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by Judy
April 28, 2014

When I was a kid, I remember first hearing the French singer Edit Piaf, a small woman nicknamed the little sparrow, who had a huge voice that pierced right through your heart and soul. She transmitted through the words she sang and the power of her voice the full weight of her life which was definitely not always easy. One of her famous songs was, “Non, Je ne regrette rien” (No, I don’t regret anything). I mention this as I’ve been reflecting upon regret. I’ve been thinking how it is almost impossible not to have any regrets in one’s life – wishing, for example, we had been a better parent, wife, husband, child, student – the list goes on. Having regrets seem unavoidable and yet there is Edith Piaf’s poignant song where she did not regret anything in spite of having a difficult life.

We often say ideally we don’t want to live with any regrets before we die and certainly when someone is dying, we don’t want to regret not having expressed the important things to them or not having done everything that we could. We don’t want unfinished business. We don’t want to go to our grave feeling, “I wish I had done that or I wish I had not done that.”

Just recently I have been experiencing certain regrets in relationship to my mom. I’m not sure exactly why, but I think it’s related to how tender I feel towards her, seeing how vulnerable and sensitive she is and just valuing the significance of relationships in general. So what has come into my consciousness is the time after my brother died...it was a long dying and afterwards, my mom went back down to Florida and I continued with “my” life. How little time I really spent with her afterwards. I ask myself how could I not have spent more time with her during this intense period of grief. I apologized to my mom when this hit me and she said, “No, need to apologize.”

Later thinking about this, I also paradoxically realized that it could not have been any different. I was a different person then, so was my mom and so was our relationship. During that time when my brother was dying, we had been through a lot and in many ways were closer than we had ever been, and still I can’t imagine behaving any differently. I was starting a whole new and glorious chapter in my life and had been living independently for many years. My mom had always been very resilient and independent - self-sufficient - the one who people leaned on for help and advice. We spoke more often together but as far as I remember, that was it.

I was not ever aware of this regret until very recently - it surfaced into consciousness because of my experience now with my mother. And it strikes me how it easily could have never resurfaced. I could have gone to the grave without ever feeling this remorse. No doubt there are so many of these unrecognized regrets that will go to my grave. It’s like when we are so ignorant and unevolved, we act in ways that reflect that state of development and only when we move a bit forward - our conscience is pricked - that we become more aware of our past actions. Or another way to think about it is when we are younger, we don’t often have the experience, understanding, wisdom and empathy that we ideally gain when we are older. And even so, much gets forgotten and perhaps that is for the best. It could be very overwhelming. But there is a poignant sweetness in bringing up these regrets that penetrate our heart, soften us and reveal as well where we are now…more sensitized, emphatic beings.

I also find it interesting to apologize and feel regret and at the same time realize it could not have been any different. You can’t really “beat” yourself up in that situation. No, you are just left with a very raw tender feeling.

So when Edith Piaf sang that song, “Non, Je ne regretted rien,” which forever moves me, I am seeing it in a new light. It’s like we can have regrets and still express such a positive song of no regrets. A paradox for sure.  We can still sing, “Non, Je ne regretted rien” while experiencing the regrets that are inevitable if we live long enough. It is a testament to such a strong, indomitable spirit which is also vulnerable and soft able to embrace our full humanity that never was or ever will be perfect. With this spirit, one carries on and hopefully develops, evolves and becomes a more loving human being.

Feel free to share your thoughts


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