I often wish I could turn back time, unsay the words I uttered and undo the things I did. Do you sometimes wish that, too? If only I had waited to speak before I did, so that I could have found kinder words to say amidst my anger and irritation. Some regrets are small and inconsequential, and we get over those pretty fast. We didn't buy that dress on sale when we had the chance, or eaten the last delicious morsel of cake last night. Others are deep, unforgettable disappointments that stay with us forever. Those are normally the times when we have hurt someone we love.
I had an argument with my grandmother on the day she died. As I was rushing out of the house with wet, tangled hair, she reminded me to comb it before going to work. I snapped at her, telling her that I comb my hair in the car, and took off. She died later that afternoon and I never saw her alive again. I remember that day with much sadness, both because of her death and also because I was never able to apologize. I will always feel remorseful that my last interaction with my grandmother was a petty spat over uncombed hair. Initially, I blamed her for making me feel so annoyed that morning, but I recognized later on that I was angry for not politely accepting her innocuous remark. I wish I had graciously said, "thank you, I will comb my hair in the car," and given her a kiss before leaving.
We live in a world in which we proudly announce to each other: "No regrets!" We do not pass up any opportunity that comes our way. Some embrace the idea of FOMO (fear of missing out) and accept every party invitation. Fly to Miami for 24 hours? No problem! Others believe in YOLO (you only live once) and hurtle headlong into countless activities. Bungee jumping? You bet! There is definitely some truth in the idea that we should live full lives and take a chance whenever possible. I used to want to live without regrets as well, but this is unrealistic. Is there really a living person who truly has no regrets in the past at all? Do we really know that we will never again make a mistake?
Although we cannot undo the past, we can build a different future on the foundation of our regrets. The possibility for change lies within us, and the potential outcomes are limitless. Setting intentions is a powerful way to change your future because intentions are the antidote to mindlessness. Instead of going through life on autopilot, you make choices that are in alignment with your intentions. Once you have set your intentions, your choices become clear. We can choose what and how we communicate so that we don't have to repeat the type of mistake I made with my grandmother. Sometimes we fail. As a person of accountability and integrity, it is quite a challenge to reconcile myself when I fall short of my expectations. How can I possibly forgive myself? In my mind, I replay the things I could have avoided and ponder a better, alternative outcome. I have learned the importance to forgive myself and offer self-love. It is impossible to move to a new way of being, when I keep doing the old thing of being hard on myself. Absolution gives me the opportunity to try again.
I recently started over and set my intention to something simple: to slow down when I speak. This made it easier to speak from the heart, and less complicated to speak with kindness and clarity to my family and friends. When I give myself space in the heat of the moment, I can see that things are perhaps not what they seem. I can stop and carefully consider a response before saying anything. Consider your probable future, in which you decide to focus your attention and energy on something that invigorates you. Forgive yourself when you don't always succeed because you are human. Reach for the feelings of harmony, peace, and joy.
Mila Atmos is a columnist whose work has been featured by The Huffington Post, Quartz, and Medium.
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