By Kellie Schorr
It was just a summer fling, as common as the rain in April.
It was fun, fast, and, oh my gosh, so different from dry routine of marital intimacy in the last few years. Her husband stood there with the oozing remnants of his shattered heart falling through his trembling fingers staining the hall carpet red. She told him the affair didn’t really mean anything, except that their marriage was over.
She knew a day would come when she would sit quietly on the patio of her new house in her new life and hold his hand. They would talk about what happened and how she had to break the egg to make an omelet. She’d apologize for his pain. He’d forgive her, because she looked so happy now. Transformation took longer than she imagined.
She spent over 20 minutes trying to find the square carved gravestone his sister picked out. Trudging through the little country cemetery where his people were, her city heels kept sinking in the unfamiliar soil. It had been three years since she saw him last, and six months since his death. She never got around to that tender patio moment.
She imagined them all standing in a small circle as the preacher commended his spirit forward. They talked of the brain aneurism and supposed mercy and horror of an instant, unexpected death. They hoped he didn’t suffer. They were relived she didn’t come to the funeral. They would miss him every day.
She did the right thing for her life and as even as she kneels down, pressing her knees against the cool, moist ground to place some roses in the vase, she is confident it was the best choice for them both. The new sod is beginning to intertwine with the old grass of the broken earth. She traces her finger across the visible difference of the blades; the line between life and death.
“I’m so sorry,” she gasps.
What are the words for a moment like this? Where do they come from? When you say them alone—in the hot steam of a teary shower, at the window of a cold, dark morning, or beside a silent grave—where do they go?
Regret. Everybody’s got some.
They are the slideshow our minds always seem to pull out right when we need to go to sleep. Some are small, like the time we talked about that girl in the bathroom only to open the stall door and see her standing there.
The decisions we make, the hearts we break, the things we didn’t mean to say, the words we never said, they all hang around the corners of our mind like lost souls in a bus station.
As with most luggage, we carry regret around with us because some part of us believes there is something useful in there. The first key to handling regret is opening up that suitcase and taking a clear look at what is inside. In recovery circles, this is called a “personal inventory.” Do we really need that memory of how rude we were to our mother now that we understand what it’s like to set unpopular rules? Is it making us do better, or just feel bad?
Sorting through our regrets helps us know what we are willing to surrender and what we are not yet ready to release.
The world is filled with positivity messages and memes telling you, “just let it go” because the life of meme people in Memeville is clearly very easy. Here in the world we are awakening to, things are a little stickier. How do you “let go” of a regret that keeps boomeranging back with a vengeance?
For those things bagged and tagged for removal, the next step is resolution. Your mind plays regret over and over for the same reason you get a melody stuck in your head; it seeks resolution. If life interrupts you before you can resolve a situation you regret, the slideshow begins. What does it take to resolve a regret? Nothing less than a magic word.
We are often confused by what that means, and so we fail to say it. “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean:
I am a bad person.
Everything I did was wrong.
It’s all my fault.
I still want to be in relationship with you.
This is all I need to do.
This is not enough to do.
“I’m sorry” is the heart opening up and honestly saying, “I have this regret and I am ready to let it go.”
That’s right. The first person to get an apology should be you.
It can be, “I’m sorry I did that,” “I’m sorry I let myself down,” “I’m sorry I caused pain,” or “I’m sorry I feel pain.” Before you take your apology to anyone else, be honest with and forgive yourself. Then you are ready to enter the world of others.
In those times when the other party is not available or willing to hear your sorrow, you still need to offer it in some way—for your sake and their spirit. If it harms you to be in contact with the other person, or harms the other person to rehash the issue, an apology can mean you simply, silently, learn from what happened and go on with your life. If the other person is now out of the reach of this world, do a tonglen ceremony or a breathing meditation and offer it up the air of truth.
As surely as there is power in the seed syllables of mantras, there are magic words in our world.
I love you.
I hear you.
Where do they come from? From the essence of your goodness, your heart.
Where do they go when you say them? They go where they go. Into the energy. Into the world. Into being.
When should we say them? Now. Always, now.
What can they change? Everything.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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