As I wrap up this year on self-care, I wanted to write about a well-promoted subject: gratitude, or more precisely, how practicing gratitude will help you with regret. Recently, I began looking at gratitude differently. Instead of a joyful, appreciative activity, my experience of practicing gratitude became tainted with growing regret.
Like a thief in the night, regret has a way of slipping through the darkness undetected. Only in the light of day do you recognize that something is missing. Or is it?
As I write this, lyrics by Joni Mitchell, in her song “Both Sides Now,” play in my head, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now, From win and lose and still somehow, It’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all.”
Life is full of solitary tasks. It’s just you and your mind, processing experiences, traumas, choices, some good and some bad. For me, dealing with illusions, misinterpretation, and misconceptions has been difficult and life-changing. And here is where regret sneaks in. Why couldn’t I have confronted these things sooner? What would my life had been like if I had known then what I know now?
We never have all the answers. Second-guessing and dwelling on regrets can only promote bitterness and keep us stuck in negativity.
We can process regret with gratitude. But, I wonder, does gratitude have an expiration date? I don’t think so. On the one hand, we only have so much time to let others know how we feel about them and how grateful we are to have them in our lives. But, even if they are gone, we can continue to live with our loving memories and be grateful for the role they played in teaching and loving us.
Life is what we make it. We do our best, set boundaries, ignore the haters, and let stuff go. Be grateful for who we are and what we have now. We can keep going, being present one day at a time. By continuing to shine the light of gratitude, we can get ourselves beyond the darkness of regret.
We never really know life or understand all that we go through, or why we go through it. I am sustained by my belief in a higher power, my Lord, Jesus, who is unchanging love, unfathomable mercy, and endless grace. I will always be grateful for those who have gone in faith before me and who, without fear, introduced me to the truth. Psalm 118:6 tells me, “The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” At the end of my days on earth, I will meet Jesus face to face, the music of the heavenly hosts in my ears, and nothing else will matter.