Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh. - Henry David Thoreau
There are few things more difficult in this life than living with regret. When I mention regret, I’m not referring to eating an extra slice of cake when you were supposed to be on a diet or staying up all night only to be exhausted at work the next day. I am talking about soul-consuming, mind-captivating regret. The type of regret that sits with you and lingers, beyond days and weeks and extends into years. The regret that I am talking about is not simply wishing that something hadn’t taken place. It is agonizing over what had taken place. Agonizing constantly, regularly, almost permanently. This kind of regret incapacitates you, it holds you hostage. Feeling it becomes part of your daily routine, and the stomach-churning that accompanies it almost begins to feel normal. Feeling this form of regret, for me, is the absolute worst feeling you can ever have, beyond heartbreak, grief, and loneliness.
I used to hate trying to silver-line things, because sometimes situations are what they are — shitty. Sometimes I just wanted permission to allow myself to feel whatever dreadful feeling I was experiencing because sometimes things just are dreadful, and we have to let them pass naturally with time. But after years of living in the past among my worst moments, I realized that if I didn’t find a way to make peace with my regret, it wouldn’t just eat me alive — it would drown me. It would burn me. It would tear me to shreds.
Making peace with my regrets isn’t just so that I can find a way to cope, but it also guarantees that that regret won’t go to waste. It guarantees that I have learned something, that the pain and anguish over whatever mistake was made do not have to be something I ever feel again.
So how, you ask, does one live with regret? By learning the lesson it is trying to tell you. Your regret is teaching you what is not compatible with your soul or aligned with your true purpose. What you regret reveals your true self. Your past does not define who you are today, it is what you regret that does. To live with regret, you have to learn from it. Otherwise, the cycle will continue. One of the biggest lessons of life is that you will be presented with the same challenges over and over again until you learn what that lesson is trying to tell you. Regret is your signal, it is your lighthouse. Where you drown in the sea of remorse, regret guides you to the right path.
Don’t let your regret convince you that you are an irredeemable person or that you are not worthy of forgiveness. Understand that your regret is your sign that you are capable of doing better. The greatest lie that our minds tell us is that we atone for our wrongdoings by punishing ourselves. That is not the truth. We atone for our wrongdoings with progress.
Aleena serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Dreamer By Night Magazine, and as a lifelong writer, she is grateful that her work and passion intersect. Aleena is an avid reader and loves trying new things, including painting badly and losing at chess to her husband. She also thanks you for taking the time to check out Dreamer By Night, and hopes you enjoyed it!