Tag Archives: hindsight

2018 and the Gift of a New Pair of Spectacles

“The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter – often an unconscious, but still a truthful interpreter – in the eye.” – Charlotte Bronte –

My eyes have resisted ‘normal’ all my life. As a result, I have had a pair of spectacles on my nose as long as my memory stretches. These orderly-defiant eyes also require the annual visit to the experts who have to be convinced that I really cannot see those damn minuscule letters projected on the wall. At a recent visit, I was informed that I again needed new glasses … so here I am a couple of weeks later with an incandescent purple pair and, yes, the world has come back into focus.

Those of us who are part of the spherical spectacle syndicate will appreciate that any new pair of glasses requires a relationship with patience and adjustment. It’s overwhelming to suddenly see that clearly! I think one of the secret joys of all optometrists is to have that moment where they put a contraption on your nose and say, ‘This is your old prescription’, then a few clicks and glass slide shuffles later and, ‘Voila! Your new prescription’. Gets me every time. Yes, ok, you win, I needed new glasses!

It’s not just my physical eyes that need new glasses. I have found that my way of looking at the world needs a good dose of challenge and deconstruction if I want to live congruent with the values and ethics that are important to me. A habit has a way of petrifying our minds. When we mix habit with the notion that our ideas should not be tested because they are somehow sacred or certain, we may find that smugness, not kindness, informs our lives.

As 2018 begins to wind down, I take time to reflect on a rather grueling year. It has been a year of saying more goodbyes, moving house, facing illness, and completing a Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work through Dulwich Centre and Melbourne University. It is this masters that has shaken my life up. It has provided me with a new pair of spectacles. My focus has been adjusted and, like any new glasses, has sometimes made me feel quite queasy as it provokes deeply embedded ways of thinking with the question, ‘Why’? I have discovered that assumption has had a part to play in diminishing the voice of curiosity in my life. And I am not okay with that! As 2019 is now only a few weeks away I am beginning a new chant … Viva la Curiosity!

Friend, how are your eyes? Do you still find their focus meaningful? Is there a niggling doubt about the spectacles you have been prescribed as one-size-fits-all? Is it time to get a second opinion? Maybe your own opinion as the expert optometrist of your life and views? Is it time to challenge some old assumptions and prejudices? I hope that 2019 will be filled with some new friends … and if curiosity and wonder are precious to you … remember to put out the welcome mat!

“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

 

In Hindsight: Reflections on Regret

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations — one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it — you will regret both.”
– Soren Kierkegaard –

I still remember the first time I heard the notion of living life with no regrets. I was at a conference with several thousand attendees, our eyes glued to the platform as an over-excited person yelled at us: “Live your life on the edge, take the risk, no regrets.” Everyone cheered, including me, while conducting an inner argument: “That is totally absurd. Of course, we will have regrets, all of us in this room will have regrets. That is a nice, but an impossible idea.” Regrets, defined as feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that we have or haven’t done, are part of human life.

Pithy quotes along the same lines as the adrenaline-pumped speaker are everywhere. We should ‘regret nothing’ and ‘not do anything differently’ if we had our lives over. Well, that’s just a load of bollocks, isn’t it? Imagine getting a second go at life with all the hindsight that you have acquired? Wouldn’t you do life differently or at least change a few things? I certainly would.

According to Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, who wrote ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’, the list of regrets of those under her care were:

1. “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Oh, I can relate to this one. I have spent the first half of my life taking on what I thought God and people expected of me like the typical ‘good girl’ (classic Type One for those familiar with the Enneagram).

2. “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Anyone else have their hand up? Yep, I was soooo important in my first half of life that I didn’t even have much time to visit my parents in Queensland. I was busy doing ‘God’s work’ … *Jesus face palms*

3. “I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.”
Expression of emotion is diverse amongst people and culture. Ware is referring to people who have bottled their feelings and kept them from their friends and loved ones.

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
Life is all the sweeter with friends. There is something about history in friendship. A long-term friend is a treasure. Life is better in relationships. Nurture your friendships.

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
We don’t often take time to reflect and contemplate on what brings true ‘happiness’. If we did, we might discover that the pursuit of the bigger house, sleeker car or the next promotion doesn’t feed our existential need and questions about the purpose of life. We may, however, discover that sharing a meal with our neighbour and tending to our garden does. Let’s learn from the dying – what makes you ‘happy’?

I have regrets in my life. None of them have to do with money or careers. I regret that I did not spend more time with my grandparents when I was growing up, and when I did see them that I didn’t listen more to their stories and wisdom. I regret that I accepted fundamentalist ideals without critique, ideals that hurt others, including my children. I regret spending so much time frantically being the ‘good girl’, trying to please a crowd that cannot be pleased while ignoring the rhythms of grace so readily available.

Regrets are part of life. I also believe that we can look regret in the eye, acknowledge it, make our peace with it, and then we can move on. We begin to realise that everything belongs, life is not meant to be lived perfectly. A life truly lived holds suffering and regret. The regret you carry from yesterday can determine the path you choose tomorrow. Regret, like suffering, can shape our lives in a most transformational manner.

Rob Bell’s podcast, ‘What to do with the Waste’, discusses regret and disappointment. We have all given our lives to something, or pursued a dream that turned to ashes – we all carry waste. And yet … it is coming face to face with this ‘waste’ and recognising that nothing that has come into our lives is a waste, all is carried in the hand of Providence. My choices, my failures, my regrets, they are there to shape who I am, and I will not allow them to poison me, neither do I consent to be their victim.

Friend, you will hold regret. Make your peace with it. We have very little control over our lives and we make the choices and decisions given us at a certain moment with a certain mindset. Look gently on your past and show that same grace to others. And now, Carpe Diem, embrace a new day … live life and realise regret is simply part of living.

“We can—and will—move forward as soon as we have completed and lived the previous stage. We almost naturally float forward by the quiet movement of grace when the time is right—and the old agenda shows itself to be insufficient, or even falls apart. All that each of us can do is to live in the now that is given. We cannot rush the process; we can only carry out each stage of our lives to the best of our ability—and then we no longer need to do it anymore!” – Richard Rohr –