“No! No regrets. No! I will have no regrets! All the things, that went wrong; for at last, I have learned to be strong.”
Wise words crooned by Edith Piaf—the famed 1920s French singer known as “The Sparrow.”
I dig it—I’m not big on regrets myself.
I don’t regret going to law school though today my chosen profession is yoga teacher.
I don’t regret getting married, though today my husband is my friend and we’re divorced.
I don’t regret eating all those Twinkies in the ‘70s even though today I’m gluten-very-very-low and wouldn’t use a Twinkie to wipe my windshield. (The fact that spell-check just told me ‘Twinkies’ is a proper noun that needs to be capitalized is mildly alarming but still, not regretful.)
I don’t regret kissing all those boys in college (they were cute; it was hard to choose).
I don’t regret driving to the high school I would graduate from (I went to three)—a fancy day school—in a two-toned 1979 Cadillac Seville with a sun roof, Rolls Royce grill and Sinatra jammed into the eight-track (thank God for self-esteem).
Nor do I regret sitting down with my long red nails, feathered hair rife with product and my little leather skirt in the first assembly of that fancy day school certain I’d been dropped into the pages of a an LL Bean catalog. Granted, I looked like that fourth square they always showed on Sesame Street, but I lived to coif another day.
I don’t even regret having gone to three high schools.
I don’t regret any of it because life is short. I know, I know, people say that all the time, but really? I’m here to tell you it’s true! (Feel free to ignore that old adage about not believing everything you read.)
The moments in my life that have looked the most challenging, embarrassing, frustrating or flat-out dumbfounding, have been my greatest teachers by far.
Confession: there have been many. One might even say more than the usual share. I used to worry about it.
I used to think, well…how can I put this? Have you ever sent a text by accident? And, you get that terrible feeling, right? You’re typing away (or in my case usually mistyping; not sure whose thumbs that iPhone was made for, but it was not these digits) and suddenly whammo! Your words—not the ones you wanted to send—are floating up into one of those little bubbles and you’re watching that bar at the bottom of the screen pulsing (taunting even?) beneath the word, ‘Sending’ as an added visual you are powerless to stop; and all you can think is, ‘Nooooooo!!’ Right?
That’s kind of how I think my soul may have been launched into this world. Like someone in charge of the universe—you know, with some definite seniority—is up there with a gigantic celestial iPhone. And, of course, they’ve developed an app for soul selection. So someone’s up there scrolling through the drop down menu trying to figure out my soul’s next move and boom! I’m like that text that someone didn’t mean to send.
Like I was really meant to be a jellyfish or a ground sloth and instead I’m a mother of two small people, a writer and a yoga teacher.
It feels like there may have been a glitch in the system and, perhaps, my karma doesn’t match my current form. What’s a girl to do?
Recognizing at a young age that these challenging moments were coming closer together and higher in number, I developed early on a three-prong personal constitution that I will share. It’s just an offering; feel free to apply it as you may:
1. Lead a noble life.
Own your actions—all of them; the good ones and the ones that look less good than you expected or could land you on the 6 o’clock news (theoretically, of course)
2. Never turn down an opportunity to travel
3. Never—I mean never—get photographed naked.
(Really, aside from those people back in the Renaissance, have you ever heard the story that ends well when a camera and a birthday suit are involved?!)*
That’s it. Simple. Even I can remember three things. Again, it’s just an offering. Do with it what you will. I will say, it’s served me well for some time now.
It’s the first prong specifically, I suppose, that really has taught me the value in all my choices—even those with less than desirable outcomes, that look silly or have me wondering how long something really stays on Facebook.
I don’t regret allowing someone else’s opinion to deter me early on in my career from switching up the lawyer gig and becoming a pastry chef instead. Allowing that fear to win out in my mid-twenties gave me a point of reference many years later to learn to trust my intuition and not operate from a place of fear.
It allowed me to pull from the memory archives, that exact moment when I was told, ‘That’s the most ridiculous idea you’ve ever had! You have real obligations—you can’t do that!’
This time around, when the naysayers offered their well-intentioned advice about a single mom hanging her hat on teaching yoga and becoming a writer, I had the red-phone to my heart in hand; I had the presence of mind to quiet my ego as well as the voices that manifested the fear and egos of those around me. I had the strength and fire of my intuition welling up inside of me, 15 years in the making.
“I am sorry this looks uncomfortable to you. If I thought too much about it, it might also be uncomfortable for me. But, I’m done thinking with my head. That voice was let go and that position has been filled by my heart.”
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if I or anyone else was sent through by mistake—or really meant to be a jellyfish. What matters is what we do about it now, because now is the only moment that has any meaning and the only one over which we have any control through our power of choice.
As for the second and third prongs of my personal constitution regarding travel and photography, I’ll leave it to you to see how those may or may not apply in your world. But I would offer that we all have the opportunity every moment of every day to work on that first prong—to be noble in our pursuits and own our choices and actions fully—no matter the outcome.
As it turns out, I don’t regret wearing a turtleneck under my third grade hula-girl Halloween costume; growing up in cities and never learning to merge; not following ‘the rules’ and emailing that guy back right away, even though that was the last I heard of him; not even the 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back because of vodka.
Every choice I make and own is as much a part of me as the blood in my veins; integrated on a cellular level and, as such, gives life and light to my truth and to who I am today.
What the richness of this mosaic of choices has taught me is that there is no other way I would rather live. I am grateful for each and every step along this journey.
“Je ne regrette rien!”
*Photographed naked is distinguishable from being naked. By all means, delight in that birthday suit as often as possible!
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Assistant Ed. Paige Vignola/Ed: Bryonie Wise
Photo: superspy/Boing Boing