Life is full of regrets, so the saying goes. I suppose it's true. For some. There are people who seem to be without them, or at least don't acknowledge them very much. Perhaps they have the right idea? I tend to go through phases of regret. There can be long stretches when they don't materialize, consciously, and I go on about my day and look happily toward the future. Then, for a time, something may trigger the regrets, and they tend to mill-about for awhile, like unwelcome party guests, bringing down one's mood.
This latest tour of regret (call it a funk, if you will) can be traced back to a couple of weeks ago. I was thinking about a former friend whom I hadn't been in contact with since 1999. I knew that he'd committed suicide in 2008, but didn't know the details. Thinking about him, I decided to Google his name and, rather appallingly, found something that could perhaps have explained why he took his life. There he was, his sad face staring out from the computer screen, conveying a life destroyed. It was all too much.
Immediately, I regretted not keeping in touch with him over the years, as though that would have somehow saved him. Sometimes, it is debatable whether I have a heart of gold or an ego the size of Manhattan. At any rate, it became a source of sadness for a few days. At the time I knew him, this friend's life had seemed so happy, so carefree, containing so much promise. How things went so badly for him (as they sometimes do in life) is a story I'll likely never know. There has been an urge to visit his grave in Indiana, with some doubts as to whether that would be such a good idea.
The aforementioned revelations from a couple of week's ago left further contemplations of regret in their wake. There was the time I was driving down Mattis Ave. during a snowstorm, looked over, and saw a mother, holding a baby, with three kids in tow, trudging through the snow. I thought of asking them to get in the car, to take them wherever they needed to go, but didn't. That moment stays with me. Or the last month or two of my father's life, when his illness got really, really bad, and I was too scared to visit him. Or the other friend who committed suicide, whom I was supposed to go see a few months before he died, but instead blew off the visit.
One wonders what the purpose of regret is? If it is supposed to make one pause, reflect and then act better in their current and future life, I'm not sure it's working. There are still occasions when I cancel plans with people. I'm still uneasy around illness. I continue to pass by a stranded motorist and not offer assistance, or tell a homeless person begging for funds that I don't have money, when there is cash in my wallet. If regret is there to internally teach us to be better, then when and how will the lessons be learned?