Most of my boys are with me, some are still out seeking glory
And some I had to leave behind, my brother I’m still sorry…
–Lukas Graham, 7 Years
If you want to live a life without regret, never reflect on the past and never, ever should on yourself.
I should have done this or I should have done that.
There were a million things I wanted to do. After I graduated college, I wanted to backpack across Europe. Instead, I went to work. I’ve been paying off student loans ever since.
I wanted to live on a Kibbutz, but in those days before the Internet I couldn’t figure out to get there, let alone how to pay for the plane ticket.
I wanted to move to New York City and work at an urban mission called The Lamb’s Church, but I was afraid if I plunged headlong into a calling I’d never get married or have kids. And, plus, I’d be poor. Well, poorer. And, plus, those student loans. They’ve tethered and disciplined me in ways only I can tell.
There were other things I wanted to do. Like take down the ugly ceiling fan in my little girl’s room and replace it with a rainbow chandelier. I wanted to paint every stair in the basement a different color. I wanted to take a picture of my kids in the same spot in front of the house every year on the first day of school.
I wanted to plant hydrangeas, but I kept forgetting. For 12 years. Now, every spring, when the glorious bushes grow bigger and bigger, I feel like a loser. Everywhere I turn, the extravagant blue blossoms are as big as my regrets.
The jealous roses whisper,
“See what you’re missing. See what you could’ve had.”
“Screw you,” I murmur. And, I stalk empty rent houses for cuttings.
There were a million things I wanted to do, but the most important things I did.
I got married and had children. Every day they wear clean clothes to school. Every time their shoes have holes in them, there is money to replace them. Not because of me, but because of grace. Some days, the bass-turds get me down. But, always, there are shoes to buy, so off I go. Plus, ballet and ukulele lessons. And, swimming pool passes and extravagant birthday parties because, hello, I’m Generation X. Always over-parenting. Always over-indulging. Always apologizing for not doing more. Always forgetting about the manna that got me here.
For my little girl’s last birthday, I rented a dunk tank and a white pony the kids could “paint.” The dunk tank was such a hit, but everyone ignored the poor little horse. She arrived in a hot pink trailer. At least three times during the party I should on myself.
I should not have rented that pony…
For my son’s last birthday we took his friends to a bone museum. I tried to fashion skeleton cupcake toppers out of marshmallows and pretzels dipped in chocolate. In the heat of August they became a clumpy, melted mess. I should on myself.
I should have just gone with the store-bought cake…
Regrets, I’ve had a few. Probably bigger than the rainbow chandelier. I’ve learned they’re simply part of life and cannot be avoided. If only we knew this from the beginning we could avoid cynicism and bitter resignation. We could avoid should-ing on ourselves so much.
And, now a parting line from Lukas Graham’s big hit song called 7 Years.
“Remember life and then your life becomes a better one.”