Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reflections on regret

This morning I woke up regretting a decision. I awoke gasping at the lost opportunity (until reality set in.)

I did not attend a course. My name tag sat unused on a desk. Administrators had worked for nothing to set up my registration. I missed a class on spiritual formation, a topic that really interests me. And I didn't get to network with a great group of doctoral students.

Many of my best decisions come from impulsively showing up. And so it might have been with this one: I heard about the class Friday (it started the following Monday). I called to ask if I could attend and got permission, along with links to the syllabus and required reading. Ronda even got my student name ready.

But Monday I just couldn't do it. I'd helped pull together a reunion Saturday and gone to a 5-hour workshop Sunday. I facilitate a study on Tuesday evenings and babysit our granddaughter on Fridays. The class just wasn't calling me.

Until this morning, when I realized what I missed and what I could have learned from the prof and wonderful class members. "I could have squeezed it in," said my regretful self. "You need this information for teaching next summer. The Tuesday class was cancelled. Friday's not here yet."

The logical self replied, "Would I have had Monday and Wednesday for research, time needed to start on existing papers? I would have missed lunch with Julia. I needed to decompress after the weekend. Thursday I play piano at the hospital ... and Friday is coming, with or without Kinsey. And look how much time I would have had to take to catch up on reading."

I'm still bummed about missing the week. But here's how I'm facing my regrets:
  1. Admit that I've missed a potential opportunity or messed up.
  2. Recognize my limitations. We can't be everywhere and do every good thing. No. We really CAN'T!
  3. Focus on what I have not what I don't have. This week's research has been very productive, if not creatively stimulating.
  4. Make it right if there's transgression on my part. I put a busy administrator through needless work but I can email my appreciation and explain my absence. If I say something awful and hurt a friend, I can apologize and reconcile. I may miss an appointment but can reschedule.
  5. Plan ahead to redo something I've missed. Or just let it go. Maybe this great chance didn't belong to me from the get-go.
  6. Revel in God's daily presence in the here-and-now. He promises to use each day and every experience for good. We don't live perfectly. But God forgives us. He weaves life's beauty AND imperfections together for his pleasure and our good. 
  7. I learn more about myself through the experience. I find I most regret what I don't do rather than what I jump into. While I dislike scheduled obligations, I revel in the surprises and unexpected joys of art workshops, idea exchanges, and mentoring. Since this life is finite, I need to embrace the ways it comes and goes.
How do you deal with regrets and missed opportunities?

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*For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV

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