessing the enormous pain I’d caused the ones I love most after being released from a relationship that was killing me, was to lean deep into self-forgiveness. If I wanted my daughters and others to forgive me, saying I’d never forgive myself kept me living in shame.
Living in shame can be convenient. You never have to get vulnerable or honest or real with where you’re at, who you are and your accountability in it all.
Living in shame is a recipe for living life with your heart protected, your guard up.
To live with an open heart and armour down, we must be willing to be vulnerable with ourselves and those around us.
My friend asked me how to practice self-forgiveness.
The steps are easy I told them.
You begin by stopping repeating the litany of your sins. Instead, whenever you catch your mind trolling the depths of your shame and regret, you catch yourself mid-thought and state, softly, kindly, lovingly, “I forgive myself”.
And you repeat it. Again and again.
“I forgive myself.”
At the same time, you stop defending against what you did or what happened and breathe deep into accountability.
My daughters were deeply hurt by what I did in that relationship. Sure, the man was a psychopath and I was abused. I was still 100% accountable for the things I did that hurt them.
Defending against their pain by saying, “But he….” meant I wasn’t fully present in our relationship. They needed to hear me say I was sorry for the pain I’d caused them as their pain was real and I had broken a sacred trust of our mother/daughter relatiopnship. I had abandoned them.
It’s easy to hide behind ‘It wasn’t my fault.” The challenge is, ‘it wasn’t my fault’ doesn’t create connection. It acts as a barrier instead.
An apology, at least a heartfelt one, is a symbol of your strength, your commitment to being your best self, your desire to be in close relationship with those you love.
For my friend, the thing that stands in the way of healing is the belief what they did was ‘wrong’.
It was not wrong. It was the best they could do in a time of extreme turmoil, trauma and confusion.
What I did in that relationship wasn’t wrong. But it was hurtful and that’s what I needed to be accountable for.
It also doesn’t mean what he did was wrong or ok. It never was. However, to heal and be free, breaking free of judging him was essential to breaking free of judging myself.
I never deserved what he did.
My daughters didn’t deserve what I did either.
Which is why forgiveness is so important.
When our heartfelt desire is to be in intimate relationship with those we love, forgiveness is the portal to connection, no matter your age.
I think the title of this post could be a movie title!
Fact is, yesterday, to support @LauraHickli and the release of her newest song/music video, yesterday I got to play her mother.
It was energizing and exhausting. Invigorating and difficult.
Movie-making involves a lot of repetition.
One tiny moment in a scene played over, again and again, wide lens, close-up lens, fast speed, slow motion. Every minute detail of one movement filmed to capture that ‘beauty shot’, to tell a compelling story that both awakens the mind and touches the heart.
In movie making, every detail counts.
Yesterday, the years on my face, the wrinkly skin on my hands, the arthritic knob on my knuckle – they all played a role in the video.
And man. Was I uncomfortable.
I have never been enamoured with watching myself on screen.
Watching myself in close-up on screen…
Wow. That’s an even bigger leap of faith and, leap into self-love.
Stilling that chattering voice in my head, you know, the one who says, “Gawd you look old. Look at your double chin. Shouldn’t you have lost that twenty pounds before agreeing to do this.And, seriously, you look soooooo old….”
Yeah. That voice.
Well, when the film is up close and personal, that voice goes into its relentless hyper-active self-debasing vitriolic screeching with great enthusiasm!
I am remembering to breathe.
To ground myself in self-love.
To remind myself that falling in love with myself means acceptance of all of me, as I am, not as how I wished I was, once upon a time, when I was younger, or prettier, or slimmer, or a whole swathe of ‘things’ I am not now.
I think that’s one of the big lessons I’m learning from these conversations and from yesterday – aging and wishing it was something, other than what it is, are not comfortable life partners.
To age with grace, I must become comfortable with reality.
And as I write that last sentence I smile and laugh.
