Remembering Without Regret

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At 18, On A Weekend Pass Between Basic & AIT Training (Letting My Hair Down)

I am generally not bothered by birthdays. I tend to see getting older as just a different set of opportunities and I haven’t been worried in any significant way about the proximity of 50 as I turn 49 in a few weeks, but something shifted this morning.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of the day scanning slides and old photographs into the computer. These images captured moments from my army days or just before and I was reminded how very young I really was then. I can’t believe how much responsibility the military gave a woman barely old enough to vote, someone whose parents still wanted her in by midnight when she was already 18. Going from grumbling about a midnight curfew, to rushing down to the motor pool on alert at 3:00 am before getting my M-16 rifle from the Arms Room was a shift of substantial proportions.

Sometimes I forget how significant that time period that was when I think back to the decisions that led me to where I am now. Looking back at those photographs, I see a young woman… still a girl in many ways, jumping into the water with barely a look to see how deep the level or even a pause to test the temperature. I’ve always been someone ready to take a chance, but seeing all the people and places in pictures yesterday made me go back to memories I’d packed away..many of them shut away in a small box of slides I’ve been moving from place to place over the years. I found myself reflecting with sadness at times about some of the decisions I’ve made over the last 30 years and I am amazed how easy it can be for both regret and gratitude to share the same space.

It’s good you don’t know everything when you’re 18, but I do wish I’d had a better understanding of one thing back then. It’s a simple concept that took me years to get…that a moment lost is really gone forever. I still struggle with letting go of worry about the future and even worse…looking back at things I wish I’d done differently. It sounds trite and we hear it all the time, this talk of living in the moment, being present in your own life, but it is a common theme and one which has been illuminated by a variety of quotes for hundreds of years. I’ll leave you with the one that makes the most sense to me this morning. If you have one you’d like to share, I hope you’ll take a minute to leave it in a comment.

We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.

~Fulton Oursler



9 thoughts on “Remembering Without Regret

  1. A lovely piece Elizabeth.
    I saw a quotation etched onto a wall whilst staying in Florence, I took a photo of it, and it’s stayed with me. As a fellow Virgo I know you will appreciate it too;

    Nothing lasts, Nothing is perfect, nothing is forever.

  2. Hi Elizabeth, loving your quote, so very very true!

    I really try not to think back, Oh I have regrets to, but cannot change to past! Only my future. šŸ™‚

    I have always been afraid to take chances, don’t want to fail…something that was instilled to me..years ago..it does stop you doing lots of things.

    At the moment I feel very insecure, people say that I am strong, sometimes I am a quivering wreck inside…I need to get a grip šŸ™‚

  3. It’s so hard to hear people saying they wished they had made different choices. This happened yesterday when I was lunching with a friend.

    My quote is from a poem, and cornily enough, it was posted in Oprah magazine. But it speaks so much to me (someone who can get so trapped in the past).

    I know
    it’s hard to be reconciled
    not everything is exactly
    the way it ought to be

    but please turn around
    and step into the future
    leave memories behind
    enter the land of hope

    — Zbnigniew Herbert, from A Life

    I think you have built an amazing life, one that took courage and big steps.

  4. I think it is so hard for young people to have that mindfulness. When we are young we are always looking forward to the next big thing, becoming a teenager, first love, being able to drive, to vote, leaviing school, choosing a career, finding our soul mates, marriage, children. Then one day, all these momentous life events are behind us and we think wow, if only I had….

    That is why I believe it is so important for those of us who are older to help the younger generation cultivate this mindfulness. Well, I try at least.

    My quote…

    Do not pursue the past.
    Do not lose yourself in the future.
    The past no longer is.
    The future has not yet come.
    Looking deeply at life as it is.
    In the very here and now, the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
    We must be diligent today.
    To wait until tomorrow is too late.
    Death comes unexpectedly.
    How can we bargain with it?
    The sage calls a person who knows how to dwell in mindfulness night and day,
    ‘one who knows the better way to live alone.’
    Bhaddekaratta Sutta

  5. As always your words wash over me and I am emersed in your amazing insite into our shared experiences. You are truely a gifted writer and an amazing person! Also, I am happy to say my friend!

  6. That was a thoughtful and valuable piece. I’m so glad I came. But no matter what has happened in life, I never really regret anything I’ve done. Because I couldn’t have known what I know now, and I’ve learnt so much by it…

  7. I’m definitely an in the moment person. Mountain Man is always telling me he’s never met anyone who can be so content. But I have learned as I’ve aged it’s all we have. You can plan for the future as I did but in an instant it can change and leave you rootless. There’s no point looking back to dwell and worry about what could have been. Look back to learn yes but the way I think about it is all those experiences in the past have made me into the person I am now and I like that person.

    Beautifully written, insightful post.

  8. Well, yes. I just turned 50 on Wednesday and this past year has been spent reflecting a lot about all the decisions that I’ve made or not made and the things I’ve done or haven’t — all which brought me here. And none of which I can change or do anything about at this time. (Not all of my decisions were bad but some of the remembering has been painful.)

    There is a sense that time is rushing past me now more than ever and it shocks me every time I look at the calendar or even my watch!

    Have you ever read the poem, “Next Day” by Randall Jarrell? It’s much too long to share here but I think he captures a middle aged woman’s feelings so well. I wonder how he did that?

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