Joe and Lisa met in college, pre-med. They fell in love and planned to go to med school together and open a practice. Only; Joe’s grades weren’t good enough, he didn’t get in. Love triumphed, they stayed together. Joe became a financial planner while Lisa married him during her residency and they had 2 beautiful kids.
Joe hid his regret well, he had a “can do attitude”. He had an air of sadness about him, yet, always one of the smartest guys in the room, he obviously would have had good bedside manner, would have been a compassionate and caring doctor. A great Dad and a devoted husband, Joe seemed to be reconciled with his unmet dreams. The couple lived in a mini castle, they seemed happy, they were, like the rest of us, dealing with life.
I knew them, I worked with him.
Many of us regret things we have done, wish that we could change things, yet we often fail to realize that the things we don’t do can haunt us and haunt the people in our lives. I don’t know if it was the night calls from patients, the pressure of being a doctor, a serious clinical depression or living with her man’s regret, we’ll never know. Whatever it was, it was too much for Lisa. One afternoon, he found her dead, she had committed suicide.
Jane Goodman and her colleagues, Nancy Schlossberg and Mary Anderson have studied the psychology of “non-events”. They ask, “Where do unmet dreams reside?”. The person who never finds her ideal mate, who loses his, who never gets the promotion, who never fulfills their dreams is not the only one affected by taking an unplanned path. The researchers have identified the “ripple effect”, how our unmet dreams affect others. The Dad who comes home angry and frustrated about his dead end job teaches his children to “walk softly around Dad”. The teenage Mom who doesn’t get to go to college will pass that regret on to her baby. The Dad who never has the great acting career “guides” his daughters into acting and become s a stage Dad.
Yet, how do we know that we would have been any happier if these non-events had occurred? Lisa was the one who achieved the dream and life was still too much for her to bare, what were her unmet dreams? Did she end her life because she lived with Joe’s regrets? I really don’t believe she did, he was a lovely guy, I mention them because we have 2 people, in a fairly controlled environment, and the one who achieved the dream is the one who couldn’t live any longer. We don’t always know how our lives will work out.
Our stories are unique, sometimes Plan B is as interesting as Plan A, sometimes it is not. Dealing with the non-events in your life through counseling, through journaling, through re-framing the events in a positive light are essential to being able to find meaning in the life you are creating. Regret can lock you in a room with no exit.
Are you on Plan B? Plan E? Have you gotten through life on Plan A? Do you have regrets? Of course you do. We have all made choices, “we are the sum of our choices”, as Victor Frankl said. Every choice, by definition, means we have excluded something, but, here’s what I believe: you are still you. Even if you had made every choice differently, you would still be you. Here’s a question for you:
Not “so what” as in “big deal, who cares”, but “so what?” as in, “ok, you’ve come this far, where to now?”
It’s Sunday morning, let’s give ourselves a little grace today and recast our regrets as life experiences and find a way to help those we love grow from them. Let’s accept and love ourselves as we would want God to.
You are stardust, you are golden. You are God’s child, how does he suggest you love (including yourself?):
Love is patient,
Love is compassionate,
and is not jealous;
Love does not brag
and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the Truth;
Bears all things,
Believes all things,
Hopes all things,
Endures all things