“Do seagulls lay eggs in a nest up high? or right on the beach?”
“Do flies have a home outside and then get stuck inside houses by accident?”
“What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?”
These are the kinds of questions my 12 year old asks me on the daily. His mind is so inquisitive and yet so random and the kid always seems to have a way of making me stop and really think about what he’s asking. I love the way his mind works and although he often stumps me with his “out in left field” curiosity, I do enjoy the moments we have to ponder such pressing questions.
A few weeks back, after putting some serious thought as to what food I would eat for the rest of my life if I could only choose one thing, he throws at me
“If you could go back and change anything in your life, what would it be?”
Instantly I had a flood of possible answers come back to me, oh how to only choose just one.
My first thought was to go back and change the enormous heartache my husband and I went through a few yers go, then my mind quickly went to thinking maybe I would mend my 20 year estrangement with my dad a little sooner, or move away when I went to college instead of living at home and commuting, I also considered the thought of maybe changing the way I treated people back in high school because, I’m not really proud of that person I used to be. It’s amazing how many thoughts can go through your mind in an instant. I considered all of these and so many more before smiling at my son and saying “You know what kiddo?? I wouldn’t change a thing”
He looked a little confused at first, but this kid I tell ya is so much like me I think he got it right away.
“Because it would change who you are today?” He asked.
He’s so smart.
My life is far from perfect, and my past has not been all sunshine and rainbows, but I mean it when I say, I have zero regrets.
I’ve done wrong, I’ve been wronged, I’ve hurt people, and people have hurt me, but I have learned, oh have I learned. And without every single experience that I’ve laughed at, cried at, or felt bad about, I would not be who I am today.
I’ve learned over the years that having regrets really gets you no where. I mean, let’s face it, dwelling on all the woulda coulda shoulda’s are only going to get you deeper in to a hole of self loathing and frustration, and what the hell good is ever going to come out of that???
When I say that I have no regrets in my life, that’s not to mean that I have never made wrong decisions, trust me, I’ve made a lot of them. Like that time I went to my besties surprise 30th and thought doing copious amounts of vodka shots would make for a really good time.
I was wrong. Very very wrong.
I mean, trust me, the next day I ABSOLUTELY regretted it, but because of that experience, I was able to come to the harsh realization that as I get older, I can no longer drink vodka, or do shots. I learned that lesson the hard way as I tend to do, and I am now pretty good at sticking to this rule of thumb….. most of the time!
But for reals though, when I consider all of those potential mistakes I thought about changing when my son first asked me, when I really got down to think about them, I realized, I am grateful for all of them. The good the bad, and yes, even the ugly.
Most of you already know the struggles hubs and I went through, and if you don’t, you can find it in my previous blog post about Shame. But even that, even after all the fights, the tears, the heart wrenching disappointment, I wouldn’t change it. That experience changed us. It changed me on a level so deep that I can hardly even recognize the girl I used to be back then. And the thing is, even through those years of depression, and arguments and sobbing till my face swelled up, it wasn’t ALL bad. There were some good times and happy memories squeezed in here and there and like Garth Brooks says in his song The Dance “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance”.
The struggles we faced forced us to have some pretty serious life chats, it pushed us to take off our masks and stop pretending, it was in that pain that we were able to feel deep love, and that, I wouldn’t change for a single thing in this world.
As for my other runner up regrets that I also considered, I stand by my word when I say I wouldn’t change them, and here’s why.
I went over 20 years without speaking to my dad. 20 years!!! We were never super close growing up and after my parents split up around the age of 8 I would often try to make excuses so I didn’t have to go to his house every other weekend. When I was about 12 or 13 my dad and I got into an argument and I decided to hell with it. I’m done with you. And that was it. For 20 years we didn’t speak or have any contact at all. I never felt like I was missing out or anything though, I had an amazing step dad who loved me like I was his own and stepped up as a father figure and helped raise me become the woman I am today.
