Last night, I had a strange dream. First of all, I, we (whoever that was, and Patrick was there also), was in a stadium that was like another planet. And we, I, was trying to avoid getting killed by the polar bears that were stalking my pets, and me. I remember at one point having to fight off one of these supernatural creatures before he ate my cat, Lupe. Not such a wise decision. He snapped his teeth into my arm, and suddenly I realized what had latched on to me was a pit bull. I was in a quandary – How do I get this thing off of me?
Anyway, as I was packing up the car to leave, there were three or four big, heavy-duty, transparent, plastic bags that were strapped to the back. And inside these bags was what looked like kitty litter. And the bags also were filled with water. It was important for me, for maintenance’s sake, to drain the water from these bags, which I started to do….
And okay, here’s the really weird part (as if it isn’t weird enough already)
These bags contained my husband, Patrick’s – regrets.
I was carrying his regrets around, and taking care of them. Like it was a routine thing…
When I woke up, I found myself thinking about a bad time we had our relationship. I was remembering the details, the craziness… He really tested me during that particular period, and was not very nice to me, and I know he regretted it deeply. But he couldn’t take it back. And he sure can’t take it back now.
I have my own regrets. In my book, “Worth Fighting For,” I talk about how hard I was hit with them after I lost Patrick, writing,
“…I found myself blaming myself. Blaming myself for taking him to the hospital, taking him out of the hospital, being the one to “give up,” for not making him well… And if that wasn’t enough, I started to blame myself for everything I ever did wrong in our relationship. Every time I was unreasonable, angry, grumpy…”
Pitiful, huh? Regret is an unpleasant thing. It has a taste that’s bitter. It’s a nasty pill that’s large, and very difficult to swallow, and it burns on the way down, and once it’s in your stomach, it does not digest, it just lies there, like its own entity, its own world, because, you know what – regrets don’t do anything.
There can be so many regrets: something we should have, or shouldn’t have said, holding back, failure, not being true to ourselves, not pursuing our dreams…I even discovered you could have regret about something you should be celebrating! Successes can bring out the unhappiness in some of those around us. In one instance, I found that I was so focused on the unhappiness, that I chalked up the whole experience as bad, and tossed it in the regret pile. What a bad decision! But it’s never too late to learn an important lesson. And that’s what we should do with our regrets – forget the regret and learn from the mistakes.
Yes. We’re born, we die, and in between we make a lot of mistakes…
It’s never been in question that I loved my husband. But after he died, I stood in judgment of the quality of my loving, and beat myself up for not always being perfect. Because of that, I thought so many moments had been lost forever. And now – I’m thinking that’s not so.
Since Patrick left, my perception of what love is has changed. I no longer see love as perfect, and as something that exists to make me happy. Sure, love can bring joy, but it can hurt like hell. But the bad parts…they’re love, too, just as much as the good parts.
I now see love as a “practice,” or an opportunity. And if you pay close enough attention, it might make you a better person and challenge you to live a fuller life.
And after I woke up from my crazy-alien-regret dream, I picked up a guidance book about loss that I hadn’t looked at in awhile, and amazingly, this was the day’s entry: “I will try to let the weight of regret and guilt slip away. I am not perfect. I am loved. And love makes all kinds of allowances – and keeps on loving.”
It was about dissolving regret, and replacing it with a lesson. A lesson in the “practice” of love.
I had the best love ever with my husband. And I dare to believe that he did with me, too. And yes, it was imperfectly – perfect.
And my lesson is to embrace it all.