I’m not one to have regrets, unless you count the time I got my hair cut in the salon at our local Montgomery Ward department store. That was bad. I remember looking out on the lawn tractors and the washing machines while the “stylist” promised me that he would find the perfect cut to frame my face. Molding would have worked better. I went from shoulder length layers to a head of broccoli in twenty minutes.
The major decisions in my life have been defining. I guess that’s why they’re called “major”. But all decisions hold significance. Choices we make can reveal layers of our character that we didn’t know we had. They can teach us valuable lessons or create opportunity. They can introduce or they can eliminate, they can be spirit lifting or spirit draining. Sometimes the impact of a decision is immediately clear and other times the effects aren’t realized until we’ve gained distance and reflection. One thing is certain – even a decision wrought with regret moves us forward. I would not be the person I am today without the propellant that was the good and bad choices I’ve made along the way.
Had I not taken a job in a kindergarten class for example, I would not have overheard this classic line by a five year old girl at snack time. “I forgot to wash my hands. Oh, for the love of Pete!” Thinking of that scene still makes me laugh and reminds me why I love being around kids.
Had I not made the decision to raise chickens I might have gone my entire life without knowing that a rooster’s spur in the back of your thigh can drop you like a bullet. Successful navigation is all about making the right call at the right time and learning what actions not to repeat.
Years ago when the company I worked for was closing its doors for good, a local news crew showed up attempting to garner comment. A representative of management politely barred their entrance to the building, assuming their right to remain silent. The building was a local landmark consisting of several floors and large paned windows. Not to be deterred, the camera truck and reporter set up camp on the perimeter of the property hoping to catch the statement of an employee leaving at the end of the day. I was working late that particular night and watched the circus forming from my perch in a window on the 7th floor. I said jokingly to my friend, “Hey! Wouldn’t it be funny if we blew the Dating Game kiss to the press?” It’s not like they were looking at us in the window after all. I reenacted the over the top Hollywood smooch and went back to my desk. The next morning, coworkers, one after the other stopped me in the hall with cheers for my newsworthy performance. I had been captured on tape. A fine moment it was. Now, that would have been a bad decision had my job not already been eliminated.
Or what about the day of my college graduation party when my sister convinced me that a purple headband was not only hip, but looked good on me. I think the pictures prove, Mrs. Dahootavitz, (a nickname I call my sis) that it looked more like a fancy tourniquet for a head wound than a fashion statement.
Had I not joined Facebook, I never would have reconnected with friends from thirty years ago. Great decision! Then again, had I stayed away from social networking, I could have avoided the awkward moment when I couldn’t remember whether or not I had attended the wedding of said friends. Oh, it gets better. I not only attended, I did a reading and was part of their wedding party.
It was easy when decisions were made for us. Remember when you were a kid? It didn’t matter if you looked goofy or not. If wearing plastic bread bags on your feet made it easier to slip on your winter snow boots, then bread bags you wore. Don’t even ask for matching ones. Your left foot was kept dry inside the polka dotted confines of a Wonder Bread wrapper, while your right foot stayed warm within a purple plastic foot mitten that once contained a loaf of raisin bread – though that bag was smaller and usually reserved for the littlest feet.
Sometimes, the course of your life can only be realized in looking back and noting the decisions that clearly pivoted your journey in one direction or another.
Think about how different your life might have been, the people you might not have met, had you not taken that train or gone to that cookout, or went on that job interview, or eaten that mayonnaise in the tuna fish salad that you didn’t realize was past the expiration date until you crawled on your belly to the fridge to see who the culprit was behind the salmonella poisoning. Twice. (Some bad decisions take longer to sink in.)
Moments of regret often shine brighter in our memory than moments of ease, so pat yourself on the back for the calls you’ve made that have enriched your experience. I thought about this over the summer when we were at a 4th of July fireworks celebration and one of my kindergarten buddies plowed through the crowd and snared me in a leg hug. I thought of it last week when I received a lovely note from someone who follows my blog. I thought of it Monday night as Terri reenacted her version of a “Dancing with the Stars” routine. I thought of it this morning, when Chowdah, our 14-year-old basset hound, a rescue dog, laid his head on my lap and closed his eyes while I rubbed behind his ears. I’ve made some good choices in my life. And while that pair of palazzo pants I had to sew for a high school home economics class clearly was not one of them, (thanks Mom, for the assist), my regrets are undeniably, few.
So, here’s to us… may our decisions be right ones, and if they can’t be right, may they simply be left.