the birth and death of the day

Writer’s note: It has been a few weeks since I last wrote in this space. I wrestle constantly with whether something is worthwhile posting and whether my essays meet reasonable writing standards. The philosophical question is whether ideas in this space contribute unique and thoughtful dialogue to what is already out there. I hope you find the time you spend reading my essays worthwhile.

on regrets and personal manifestos

My friends Brian and Evelyn have a poster framed on the wall of their living room that serves as a manifesto for their family and home. This is it: (I’m working on getting a copy. Check back to see their family manifesto).

It governs the process for all that goes on inside their family life and the four walls of their home. It is not unusual to declare one’s values nor I guess is it so unusual to make it part of one’s home decor. Displaying a family manifesto can be decorative and purposeful like a really cool couch:

Or beautiful art that complements a room:

(This painting is by Ruth Gilmore Langs, a friend and a phenomenal Ann Arbor artist. You can see her work here: http://ruthgilmorelangs.com)

Businesses and people do manifestos, which are akin to mission statements. A lot of businesses post their mission statements/manifestos to impress customers but don’t actually embrace the messages in practice. In fact, it seems manifestos are most often cute platitudes and trite sayings bereft of substance. I’ve been thinking a lot about manifestos lately. I have also been thinking about regret.

I drive my fiancé crazy sometimes because of the way my brain works. Take manifestos and regrets, for example. How are they related?

Sometimes stuff just flows into my brain as if carried on the wind, or dredged up from my subconscious as if on a thought river rushing through my mind.

The word “regret” surfaces frequently. I probably was thinking about my daughters, particularly my oldest, Paige. Regret is associated with guilt. I do guilt a lot. (and I f*%#ing hate it).

Here’s a partial list of my guilt:

  • compromising my values and not ending my marriage years sooner
  • cheating on my ex-wife (I had my reasons, please spare me the moral judgements until you’ve walked in my shoes. I know it’s wrong)
  • the way I’ve parented my daughters
  • losing Paige
  • how I have and have not provided for them
  • what I’ve not achieved in life personally and professionally as an example to my daughters

The list could go on but that will suffice.

All this was going through my head recently as it always does and then I came across this

Regret is about living one’s history. The problem, Mr. Obvious, is that you can’t do anything about your history. It’s passed, done, kaput.

“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” — Anne Lamott

Living one’s history is like driving on the highway at 75 miles an hour while only looking in the rearview mirror. It’s dangerous and stupid.

So regret has been elevated to manifesto-level. I saw this recently and it made the regret–manifesto connection:

Benny Hsu has created a blog dedicated to helping people find ways to discover, hone in on and declare what is especially important to them in life. Here’s his blog: Get Busy Living

If I were to write a personal manifesto, living without regrets would be at the top. A life of regret is like quicksand on growth. If you are so busy ruminating and feeling shitty with regret you simply can’t focus on doing the work to grow. You sink.

I would add these too:

To always move forward.

To feel no shame.

To own my mistakes.

To be always present.

To love unconditionally.

To write and speak freely.

To believe firmly.

To fall asleep exhausted because my day has been that fucking amazing.

The danger is coming up only with my own platitudes that look good on a wall but that I don’t embrace. They won’t be worth the paper on which they are written.

I’m going to develop my list but hold off on putting it up on a wall. It’s a work in progress. Just like life.

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