I think it is normal to have regrets in your life. I don’t know one person who has not wanted to go back in time and correct some of the more glaring “mistakes” of their lives. Yet, if you ever saw Back to the Future, hurtling back in a DeLorean, to a time where we feel our life went off track (and actually take that job, or ask out that girl, or go out with that boy) is very tempting. The problem is if we altered our past, everything else would shift and the entire course of our life would be different. In Back to The Future, Marty attempts to change the course of his father’s life and discovers that people existing in the present, disappear. This of course is fantasy, but the truth is that you just cannot press the UNDO button and edit your life. Your past is your past and is, after-all, what makes you who you are. The trick is taking those regrets and using them as a learning experience rather than continually berating yourself. I was not exactly mother-of-the-year, and I have to admit it. I don’t think I ever really learned how to be a nurturing human being, coming from a very dysfunctional family. Although my Mom was affectionate, there was a real disconnect in my family and I literally could not wait to “get the hell out” of my house. To escape, I began carousing, using drugs and alcohol to give me the “happiness” and wholeness that I did not feel at home—trying to fill that hole in my gut. While working in Korvettes in Manhattan, I met my first husband, my hero, whom I looked upon as my rescuer. When I got pregnant, I was not ready to be a wife and mother, and consequently I was a dismal failure at both. However, I have learned that, presented with choices, it is virtually impossible to navigate those waters without choosing something we later consider a mistake. As the saying goes, “Acceptance is the key to everything” and I truly believe it; acceptance of both past and present situations we have no control over. In the past 18 years, I have tried to make amends to family members, both living and deceased (in the case of my parents). It does not totally absolve me from my actions, but it allows me to dig myself out of the regret graveyard. All I can do now is accept that not all my decisions were the best but they seemed right at the time. Growing and learning from bad decisions are how I try (and I say “try”) to handle my life’s choices rather than with regret, which is just a form of self-flagellation. Staying in regret will keep you mired in the past, and prevent you from moving forward in life.
Being positive takes practice and some people seem to have conquered it, but for others (me included) it takes great effort. I truly believe that it comes naturally for some, being born into a “happy” family. I think the family dynamic is the key; families are either happy or sad. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both my brother and I suffer from depression. My family was definitely SAD and dysfunctional, where everyone did their own thing. My first husband once remarked that my family seemed like just a bunch of people who just happened to be living in the same apartment. I never had anyone to model myself after so I grew up with a pessimistic view of the world. It has been proven that positive people actually live longer. I think negativity becomes a bad habit that is very hard to break but I have been trying. Ok, it is so easy for me to be in a happy state of mind when the day is going as planned or something external boosts my morale, but the challenge is maintaining that positive attitude. Yes, tragic and terrible things happen and it would be ridiculous to expect to remain optimistic. But I feel that having a predisposition towards positivity helps you deal with tragic or trying events when life deals you a big blow. It’s also important to distinguish between life-altering events and just annoying everyday aggregations. Just a little over a year ago I was using a cane, had no balance, and was in constant nerve pain which led me to hopelessness. But since the miraculous surgery which corrected the problem, I have been trying to be grateful and be more positive. I try not to freak out about some unexpected car repair, or dental bill anymore. Yes, my poor old car is a money pit, but on the other hand, I can drive normally when just a short while ago, my right leg was partially paralyzed. My Mom used to say “It’s only money” and that is so true. Am I always successful in being positive?–absolutely not, but I will continue to practice.