What hurts more? A mistake or a regret? That's obviously a loaded question and it may make sense to break down my personal interpretations of each before working our way to a potential answer here. I see it like this:
A regret is a version of a mistake, but ultimately, it's a version that can only be rectified with more time. Specifically by reclaiming lost time to do something you have already done, differently (which is not possible). A regret is interesting, it forces us to step out of ourselves and our experience to see it from a bird's eye view. It's not so simple to heal a regret because its path to absolution requires us to take a hard and stern look at the brevity of our lives. In order to even see something as a regret you have to first acknowledge it to live on time you will never get back, i.e. time lost. Accepting the weight of a regret is to acknowledge our own, incredibly fragile, mortality and how quickly our clock is ticking. To acknowledge a regret is to look death straight in the face.
The reason regrets hurt so much is because in that brief instant, your incredibly elastic brain is looking forward through time and running calculations about probability, luck, and depreciation while coming to the conclusion that there is simply just not enough time left to potentially experience the thing you've missed out on, again. It's just not in the cards, there are not enough hands left to lay the flush one more time. It's an ambiguous loss that we process in milliseconds in the form of a pang. All of that manifests as the brutally blunt message from your conscience to your awareness saying - You won't ever get to know what that felt like bud. Once you arrive here, then the healing process can begin.
A mistake on the other hand is an unfortunate moment or series of events where we ventured out of character for too long, even if, long in this case has been but a fraction of a regrettable second. Mistakes however, often reveal themselves to be the building blocks of life. Your character, nothing but a million beautiful imperfect gilded bricks, gleaming and complicated like a Kintsugi'd Jenga tower. These events are very often moments of growth and by all means pivotal to coming of age and self actualizing. Mistakes, unlike regrets, can be rectified relatively easily by owning up to it, by understanding one's transgressions and why they occurred or were destined too.
I don't think you can ever avoid either of them frankly, but with regrets, I would theorize that every man and woman must live and die with at least 2 but never more than 8.
Two regrets is still romantic.
Eight is well, regrettable.
And now I realize this question answered itself. Regrets are by all measures the sharpest and most persistent of pains a human can endure. So, unlike mistakes, can we learn to mitigate the presence of regret in our days to come? If you ask me, I would say - I think so but perhaps even creating a mind that hides from regret can become a regret 60 years from now? Who am I to know, getting bit by ones convictions is all part of the game!
I discovered this year that I use regret as a compass from which I base my decision making. I optimistically indulge in the notion that this can be an effective way of guiding yourself towards a softer deathbed burdened by less what if moments. It turns out there is actually a mental model framework for this called: The Regret Minimization Framework. Apparently it has been popularized by Jeff Bezos recently. It's easy to do, Sahil Bloom summarized it like such:
The idea is that this mental model creates an unpolluted and unimpeachable view from which to see the world, a lense towards objective inner truth. When in doubt, return to clarity. The pain of regret is so severe and so distinct in late life that doing all you can to avoid it actually seems pretty emotionally and intellectually sound. Learn to see the pangs of regret as a symbolic call for action and reap the benefits of peace of mind in relation to ones path. Don't necessarily take it from me or Mr. Bezos, my friend Rel Brender, a death doula, shared this with me after reading my challenge from the last edition:
a little end-of-life wisdom:
The vast majority of dying people feel the greatest pain for regret, specifically around experiences they *didn't* have but wanted to. Rarely do people linger on their mistakes.
Another dear friend of mine, Chris Rocco imparted the following wisdom:
Had I not made the decision to make the move, I may be sitting here with some regret thinking about what could have been. If you have the ability to make a bold move that you are drawn to with little downside risk on your life and career, it’s likely worth a strong consideration. Lastly, time is on your side, let the ideas and possibilities breath. Good decisions are not rushed but realized.
All this to say, we've officially bought plane tickets to start apartment hunting in NYC. Onward.
🎧 A Song to Study
Bill Withers' famous divorce album +Justments is a haunting menagerie of heartbreak, tenderness, and naturally, regret. This week's Song to Study finds Bill lost in a daydream where he's fantasizing about his defunct relationship. In this daydream he seems to be conversing with his wife asking her if they could pick up where they left off, only under the condition that the past be forgotten.
Can we pretend
That from now on
There is no yesterday
Paint a portrait of tomorrow
With no colors from today
It's a sentiment and request so almost juvenile in nature that its mere suggestion speaks volumes to the inner turmoil that roots deeply in the wake of an absolved marriage. It speaks to how our sincerest desire can sometimes just be simplicity in the face of complication. Can we try this again like we're new people? It's a request that's fated to failure. I won't dive into the next set of lyrics but I wanted to emphasize them for your own listening exploration. What do you think he meant by the following?
There's a light that shines in your face sometimes
That takes my feelings, wraps them around your need
But there's a shadow hiding in your heart sometimes
That makes my feelings turn back in on me
While looking up the album art for this record I stumbled upon the full text for what is scribbled on the cover by Bill. One last parting gift before we move on:
Life like most precious gifts gives us the responsibility of upkeep. We are given the responsibility of arranging our own spaces to best benefit our survival. We have the choice of believing or not believing in things like God, friendship, marriage, love, lust or any number of simple but complicated things. We will make some mistakes both in judgement and in fact. We will help some situations and hurt some situations. We will help some people and hurt some people and be left to live with it either way. We must then make some adjustments..
🏡 An Album to Live In
This album is the perfect choice to close out the year with, I strongly believe that. What you will find inside are two sprawling yet sparse and minimal solo piano arrangements. This is thinking music, these simple songs are perfect to reflect on a long year with. I'll even go so far as to recommend throwing this album on during whatever personal end-of-year rituals you are cooking up for yourself, it will be the warm hug you need to forgive this long year. I won't say much more than that because I think this is one of those albums that everyone creates their own meaning with. Want to fall asleep to it? It'll certainly do the trick, in fact its one of my favorites for that purpose. Want to get in a mean work out? Give it a go, lmk how it works! Want to lay down on your floor, do some slow stretching and float into a much needed state of presence? Damn... actually, I'm going to go do that right now ✌️. Enjoy!
👋 Until next time...
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