Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage… ~Lao Tzu
It is November now and birthday season has begun in my house. It has been known as ‘birthday season’ for as long as I remember–it’s the time of year when 4/5 of my family has a birthday between now and the end of January. As one of the 4/5, it is also the time of year when I reflect back on my life thus far. I really wish I wasn’t like this–so melancholy and so overly dramatic. It’s annoying and predictable. I shake my head with pity at myself during the last months on the calendar. Why can’t I just be normal with birthdays? It appears I want to be sad. My theory is that it’s because I’m not happy with how some aspects of my life have turned out. I can imagine myself looking forward to the years ahead if I were happy right now, rather than dwelling in the cold and lonely past. And, yes, one can still be lonely even though one is surrounded by people. It’s the curse of the overthinking introvert. One way to check this theory out is to make myself deliriously happy, right?
This year has been particularly bad as it relates to regrets. My mind whispers to me daily “If only I had taken this path and not this one…, “if I only had done xyz, this would have happened,” or “If only I had said…” Today is one of those days when I wish someone had an MIB pen handy to zap my memories and wipe my brain clean of certain events starting from childhood. I know I’d be far more content. It would take away the pain of regrets. I don’t want this pain. At this point, I’d do anything/take any pill to feel better.
Don’t get me wrong–there are things that are so right with me. My girls are one of the highlights of my life; watching them unfold elegantly into adulthood has been pure joy. I’m so happy I have them, each one with a unique viewpoint and personality. Beyond my girls, however, I’m having a hard time finding the good.
I feel so guilty about how I’m feeling. I *should* be happy. I *should* be grateful for all that I have. I *shouldn’t* be thinking of the past but here I am. On the many interviews I’ve listened to, one question frequently comes up. The interviewer will ask, “Do you have any regrets?” The interviewee always answers, “No, because I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.” I wish with all my heart that was my answer but it’s not.
I can feel myself falling into depression. I’m trying to outrun it, stay one step ahead but it’s catching up. I feel its hot, stale breath on my neck as the panic within me sets in. I’ve been down the depression path before and I don’t want to go toward the sinister beckoning finger. I want to fight but almost feel powerless. Should I give in?
I’m currently listening to a guided meditation by Headspace called Regret (how appropriate). One of the assignments is to write down all one’s regrets on paper, spend 30 seconds thinking about each one, then let them go, crumple up the paper and light it on fire. I haven’t tried this yet but I think I will have to. As I mentioned in one of the previous paragraphs, I will do anything to rid myself of these uncomfortable feelings. I haven’t completed this homework for fear that the experiment will fail miserably, even potentially making things worse. I may conjure up things I hadn’t remembered in decades, and then might feel like even more of a disaster.
They say that the way to regain control of one’s life and to feel better is to be proactive, get involved and get out of one’s head. Reading and writing are both silent activities–lots of time spent alone thinking. I need to get out! Meet new people! Volunteer! Help others. By helping others, I’ll be helping myself. My fear there is that I’ll show up as Debbie Downer instead of Catherine the Clown. Who needs that?
If only I had the courage to completely change my life, do the things I want to do, experience the things I want to experience, I know my birthday would just be another date on the calendar. Until that day when I decide to make the changes I need to make, my approaching birthday will be filled with dread and the intense desire for something different. My face, however, will never let on the inner turmoil–I’ll always have a smile and kind words to say to everyone I meet because as the saying goes, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”