Today’s post will be the first in a series about controlling what we can. I am going to offer you two personal examples of this particular decision and how it impacted parties involved. I hope you will be able to take what we talk about here and apply it to your own life. If you do, I promise you can change something that used to be an anchor in your life, something that would weigh you down and hold you back, into one of the strongest forms of motivation to propel you forward.
Our first story starts many years ago at a funeral for a family member of mine. After a formal service and before the wake there was some walking around and polite “Nice to see you.” “Sorry for you loss.” type remarks. I ran into one of my family members who was upset and distraught. They were sobbing uncontrollably and asking the rhetorical question “why them?” They went on to further state that their life would never be the same and they could never be fully happy again. This person saying all of these things was quite young and it would have been a sorry state if they allowed this to be true.
Moments later, I ran into another family member. This person was the exact same relationship to the deceased and roughly the same age. Their take on the situation was much different. “Boy this sure makes you think, doesn’t it?” the young man said. You could tell he was upset, yet looking at this from a different angle. He went on to say how sometimes it really takes a funeral to make you feel alive. After a quizzical look from me, he explained. He said it served as a great reminder how important it is to not only make sure you tell those you care for that you love them, but to live your own life in a compassionate and meaningful way. Knowing that life ends is one of the best ways to make sure you really start living.
Two people, same situation, two entirely different viewpoints. Both people were equally close to the person who passed, yet looked at their passing in entirely different ways. One could only see the loss and end that had occurred. The other saw the motivation to really start loving and living. Death, my friends, can either be a merciless jailor or the greatest motivator. When we lose someone we love, that can be hard enough. We only compound that pain when it paralyzes us. If, however, we can find some type of positive, even if it is only that we must love those we have in our life while they are here, then the pain has at least served a purpose.
Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. There is no right way to grieve. To feel loss and pain when we lose someone we love so dearly is natural. It is my sincere hope that I may offer you something that will put your pain and feeling of loss to work for you. That may not lessen the hurt you are feeling, then again it might, but it may very well keep you from being paralyzed by despair.
The second example comes from a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine. The topic of discussion was mistakes we had made in the past and how we could still kick ourselves for some of the stupid things we had done. This can be especially true when it comes to relationships. When a relationship ends we feel a host of emotions – sadness, anger, loss, maybe even relief depending on what side of the equation you are on. One common feeling after a relationship comes to an end is regret. Again, this can take many forms. You may regret that you did not speak your feelings better. You may regret the way you treated the person or the way you let them treat you. You could regret not being more romantic. You could even end up regret wasting so many of your years with such a jerk.
I know many people who continue to beat themselves up with this regret years after the other half of the relationship has moved on. “I really regret not being more loving to her.” or “I really regret staying with him when he was such a jerk.” These people stew over this. They still get upset and usually it becomes contagious, as the person they are talking to regrets being in that conversation. They relive the pain, the hurt, the anger and the frustration. This not only does not serve them, but prevents them from moving on to a new and healthy relationship.
I have many regrets in my life, as we all do. Not just in relationships, but who I was as a man. There are even times when I catch myself pondering why I did so many stupid things in my life. Why did I sacrifice my character and integrity by not living up to my own standards. What I do is use this as fuel. My relationship now is one that I am extremely proud of. I am with what I do believe is the most beautiful woman on the planet. She deserves the best version of me. When there are times I feel like shirking my responsibilities as a man or as her man, I think of the pain of regret I feel for all of the time I let myself and others down. I want to give her the best man I can be, and I use this regret for motivation. I recall times that I was unhealthy, unfriendly, careless, not compassionate and other ways I failed to live up to my own standards. There is nothing I can do about those situations. They are done and over with. The jobs have been lost, the feelings have been hurt and the years of good health are gone. What I can do is use the pain of that regret to make sure I work as hard and as good as I can. Make sure to care for other’s feelings and treat my body as the temple and expression of the divine that it is.
We all have death and regret in our lives. Pain is unavoidable. What is up to us is whether we let that pain be our jailor or our motivator. Regret and loss suck. There is no nicer way to put it. As long as they have to be a part of our life, why not put them to work for us.