Regret is a funny emotion. It makes no sense at all. You can regret so many things for so many reasons, but you can never change them and it probably wouldn’t have led you anywhere different. It is a diversion tactic. A way to avoid facing up to the real emotions at play.
Recently I had a brush with regret. I did something I’d been thinking about for a very long time. I sat down with someone who used to be very close to me – my mum – and asked her why she let us have the destructive childhood we’d had.
You see, I had been things regretting a lot. I had been regretting revisiting the past through my writing, though I knew that I had to. I had been regretting not doing more to help my sisters avoid the situations I saw happening later in life. I had been regretting saying nothing when my sisters were heading towards the inevitable, because I was glad to be out. I had been regretting not getting more involved when my sisters were in care. I had been regretting forgetting. But most of all I had been regretting the amount of conflict I had allowed into my earlier life, which had stopped me understanding how this might have come about from the person who might have the answers. My mum.
It has taken a long time for me to face up to some of these things and what they have done and are still doing to the people I love. It was always much easier to play things down or just focus on not being a victim of other people’s insecurities and twisted logic.
So I sat down with my mum, just the two of us, for the first time in over 20 years. I asked her why. Not to regret, but to understand.
She couldn’t remember why. She didn’t have the answers. She had blocked out or chosen to forget many of the situations I brought up and the daily reminders that we were lazy, useless and good for nothing. She couldn’t remember why she had chosen to stay with her husband and let, my sisters go into care. Or why she had blamed us for that.
She felt a lot of regret, I could see that. At that moment, I regretted not understanding how different people in exactly the same place, at the same time, can see and choose to remember very different things.
That day, I saw my mum for the first time since I was young. I mean that I saw her emotionally – a small part of the woman I remembered – not just the shell I had come to know. Through that, I saw that regret would only distract me from the recognition of how our world has made me who I am and of the choice we have to allow something to continue to destroy, or continue to build so that the cycle doesn’t have a further reach than it already has.
Whatever happens, even though I’ll think more than twice about why I chose to share this post, I no longer have any regrets. And neither should she. It would only be a distraction from rebuilding the person she once was and still can be.