I know people whose biggest regret in life is something along the lines of dropping the final pass in the high school championship or not getting the promotion that they’d hoped for.
It’s some shortcoming or mistake that they can’t shake…some opportunity where they just couldn’t rise to the challenge.
It’s a benchmark that wasn’t reached that they use to measure everything that comes after it.
This morning, the thing that was swirling around in my head was that I wish that I’d been kinder.
The guy that dropped the pass can’t back up. There aren’t any do overs…you can’t repeat events and fix mistakes.
I can’t back up and fix things, either.
Mostly, I was thinking about my mother.
My mother used a wheelchair the last 15 or so years of her life. Sometimes I hear people say that someone they know is “in a wheelchair” like that’s all the definition you’d ever need to understand them. My mother ( and everyone else who uses a wheelchair…for whatever reason) wasn’t defined by that chair.
Anyway, she had a hard time getting around without assistance.
I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for her.
She worked really hard to try and make our lives as easy as she could in a hard situation.
I remember what a pleasure it was for us to take a warm washcloth and gently wash her face…(I just realized that I typed “us” in that sentence when I probably meant that it was a pleasure for “her”…but I suppose it was a pleasure for us, too…).
That was such a simple thing to do. It didn’t take a lot of time or special preparations, the “tools” we needed were minimal, we didn’t make it into a big deal. It wasn’t a hard thing to do.
I wish I’d done more of that kind of thing for her.
Of course, you can spend a lifetime beating yourself up for the things that you didn’t do. In hindsight, it “doesn’t cost a dime” to make conjecture about how you could have been kinder.
That’s not a hard thing to do, either.
The hard part is probably exercising kindness in the moment. It’s harder to see each opportunity and take advantage of it as the moment arises.
We are a self-absorbed species. What species isn’t?
The fact that I’m writing this blog supports my self-absorption. Sometimes I can’t get enough of me…and I spend a lot of time with myself. You would think that I’d be over it by now….but I really am pretty fascinating.
The thing that really does keep me awake at night sometimes is that I really wish that I’d been kinder in so many situations.
I wish I’d been better at getting the washrag ready…or brushing her hair…or just really paying attention every single minute that I had a chance to pay attention to her.
Maybe resilience isn’t learning how to forget past mistakes…maybe it’s learning how to really remember them so completely and so strongly that you gain enough knowledge and sensitivity from the remembering to change in the future?
I don’t really know.
My sister and I love our parents. We helped take care of our mother as well as we could in the moments we had with her…and she returned the favor. Sometimes, I helped her wash her face. Sometimes, I helped to try and make her life better.
I just wish I could have been kinder.