Someone once asked me why I don’t paint scenery or people or things as they truly appear in life. My response… I don’t do reality.
Time to face reality with a smile, a warm welcome and, a word of two of gratitude for what it has provided me in my life — the ability to breathe freely without fearing every breath I take will be my last.
Which also makes me smile.
Because, life, particularly as I come closer to my 70s, is feeling like a change of seasons. As summer’s end fast approaches, I cherish the still warm nights, the blossoms still left on the stems, the leaves not turned golden, the geese not yet flying south.
I cherish all these things deeply because they are reminders of summer I do not want to end. They are a foretelling of winter as I become exquisitely aware of autumn’s approach.
I want to cling to summer’s beauty, yet know that there are autumn vistas that will take my breath away in the riotuous colours of leaves falling and flowers shedding their dewy blossoms.
Like the sun’s rays reaching closer to the southern hemisphere as earth moves in its eternal orbit in the sky, I want to reach across time and capture all of nature’s beauty, old and new, in my arms and hold it tight as if in doing so, I can forestall time, and the relentless reality of its passing days.
It’s time to let go of wishing I could hold onto ‘what was’ and breathe deeply into the promise of all the beauty still to come in living this life with my heart and mind wide-open to the limitless possibilities of my life – today.
When I stop looking back at ‘how I looked’ compared to how I appear now, the wrinkles fade and I no longer feel the need to measure my age in the lines written on my face or even the calendar pages turned.
I no longer feel compelled to hide behind the memories of all I’ve done, nor do I feel the need to ‘wish’ I could do what I used to do with the same vigor or ease.
In this space of summer gracefully easing into autumn’s glory, I feel myself becoming, each beat of my heart, each moment that takes my breath away, each glorious day of riotuous colour and turning leaf.
In this space, I become… Love.
In this space, I am… In Love with me, my life and everyone in it. It is here I live within the quiet joy of being part of this life, right now, deeply embodied within this moment unfolding as it becomes the measure of my day.
Aging isn’t all sweetness and laughter. As we move from 20 to 30, 30 to 40, 40 and on, the changes in our body become more noticeable, and in some cases, more defining of who we are or how we live our days.
Some days, we stand in front of the mirror and pull back our skin from the corners of our eyes, our mouth,, our cheekbones and wonder… Dare I? Do I need to? Is it worth it? Am I ok the way I am?
And everyday, we see a new tiny fragment of a line. Feel a new tiny little pain. Will it grow bigger we wonder?
I remember, probably around my middle 50s, waking up one morning and realizing that the pillow crease embedded on the side of my right eye (the side I sleep on) was not going to vanish as the day moved on.
It was humbling. Scary. Unnerving.
It was also a relief.
If it’s not going away, I’d best learn to accept it. Maybe even fall in love with it. Because, to love ALL of me, I must love everything about me. Including those crinkles at the edges of my eyes that don’t disappear in the morning.
Life (which fundamentally is the aging process) is a process full of joy, laughter, love and pain as well. Exploring for and uncovering the beauty in pain, letting the essential nature of its presence be revealed in the exquisiteness of all we are becoming, is an act of courage, hope and strength mixed up with a bit of defiance too!
Ultimately, aging is about expanding into loving all of yourself. ALL of yourself. The parts you celebrate. The strong parts. The falling apart parts. The parts you’d rather not see. The parts that make you want to undress in the dark before crawling into bed. The parts you’d rather your lover didn’t touch.
Expanding into all of yourself is a journey best taken with a whole bunch of laughter and LOVE.
And perhaps, that is the greatest gift of aging. Expanding into all of ourselves, doesn’t leave much room for fixating on the pain of what we’ve experienced to get here, or the how of how we look because how we look loses its luster against the brilliance of loving all of ourselves, however we look, whatever path we took to get to this moment right now.
This week, I hope you join me in exploring the expansiveness of aging and falling in LOVE with ALL of YOURSELF.
