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.

Haunting Memory

Haunting memories–I think we all have them, but some stick with you more than others. Of all the crazy things I’ve done in my former life, the one that stands out the most had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol. Back in the early 90s when I was an avid Marathoner I worked in Manhattan, but lived in NJ. About two days before the New York City Marathon, I left work early to pick up my race number at the Sheraton Hotel on the upper West side. This is a very upscale area, and that evening there were loads of police, tourists, busboys, hotel staff, and marathoners picking up their numbers, in and outside the hotel. Since I lived in NJ, I was always very conscious of the bus schedule, so I was in a big rush to hop the subway back to the bus terminal. It was about 5:30 in late October so it was dark and chilly, and all I wanted to do was get home when suddenly I saw a large plastic bag lying on the sidewalk. I just assumed it was garbage, but when I looked closer, I was appalled to see that it was a thin black woman who was literally “wearing” the bag as her clothes. I remember standing over her, looking around trying to see if anyone else saw this, trying to decide if someone would take ownership of this discovery. I grappled with the thought of trying to find a cop to get this woman some help, but in the end I decided I was in too much of a rush to do this simple act of humanity. So, I just left her there, assuming that someone else would find her. I remember walking down the dark street towards the subway station, all the while feeling guilty and ashamed of myself. The whole time I was walking, I kept wanting to turn around and go back, because I knew I was wrong, but I didn’t. The whole time I rode home on the bus, I kept thinking that I should have gotten help, but it was too late by then. That’s the same mentality that prevents people from calling the cops when they see someone being attacked, or let someone lay in the road, thinking someone else will step up to the plate. I will never know what happened to this woman, but all these years later, this haunting memory still causes me shame.