By Lisabet Sarai
Our topic this week at the Grip is regrets. As I sat down to work on my post, I realized that I didn't have much to say on this subject. I know that it will sound implausible, possibly even arrogant, but when I consider my nearly six decades of life, I find that I really don't regret anything.
Have I never done anything I was sorry for later? Of course I have. I've hurt people's feelings. I have occasionally twisted the truth. I've been sexually unfaithful (though I didn't lie about it afterward). I have, perhaps, failed to give friends or lovers what they really needed. I feel guilty about some of these errors. But I don't feel regret.
As I understand the term, to regret something means that you wish that it hadn't happened—that you could take back your actions or decisions and start over again. The implication of regret is that you wish things had turned out differently. I don't feel that way. I'm amazingly happy with the way my life has played itself out so far. I can imagine different paths I might have taken, but I'm not at all sure that these alternative lives would have been more rewarding or satisfying. Most of my dreams have come true, in one way or another. Meanwhile, my life has been filled with delicious surprises, bonuses I never expected.
The infidelity to which I refer above is as good an example as any. When I was in grad school, I was involved in a committed relationship with a fine young man whom I loved very much. I'll call him A. Our sex life was fabulous, too—I learned a great deal from A about both love and lust. Nevertheless, when A was away for a few days on business, I had a one night stand with our housemate (whom I'll call B). I blamed it on loneliness, hormones, and the fact that B had been flirting with me for weeks, but I suppose that these are all excuses. I chose to have sex with B; there's no two ways about it.
I confessed my indiscretion to A when he returned. He told me he forgave me, but ultimately my action destroyed our relationship. It was very painful for everyone concerned (except B, who acted like a real dork).
I'm sorry to have caused A sorrow. However, I don't regret the incident, because it led, indirectly, to my relationship with the man I call my master (here denoted as C). I knew C at the time, but I would never have connected emotionally and sexually with him if I had still been coupled with A. I would never have experienced the epiphanies of which I've written in earlier blogs. And it's very likely I would never have started writing and publishing erotica.
Looked at in this light, if I hadn't cheated on my boyfriend, Lisabet Sarai wouldn't exist. So how can I regret that action, as sordid and embarrassing as it seems now?
The one serious area where I might harbor regrets is in regard to my relationship with C. Although we were close, I really didn't understand what he wanted and needed. I believed, incorrectly, that he didn't care about me the way I did about him. I do sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if we had stayed together—if he had asked me to marry him, for instance. Instead, he allowed me to drift away into the arms of my future husband (D), too shy and insecure to assert a claim on me despite his dominance.
Sometimes C and I rehash those issues in our emails. The lure of what might have been can be incredibly powerful.
Still, if I'd stayed with C, I would not have met and married D. I would not have enjoyed nearly thirty years of his excellent company. I might not have a career I loved as much as I do my present work; D was a significant influence in guiding my professional decisions. I might not have traveled the world the way I have. Certainly it's unlikely that I would have had the fascinating and fulfilling experience of living overseas.
So as much as I might fantasize about life with C, how can I regret my choices?
I know some people who are consumed by regret. Guilt, anger and sorrow about past actions and choices eat away at their peace of mind. I feel sad when I see how they torture themselves. Perhaps their lives have not turned out as well as mine. On the other hand, perhaps some of their dissatisfaction comes from perception and their preoccupation with the past—supposedly lost chances and wrong choices.
The fact of the matter is that regret is fruitless. You cannot change the past, no matter how much you think you might like to do so. Furthermore, you can't be sure that the results would have made you happier, if you had done things differently, the way you imagine.
Don't look back. The past is gone. The future is unknown. All we have is the present. Why waste it by obsessing about what might have been? I'd rather appreciate what I can today, and hope for even better things tomorrow.