When my bio dad called me at the restaurant one morning a few years back I thought it was a prank. When he said, “It’s your dad” I laughed, my dad is in Cuba I thought, he and my mom had gone away for her 60th birthday. Then it clicked.
Oh….. my DAD.
I didn’t even recognize his voice it had been so long, and I remember thinking to myself “I don’t remember his Dutch accent being so strong”. We talked for a few minutes but since I was working we decided to set up a coffee date to meet within the next few days and catch up.
Since that phone call my dad and I have been able to build a pretty great relationship.
When I was talking to my bestie on the phone about how things were going she mentioned “That’s great, too bad it took 20 years to get to that, kind of a shame he’s missed out on so much of your life”
I didn’t agree.
The way I look at it, I said, is that I’m kind glad he wasn’t around back then. I didn’t mean for it to sound as unkind as it came across, but to be totally honest, I meant it.
If I had maintained a relationship with my dad through my adolescent years who knows what kind of person I would be today. I mean, honestly, I love the man, now, as an adult, and I’m totally grateful to have him back in my life, but my step dad, the one who stepped up and took care of me through some of my most transformational years, left an imprint on me that I may have never been lucky enough to receive if I had already had a dad present in my life.
It’s the whole nurture vs nature argument and I sway on both sides of the fence. There are parts of me that are so my dad that I would have never even realized came from him had we not reconnected, and there are other parts of me that are so my step dad, just learned behaviour from growing up and having him such an important part of my life.
I love all these parts of me.
So when my bestie says its too bad it took so long I say No, it took exactly as long as it should have, it shaped me in to the woman I am, and now, as an adult, I’m lucky enough to have both.
I have this super awesome Step dad whom I refer to as my dad. This wonderful man who loved me like I was his own, and I mean that with every ounce of my being. I’m a step parent myself and I know that it’s not an easy task. He treated me like I was his daughter from the very beginning. From teaching me how to cut my meat at the dinner table so I didn’t look like a savage, to teaching me to dance, to drive and to live life with total joy and free spirit. He is such a huge part of who I am and I don’t even want to think about how different my life might be had I not had him there.
Combine that with now, I also have my other dad, who now that I’m an adult, I know and get to call my friend. He reminds me of the importance of standing up for myself, of not taking people’s shit and that it’s ok to stand alone sometimes too. Had he been in my life a moment sooner I might not have had the strength or confidence to look at things from his perspective or even the ability to see him for who he really was. How could I possibly wish things could have tuned out any differently?
Every single one of us have made mistakes at one point or another. We’ve chosen a wrong path, or hurt someone we loved, or talked ourselves into or out of something we now wish we hadn’t. It’s human nature, but holding on to regrets, wishing that things might have been different will not only keep you stuck and feeling low, it will also rob you of the joy you have today, in this moment, right now.
So sure, I am not necessarily proud of how I might have treated people as a teen, and I sometimes feel sad thinking about what kind of damage I might have done to my kids during mine and my husbands separation, and sometimes, on occasion, I wonder what it would have been like to travel more while I was still young and had no responsibilities, but getting wrapped up in the vortex of regret isn’t going to change any of that.
In honouring my mistakes, the areas of my life that I might not be so proud of, I am learning on how to become better. Looking back on my past reminds me not to judge people based on their past, much like myself, they might not be the same person they once were. Separating from my husband not only changed our entire world as a couple, but it showed our kids that sometimes the toughest times reap the greatest rewards and if you’re not happy, only you can change it, no matter how scary it might be at the time. And as for travelling? I mean, who knows where I might be if I had ended up in any other place of the world to call home. There are lessons in every single mistake we make, every heartache, bad choice or no choice there are lessons, and when we are willing to learn, we are able to grow.
Don’t dwell on the past, it will only keep you stuck there. Regardless of what choices you’ve made or didn’t make it doesn’t matter. You are exactly where you are supposed to be right now. You have gone through everything you’ve been through to help you grow, to teach you lessons and to help you evolve as a soul. Embrace them, learn from them, and then let them go. Your happiness depends on it.