Thursday, 31 March 2011
Regrets and Old Age
About a month or so ago, there was an excellent discussion here about whether those of us who are childless elders have any regrets. If you missed it, you ought to go read the comments – it is a terrific, wide-ranging conversation.
Since then, I have occasionally pondered whether there are things I might now regret and I come up surprisingly empty. Am I overlooking something? I wondered. Am I too shallow or superficial to have regrets?
For as long as I've been old enough to philosophize a bit, I have believed that regret is waste of energy and haven't spent time considering it. When things didn't turn out well, I fixed what I could, moved on to something else or made the best of what I couldn't change.
Still, I don't think anyone can live for six or seven or more decades, as I have, without a few regrets. There must be something. Poking around the web for inspiration, I found there are at least two people who equate regret with old age:
“Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs.”
- Charles Dickens
“Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”
- Benjamin Disraeli
Hmmph. Maybe it had something to do with the time and place they lived in; they were contemporaries in England in the mid-19th century. But no one can convince me that regrets are a normal accompaniment to age.
Do I wish I had traveled more? Learned another language? Married again? I suppose so, but none of them loom large as holes in my life now.
I do wish I had asked my parents more questions about themselves, their childhoods, their families. That's a common regret of many people.
And it would be better if I had not wasted so much time concerned about my appearance or spent so much money on expensive shoes. But who can take those things seriously as an old age regret? That was then; I eventually outgrew both of them.
There are some things I have done and said to people that hurt them – more than I like to recall and that still bothers me. On the other hand, there are many more times I should have spoken up and was too timid. Those, I think, are greater failings.
But again, I don't categorize such behavior as regretful. Not always, but mostly through the years, I have done the best I could at the time.
Maybe I don't have regrets because everything I have done, everywhere I have been, every experience I've had brought me to where and who I am today. Unless I'm fooling myself, I am content with that.
What about you?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett” Putting Dreams to Rest