Friday, January 10, 2014

It is Always Now, By H. Michael

I was talking to a guy a few days before the new year arrived, and somehow the topic turned briefly to regrets.  Although the conversation was brief, I have been ruminating on it ever since.  I feel I have got to get this off my chest, brain if you prefer, or I will just keep thinking about it.  Janet Lee will probably challenge this remark with a comment like: "just put your brain back in your pants and let the sleeping dog lie", but I can't. 

I won't go into details regarding what the regret(s) were because that is not the point.  The point, as I see it, is how the past is always pulling us into an illusionary perspective of what we should have done, how we should have acted, or changes we should have made to make just about anything imaginable, different.   But it's a trap, there is only the present, only now. 

True, we should all learn from our mistakes, and it's also true that revisiting past decisions and making different choices, if given the same set of circumstances might work to our benefit.  I put too much garlic in the stew last time; I think I will add less this time.  I cut the board too short, I'll add an eighth on the re-cut, I should have reefed sooner, or the oil in the diesel was really black last time I changed it; I think I will change it more frequently.  You get the point.  When dealing with a task it is beneficial to call on your memory and make alterations if required to make the outcome different, and definitely if the outcome is perceived as better.  But, and here in lies the rub, when memories and emotions get all wrapped up and cozy in a blanket of (perceived) change, and past emotions are not part of the current equation of change, remorse can surface; which may lead to regret, and if severe enough; guilt.  

If I say for example "I regret not going cruising sooner", after I have been cruising for many years; my memory allows emotions and other mental experiences to surface that are motivated by current behavior, and not the actual experience that caused me to perform the way I chose.  The market may have been soft and I couldn't sell my house, my children may have been living at home, or a host of other reasons that were applicable, but were somehow tempered with time.  The point is: the emotional relevance of a past decision was lost, and regret surfaced because a new, contemporary standard is being compared to the past. 

The only way I can see to prevent regret is to always live in the now.  So my mantra for 2014 is:  It is always now.

Photo used with permission of
Robert Grice, Extreme Photography