Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Non, je ne regrette rien"

Friend and allround good person edwarddebozo yesterday brought up, in the manner of a furball (given the licking and cleaning we have been doing on making amends and apologies this last few days) the subject of regret. He says "When someone tells me they've done nothing they regret, I feel on the one hand 'good for you' and the other 'utter bullshit, that's not possible.' "

Me too; for regret is a big thing in life.  If it weren't we wouldn't spend so much time in defiance or defence of it.  The title of this post, also the title of perhaps the most famous song of the late Edith Piaf, translates as "No, I am sorry for nothing".  The song speaks though of a day where Love Was King, but now is gone, of seizing a precious moment - not of there being a whole life in which nothing regrettable has been done or felt.  Edith for sure had a very hard life with much sadness and tragedy, but I cannot speak for her on the subject of her regrets - if any.

"Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention" 
(sing it as Gary Oldman doing Sid Vicious, loudly).

It's a fashionable sentiment, to have no regrets.  I guess it's akin to that self-reflective moment wherein one imagines being interviewed at or near the end of one's long and fruitful, probably tumultuous and adventurous life and says "no, thinking back, I don't think I'd change a thing".  In that moment, we'd be in touch with a feeling deep down that we had the experiences we needed to have, felt the pain necessary for growth on our journey, and so on; that the things we once may have regretted we were now at peace with.  Or perhaps right now we'd think differently, and say "well, there are a few things........."  We may have some regrets.

I'd say much of the no-regrets attitude these days comes from a hardness of attitude, a fuck-you approach to a callous, unjust and uncaring life (in the eyes of the beholder), a feeling that it's you against the world, rather than you as a part of it.  And thus, a stubborn denial of something very real and deep in all of us (even the pathologically determined psychopaths, I believe), which is a longing for harmonious connectedness - with others, with nature, with The Force, with God - whatever gives reflected meaning to you.  Sure, if you cling hard enough to a nihilistic worldview and a sense of separateness of self then your mind can justify any course of action; just like Sid, whose famous punk motto was "Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible but don't let them take you ALIVE!".  Then again he also said "I've only ever been in love with a beer bottle and a mirror" Still, deep in the chaos-inspiring urges of anarchist punk I detect a longing for connectedness.  It's just a rejection of the suffocating pressures of overt conformity at heart, a struggle to free the self, to - to what exactly?  To some sort of purity, where there are no regrets.

But what is regret, exactly?  Usually we mean a feeling of sadness or shame for something we have said or done.  It is common to hear of people regretting things they have NOT done also.  But then the chief of the Defence Force can "regret the tragic loss of life of soldier (or civilian) X", which is a sort of regret at arms'-length (ooh, that's a nasty pun, sorry).  We can also regret things that have happened to us, no?

I want to explore this latter sense of regret further - this feeling of regret about something that was experienced more by you than done by you.  The sensation can often be exactly the same, can't it?  I'm thinking for example of a time you might have been hurt physically through no apparent fault of your own, and there's that feeling.....why should regret well up?  Sure, there may be anger, pain naturally, but there's usually a tinge of resentment at......something, of regret that you found yourself there at that time.  It's exactly the same feeling as when you know you did something silly yourself that led to harm; where you regret ever buying those ridiculously high heels/jumped on the kids' skateboard/tried to fit the car in that ridiculously tight parking spot etc.  Deep inside, I believe, there is an understanding of our connectedness to the Flow, of this being our optimal state, and that when an accident happens that we have that feeling of resentment and regret about - we were not doing right by ourselves; we were stuck outside our Flow.  We know that on some level we actually have responsibility for what happens to us.

You might think I'm about to launch into the one-eyed "there are no victims, there are only volunteers" New Age perversion of reality.  Well, I'm not.  This is more subtle and nuanced, and as always - please do not just believe anything I say.  I just wish to provoke thought and insight that you might get for yourself.  If I could utter one 'never' it would be 'never take anything anyone says as truth just because it's been said'.  This includes me, of course.  My truth is harder to articulate than is possible anyway - it's why I keep trying, and why I also keep quiet so much more these days.  But I do know that I get what I need - lumps and bumps and all - and that my responsibility is to look after ALL of it.  In each moment.  It's nice, when you get used to it, no longer ever feeling like a victim, btw.

Regret is a reminder that we need to heal something in ourselves, at its essence, isn't it?  Whether we need to forgive ourselves through making an amendment to how we carry our past and the way our memories feel to us, or whether we needed the Zen slap wake-up call of a pine cone falling on our head as we stubbornly live outside the present, missing life as it goes by, that feeling of regret just means Stop For A Second There Pardner.  Back up, breathe a moment, and have an honest open look at what's going on inside.

Regrets?  I've had a few.  And probably more, much more than I could mention.  But then I've determined that part of my life's path is to clean up after myself energetically, emotionally, to heal and transmute those things which I once regretted.  I'm trying to think of things now as examples and the good news is that I'm having trouble doing so, but I know there will be plenty tucked away in there to pop up as I'm ready for them.  It's just I'm in a fairly good space presently, so non, je ne regrette rien.

And that's real too.  Allowing yourself to live with that no-regrets clear and clean feeling, not feeling as if you have to chase down your bad stuff and flush it out, not dwelling on the Original Sin or unconscious evil we do to ourselves and our world.....it means that really, There Are No Regrets.  I think that's what the anarchist punks crave, or craved, once upon a time.  That state of being so present that everything you do or say or experience is in that Flow that is Yours, where the past is not welling up needing you to behave according to its dictates all the time.  Where the baggage does not need addressing, even though it may still be back there somewhere.  "Who gives a fuck?" as Sid said.  He said that a lot.

Apocryphally, Sid just might have died with no regrets.  We know certainly that he died from an overdose of heroin after a dinner gathering with family (his mum anyway), his new girlfriend and friends.  He'd been recently through detox and was more or less 'clean'.  But a few days after his cremation his mother found an alleged suicide note in his jacket pocket.  It read:

We had a death pact, and I had to keep my part of the bargain.  Please bury me next to my baby (referring to his late, former long-term girlfriend Nancy) in my leather jacket, jeans, and motorcycle boots.  Goodbye.

So we will never know; we can only take charge of ourselves.  Regrets left sitting there are like nagging voices, lead weights, doors shut tight against change.  If there are things you regret, please don't be afraid to look at them.  To let them go, even - and perhaps especially - if they are regrets of things not done.  If you can do those things, that's marvellous, but if you can't, then there's never going to be a better time to drop the burden of pain in carrying the regret all this way and having it drag you down into your future.

So yeah, I'm still with edwarddebozo.  You can look at it both ways, this assertion of non-regret.  We can live right now, sans regrette, knowing that should some regrettable thing pop up we can deal with it then, and well, or we can go forward bullshitting ourselves that "no, fuck that, I refuse to be sorry, I refuse to regret."  I know which I'd rather.  I don't want to be a fighter any more.  Perhaps I will die with no regrets - I certainly hope so, as I try and live without them. :-)

Edith Piaf.

1 comment:

  1. You've got me started now: I'm going to put a crazy regret/guilt rave on my site. Just wait. Gotta think about it and get in the mood.