A Bungled Crime
by Donna K. Wallace
“You can tell it any way you want but that's the way it is. I should of done it and I didn’t. And some part of me has never quit wishin’ I could go back. And I can’t. I didn’t know you could steal your own life. And I didn’t know that it would bring you no more benefit than about anything else you might steal. I think I done the best with it I knew how but it still wasn’t mine. It never has been. ”
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men
Have you ever wondered at seeing a person mourn the death of a loved one if the mourner is grieving the end of many wonderful memories shared or whether her tears are from the remorse of never having lived?
That mourner would not be me. I was staking claim on my life. Yessir. As a young woman I was a romantic bent on living the dream, convinced that life could be lived without a shred of regret.
How’s that for optimism?
The past was past. I couldn’t change that. But I believed that from a marked moment in time—a monument of new beginnings, I could somehow choose well enough, right enough that when I finally arrived at the end, I would lift my soul nestled in my hands up toward heaven, as a gift, and regret nothing. I made a promise to myself to do just that.
Joe was my inspiration—he hated to sleep because it seemed such a waste of good hours that could be spent discovering something new or conducting selfless acts of service. I too made good choices.
Then optimism punched me in the throat; a time or two. Maybe three.
Life got hard.
Still, I failed to understand that to regret nothing, to refuse my clumsy brokenness and need for forgiveness, was merely cowardice. Maybe even a crime. (A famous author wrote something to this affect and I stole it….)
Convinced that my theory only needed a good hard tweak—after all, I couldn’t regret something for which an opportunity was never presented—I revamped.
I reasoned, for example, that I could not lament having married as a teenager before going to college or going to one university in particular rather than another— otherwise my husband wouldn’t have introduced me Daisy Rain Martin and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post.
Granted, a few big hairy regrettable mistakes were made along the way, but I was dandy: maybe the leadership guru’s were right, failures of yesterday are gems of tomorrow: sand into pearls, dirt into diamonds, shit into perfume… it’s almost criminal.
But when I reflect back, its not just missed opportunities I see. It’s wasted time, selfish thoughts, mean words, manipulations, neglected friendships … all in the name of Love.
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets,” wrote Arthur Miller.
Leave it to the novelists to awaken truth.
I am more sure now than ever of how hard life is and how many people are carrying their own burdens of remorse. When I reach out to touch the sleeve of an older woman whose life was stolen from her or to hug a child who’s greatest sorrow is having remained silent, I discover a sacred moment filled with both passion and pain—a crime often bungled.
It is only in the night when I’m kneeling to ask forgiveness for the things I’ve done and those I’ve left undone, I figure I’m stealing from a thief.
What does it mean for you to end up with the right regrets?