Thank you for being on this journey with me. I am so grateful for the stories, wisdom, hope, laughter, you share. I am so grateful to have your company on this path. As I said to a friend yesterday when she asked if I was afraid of aging, “So much of this exploration is about trying to figure out how I FEEL about this thing called aging. I’m not sure what I FEEL. I know I don’t feel scared. Or unhappy. But how do I FEEL? Excited. Curious. Sometimes confused. Sometimes just tired of the whole conversation.”
Which made me laugh.
I’m the one who started this conversation here. And I’m loving it! Wanting to “know the ending first’ is how I read books! 🙂
Life doesn’t work like that. The story’s written one day at a time. And each page turned leads to a new adventure – no matter your age and woven into every page are the joy, laughter, sorrow and pain we’ve experienced along the way.
As long as I’m turning each page and living each day in its joyful fullness, it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been on this journey of my lifetime. What matters most is that I’m on it, loving all of me as I go.
Years ago, I read an article about a group of social scientists who went around the world asking different cultures what attributes they value most. (Be forewarned – I have long since forgotten where I read about the study and can’t provide the evidence. I don’t remember much else about it other than the three shared human attributes/values they presented ahve always stuck with me.)
They are: Health. Education. Youth.
NOw, Health and Education make sense. Our physical and mental health impact everything we do, how we are in the world as well as how we see the world.
Youth was an interesting one to me.
Yet, if I drill down into the idea that Youth is extolled by cultures around the world, I can see where it outranks things like Beauty.
Beauty can be subjective. Take piercings. There was a time where in North American culture, piercings were beautiful if in the ears. Now, they can appear anywhere on the body because for some, it looks beautiful.
Same as tattoos.
But Youth. Ah yes. No matter the cultural/social environment in which you live, youth is cherished, and nurtured. It is full of possibilities, full of opportunity, full of LIFE! – if only by the fact it is so far away from the known cause of leaving this world, death.
And here’s the thing. I do miss some of the attributes of my younger body. The way my knees and back and feet could move with ease. Heck, I’m seeing a physio right now so that I can heal some of the damage dislocating my left should 3 times has caused. I really, really want to be able to sleep on my left side again! Know what I mean?
Bottomline though, we have this unconscious/implicit bias that says – Youth is Beautiful. Age… especially when it is so visible through wrinkles and crepey skin appearing on our faces and bodies, well that’s just plain old ugly.
To be clear, I don’t consciously hold those thoughts in my head — implicit bias isn’t a ‘conscious’ thought. It lies stealthily buried beneath centuries of conditioning and social assumptions that undermine our worth, value and ability to celebrate ALL of what it means to be on this human journey – at every age.
Today’s video talks about this issue through the lens of what recently transpired here in Canada with Lisa LaFlamme, a Canadian icon in the broadcasting news arena. Bell/CTV ended her contract abruptly, cutting off her access to millions of loyal followers of her nightly National News.
The uproar has been loud, angry and at times, bitter. Lisa LaFlamme has risen above the fracas and demonstrated what it means to ‘age with grace’. And while 58 doesn’t seem that old to me, to her employers, it apparently was. Especially when combined with her decision to not continue dying her hair and go ‘au naturel’ on millions of TV screens. For Ms LaFlamme it was a beautiful and impactful gesture of solidarity with the millions of women who chose to stop dying their hair through Covid’s advances,
One unnamed source leaked a CTV executive asked, “Who told her she could let her hair go grey?”
I don’t think Mother Nature gives us a choice. It just does.
For some of us, like me, hiding it takes too much work. I can’t be bothered to dye it.
For others, the choice is to colour it.
Either way — it is our personal choice how we deal with Mother Nature’s flow.
Underlying all of this is a question I keep returning to. It’s one of the questions I ask in my video today and I do hope you share your thoughts and wisdom and experiences. Because… I still don’t have an answer: Why do we think aging is ugly?
