Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.

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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Waking Up Late in Life

April 18, 2013

Tags: compassionate wisdom, healing, Unemployment

I recently asked members of the cyber world about dealing with regrets—specifically rectifying mistakes in the past. I sent out my query on all the social media I participate in. Here was the question:
What do you do if you wake up one day in your fifties or sixties to realize that your timing has been colossally bad? Can you recover? How? How do you correct your timing?

I welcome answers from people of all ages.

That I got very few responses is probably not that surprising. Perhaps it’s because I’m not that popular, or because the question is not one that people want to react to publicly. There could be many reasons for the resounding silence. But what was most interesting to me was that all but one of the handful of responders seemed to say they had no regrets, there was a problem with or in the question about asking about regrets, or that there is never a reason to have regrets because things can be done well in the present.

In the April 29, 2013, New Yorker piece called “The Writing Life: Draft No. 4,” veteran writer John McPhee talks about the process: “And unless you can identify what is not succeeding—unless you can see those dark clunky spots that are giving you such a low opinion of your prose as it develops—how are you going to be able to tone it up and make it work?”

I would say the same thing about life. If you are a human, you have made mistakes. One of the things that drives most of our species most crazy is when somebody refuses to acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for, mistakes. If we never feel sorry, how can we change? If we never feel remorse, why bother?

Regret and remorse are wonderful things. They can tear us apart, burn us down, and make way for a new improved us—a phoenix rising out of the ash.

I regret. I regret. Oh, how I regret. And I do not regret that I regret. Let the fire burn . . .










Comments

  1. May 8, 2013 2:33 AM EDT
    Regret as a driving force for change? Yes, I think you're right. As to the "resounding silence" you talk about, I don't know the reason either because the question is interesting. But the Internet can be a surprising place to be in, and sometimes it lets you down...You know why? Because people DO NOT HAVE TIME to absorb something complicated. They like to skim over the news that's why newspapers that dig deep into the news are in trouble: who wants to "waste" time reading a real newspapers made up of dozens of pages when you can "hop" through digital news in a matter of minutes?

    And this is your problem here: the question is really a difficult one that requires some further analysis to sort out an answer. Because, bottom line, regret implies the ability to analyze what went wrong in one's life, to focus on the bumps and dark spots and to figure out a strategy for removing them and then comes the next step, the hardest: the actual removal of the bumps and dark spots!

    For most of us, that's too much work when you get to a "certain age". Do you have all that extra energy? Some days I feel I do but other days - I'll be honest with you - I feel I don't!
    - Claude Nougat
  2. May 8, 2013 7:11 AM EDT
    Interesting response. For me, I would say getting to "a certain age" mandates that I no longer have time not to expend the energy I have to do this kind of analysis and change.
    - Betsy Robinson
  3. December 4, 2013 4:18 PM EST
    I agree that regret and remorse are useful, even necessary, but only if they are temporary. Permanent regret is too much like self pity, which is always self destructive--unless you can turn it into a comedy routine. So if the responders to your question meant the they never had a regret, then they must be engaged in some heavy rationalization. But if they meant they acknowledged the mistake and moved on, I'd say more power to them. (Not that I can do that myself necessarily, but good for them if they can.)
    As to the silence--yes, people are busy and don't want to think--but the question stays out there. You can still get answers six months later--like this one.
    I love your site and your work. Just ran into it recently.
    - Patricia Smith
  4. December 8, 2013 2:52 PM EST
    Thanks, Patricia. And thanks for the response.
    - Betsy Robinson
  5. February 28, 2015 5:10 PM EST
    I turned 60 this year and came to the realization that I began to wake up at 50. Waking up to the fact that the people I was hanging around with were a bunch of narcissists (mostly "artists"), and so was I. At 50, an event triggered a desire to take stock of my life. I realized that I had compensated for my domineering mother's inferiority complex and shame by taking on a form of grandiosity.

    If I would not have revolted, I'd have landed a high-paying job, taken care of my mother and not had any girlfriends. In short, I would have been my mother's remote-controlled shame compensator. Even with my distancing myself from my pathological family, you could say that some of her and society's were deeply imbedded in me: "perform to please."

    As things stand, I realize that my life strategy was wrong, and that I was a self-centered individual. At the same time I'm quite aware that I'm not a criminal and certainly not worst than the average person. In fact, I consider myself lucky for what I've got: good health, a decent-paying job that I like, a thirst for knowledge, etc. I haven't succeeded in making "real" friends, however.

    I no longer feel any regret. How could I? My life could be no different. I also don't envy anyone. I'm just trying to get my spiritual house in order: banish the shame with which I was programmed for so long and accept myself with the good and bad parts of me. I'm trying to become more compassionate, towards others and towards myself.

    Peace
    - Marc Pilon

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