Regrets suck. They just do. And when I say this, what I mean is that they suck the life out of you.
I wonder if there have ever been as many choices in life available as there are now? When I think about that, of course there have always been myriad choices since the beginning of this earth, but have they all ever been blaring right in your face all at once the way they are now?
It’s hard to imagine more information all screaming at us at once than there is at this time in history.
So let’s keep that in mind as we walk this road about the roads not taken.
Sometime in the last 10 years I had an idea to make words out of fabric trims and fabric scraps and as I sat down and sketched out what words I would choose to “write” with fabric, I wrote the words that I most needed to hear; that what I do is never going to matter more than who I am becoming. Because I was addicted to doing, and it was killing me.
I just pulled this piece of art out of the trailer where it is stored and hung it in the “kitchen” of my studio where I have been working the last few winters. These words have never meant more to me than they do today.
When we think of the roads we have taken or have not taken, it is so important to remember that we can learn, grow and become on just about any road. No road is wasted. No experience is wasted And what we do really IS NEVER going to be more important than learning, growing and becoming — neither is the road we do it on.
With that in mind, it’s often still hard to be standing on the road I’m on and look around at all of the other roads that I could have taken. And to be honest in knowing that I am at least halfway through my life and there are some roads that I will never have time to explore and experience. There are just too many roads to choose from. Did I make the “best” choices?
I have a problem these days with the word “best,” as I mentioned on the last road. I believe there are countless good roads that always have the opportunity to work out for the best. Always. No matter what road it is. We get stuck when we keep waiting for a “best” road. YOU ARE THE ELEMENT that makes a road the best road for you. YOU ARE THE COMMON DENOMINATOR on every good road you can remember.
YOU WILL CONTINUE TO BE on every road you take. So you don’t have to worry that the best thing is on some road you’re looking for. Look in the mirror, the best thing is YOU. And as long as you take yourself on your own journeys and don’t leave yourself behind, every good road will be your best road. Your best road is not hiding from you, waiting for you to find it. Your best road is the one you firmly plant your feet on and decide to grow on.
The biggest risk when this realization is made is that we spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME lamenting over roads that felt like a colossal waste of time, and we get bitter for time “lost” that could have been spent on a road we could have experienced had we chosen “better.” This is a risk because it steals life from TODAY. And life is a terrible thing to waste on things we have absolutely no influence over, and never will. The past is one of those things. Yet, we give so so so much of our most precious resources to something that doesn’t even exist anymore.
Here’s what I’ve learned from observing The Road I Didn’t Take, and that’s truly all we can do — observe it. Which means that we can’t ever truly know what those roads we didn’t take even are. We can only make up stories about what they are, because we are observing only the outside layer.
Anyway, what I am learning from “observing” these roads is that the only thing useful about spending any time thinking, feeling, wishing or wondering about these roads — is to mine the wisdom from the observation. But to be very very careful with that too. Because “time” is always moving and we can fail to remember that we know more now than we did then. We can punish ourselves in very unfair ways if we tell ourselves the story that we have always known as much as we know now.
Please don’t spend any time assuming you know everything about something just because you are observing it. It’s really such a waste of your life. BE ON THE ROAD YOU ARE ON NOW — even as your feet are taking the long walk OFF of a road you’re ready to be done with. BE ON THAT ROAD while you’re on it. Mine the wisdom and experiences from it, because you’re never going to be able to do more than observe it and tell yourself stories about it once you’re off of the road you’re on now.
So what about the roads we don’t take? Why didn’t we take them?
Maybe it was too scary.
Maybe we procrastinated for too long that the opportunity is gone now. Maybe we allowed ourselves to get tricked and coerced onto other roads.
Maybe we got there too early and it wasn’t open yet, so we moved on.
And then when we circled back, it was too late.
Maybe we gave up too soon.
Maybe another road was a lot longer than we thought it would be, and it took years to get off of it, and now we can’t even find the road we thought we wanted to take before all of that happened.
I could go on for days writing “maybes.”
And unless it’s to mine the wisdom from all of it, it’s a pretty destructive way to invest the time of this day and this road and this moment. Regret is a particularly violent form of punishment if you let it go past the wisdom mining stages.
Here’s what I wish for us, that we can learn from every road and then let that road go. Let it go so you can go. Give yourself a head start on the next road by untying yourself from the last road once you’ve mined the wisdom.
Only look back to be grateful.
Because there are roads that have expiration dates, too. There are roads that may have felt so right and we still didn’t take them, so now the memory of those roads ARE TAKING FROM US. There may have been a tiny little window in “time” when a road would have been a perfect match for us. And then not only did the window close, but the road went away. We can REALLY tell ourselves tragic stories about those kinds of roads. And how could the story ever be right? We have no idea what would have happened had we chosen that road at that time. We really don’t even have any idea if that road even existed in the way we thought it did. It could have been another story that we told ourself.
I put TIME in parentheses because time is tricky. We make up time and time feels different to everyone and it seems to stretch, expand and contract. It comes and goes and we give it WAY TOO MUCH CONTROL. Without sounding too cliche, I hope that I can express the importance of understanding how THIS MOMENT IS REALLY ALL THAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW.
And that means THIS ROAD IS THE ROAD THAT MATTERS MOST RIGHT NOW.
Regrets and comparing steal our ability to make the next decision, and none of us really have time to waste with that kind of nonsense, there are too many decisions to be made.
Staying or going. Holding on or letting go. Leaving it there or taking it with. Trying one more time or putting a stop to it.
Every day we have to choose between those things and more. And guess what, as long was we are making a “good” choice, a choice that we are making with the heart, mind and soul all showing up as best they can — those choices will turn out for OUR BEST. Because it’s about learning, growing and becoming. And having the grit to keep choosing new roads when old roads end is how we learn, grow and become.
Grit is a regret eliminator. The more you have the grit to try in life, the more you fall, but you also let feelings of regret go. The only regret you’re really left with is that you didn’t have more grit to try more things.
Regret, jealousy and comparison are the things smeared on a pair of dirty glasses that cloud every beautiful thing that’s happening right now. And no matter what road you’re on right now, or that I’m on — there is ALWAYS so much beauty to be found. Even if the beauty we find is our own courage to keep going on crappy roads.
It’s so tempting to call certain roads a big mistake. And sometimes we get 100 yards down a road and we know we would have chosen differently had we held more information. Sometimes it’s a good decision in not-so-good company, making it look like a bad decision. Sometimes it’s a crummy decision in good company, making it look like it was a better choice than it actually was.
There are a million ways of scrutiny to shame ourselves with. It’s useless, though. MINE THE WISDOM AND CUT THE CHAIN THAT’S KEEPING YOU IN CAPTIVITY.
There may be a lot of redirecting to do but once you move into an all-consuming shame or bitterness or jealousy or regret, you’ve moved into making a lesson into a prison sentence.
Don’t SHOULD on yourself, okay?
Wisdom comes from experience and sometimes the best experience comes from knowing you didn’t take that road, but this one — and you own that decision, and you let it grow you. There are so many gifts of experience in that lesson.
As we all look at the roads we didn’t take, let’s let the road we are on right now grow us, because it’s the only thing that can in this moment.
So, beautiful traveler,
What roads that you ARE NOT ON are distracting you right now from the road you are on? AND What are the greatest gifts that came to you from NOT taking certain roads?
Thank you for observing this road with me. Tomorrow we will expand on this observation by experiencing as best we can The Road Sparkling Next To Mine”
I love you, I believe in you, and I know whatever road you’re on right now is an opportune place for you to become more than you have ever been.