It took me about 5 tries filming the video for today before I even came close to feeling comfortable with it.
Unconscious Bias. It’s a tough subject matter to delve into.
And today’s personal reflection is one that has quietly been stirring my thoughts for many years.
It’s about my mother and something that happened in the Assisted Living housing where she lived from her late 80s into her 90s.
Now conversations about my mother are often complicated and complex. This one is particularly challenging for me as I’m struggling to make sense of what I’m thinking, feeling and want to say.
It starts with an implicit bias where we ‘infantilize’ older adults with both the things we expect them to conform to and the words we use to describe them.
In this case, it was a Christmas concert in which my mother played in the Bell Choir.
I was always inspired by her desire to participate and do things creative. In this case, I was inspired by her bell ringing.
What disturbed me then, and still confuses me today is the manner in which the organizers of the concert insisted the performers come on stage.
They dressed all the choir members with reindeer ears, little mittens and then made them prance like reindeer as they came onto stage.
Now, if that had been one of my daughter’s grade 1 classes, I’d have been oohing and cooing about how sweet and cute they all were.
But these were older adults. People who had spent a lifetime maturing into themselves, building histories and stories, families and lives that mattered to them.
It felt disrespectful to treat them like children and then use words that I’d have used for my children to describe their presence.
And that’s where unconscious/implicit bias rears its sinister head.
See, it was really cute and sweet but, was it fair or honouring of the individuals’ on that stage?
Now, to be clear, this isn’t about saying it’s not okay to put on reindeer ears and prance around. If that’s your jam, go for it!
But, in the organizer’s insistence that everyone in the choir dress-up and act like reindeer, they took away the individual choir member’s agency and undermined their dignity through the inherent infantilization of their age.
And I compounded the issue by further infantilizing their performance with the words used to describe everyone, including our expressions of surprise that the performers could learn to play bells in the first place.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m still working through mine — all these years later it still bothers me how the words I used to describe my mother’s participation had little to do with her talent and proficiency at bell ringing and more to do with how cute and sweet she looked in her reindeer ears as she pranced onto stage.
Until I started seeing it all through the lens of implicit bias, I hadn’t quite been able to grasp what had concerned me about that performance (and others I witnessed at the assisted living centre too).
Thanks for reading and being part of the conversation.
As both my computer and phone decided to say good-bye at the same time, I have had to purchase a new laptop and iPhone – I thought about switching from the MS world as well as the iPhone world but… I decided to ‘stay the course’ with what I was familiar with, both for ease and immediacy.
The thing is though, my phone and laptop were both about 3-4 years old. ‘Back then’, when I got them and had to load my data from the old to the new, it was a cumbersome task that left me feeling frustrated. It also left me with a loss of data!
Yesterday, I discovered how much more intuitive everything is than it was… so long ago. 🙂 In the world of technology things keep changing so quickly it feels like everything was… so long ago!
Anyway, by simply falling the prompts, both my laptop and phone are all loaded up, working as if they never crossed the invisible lline separating them from my old devices to the new.
While I was in the Apple store, the sales clerk asked if I wanted them to upload everything to my new phone. I promptly replied, “No thanks. I’m sure I can figure it out.”
Trusting myself to figure it out has its advantages. It says to my brain, “You got this” thus building my confidence naturally in other areas of my life too.
It also let’s me stretch both my ‘trusting myself’ muscles and my trust that I shall not be defeated, nor left behind, by technology.
And it worked. The intuitive nature of today’s operating systems made it easy as baking a cake (or in this case, as easy as making homemade pasta as I did on Sunday. A feat I have not attempted since my daughters were very young! The ravioli I made turned out delicious — and I had a whole lot of fun in the process!)
Todays’ video talks about the enriching of our intuitive natures with time and experience. I hope you enjoy and find something in it to enrich your journey!
And please, do keep sharing your thoughts, experiences, hopes and ideas. In sharing, you enrich my journey and others.
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