Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by the things happening in life that it seems difficult just to make it through the day? From the outside, it might look like you have everything – a great career, a significant other, luxuries that many people might envy. What people see on the outside is always a half-truth. Everyone – no matter how much they perceivably have – can fall asleep with the “could-a-would-a-should-haves” echoing in the back of their mind. The worst part about this is that phrase is that it also addresses that tension between not having regrets and that familiar clichés like “It is what it is.” Or the rationalization that “Hindsight is 20-20.”
Admittedly, it is easy to say things like “No regrets,” or “Everything happens for a reason.” But really, it is all too easy for one to be knowledgeable about an event after it has happened as we try to come up with reasons and excuses for the decisions that led up to the point that we should have realized the entire time. Why didn’t we see it? Why didn’t we appreciate it? Why didn’t we stop and understand the importance of all of our choices or ignorance in a specific moment? Why didn’t we take the time to simply savor the things that made us truly joyful and blissfully happy? If you’ve ever lost a dog, a parent, or done something that cost you a relationship with someone you truly loved because you were too caught up in making the world all about your immediate gratification, you know what I mean…
And still…even asking these questions only amplifies the weight of regret. What’s even worse than looking back on the things in our life and the decisions we make is the weight we place on our shoulders when things didn’t turn out as we expected. When we didn’t say “I love you” to a person that mattered, or taken the time to spend an extra five minutes petting your dog and hugging them one more time before you walked out the door and left them for the last time.
There are so many people who stress the importance of “Living in the moment” and not worrying about the future or not dwelling on the past…generationally, religiously, spiritually. Sometimes I just want to be able to stop and admit that it hurts when I make a mistake, or when I failed to take care of something that had larger implications because I was lazy, or selfish, or … human. Shouldn’t it be okay to feel sad about the mistakes we’ve made? Have we all gotten selfish to the point where we numb ourselves to the pain others have gone through and fail to empathize with them about the loss or failures or regrets that bring tears to our eyes and make our insides feel like they’ve split in two?
I am sort of at a loss for words. I’m not sleeping well lately as I’ve been traveling abroad. Whenever I’m in another country I find it difficult to adapt to all of the changes. First of all, I’m not used to a language that I cannot speak, even if I try. I feel like a helpless little kid. I download Google Translate or look up words or even learn the basics – “Excuse me, I don’t speak French”…or “Pardon me, do you know where the toilet is?” … “I’m sorry…” …”Thank you…” “Do you speak English?”
Beyond this, you leave everything you know behind. The comfort of your closet full of clothes. Your go-to-comforts like perfumes and lotions. Your ability to be reached via text and phone around the clock. The time-zone most people in your life abide by. You must adjust to new sounds, new foods, new cultural customs, new manners, new currency.
I’ve been in France for a few weeks now. Until yesterday, I did not have a means through which to write or call anyone because I had an American SIM card on my iPhone X. I’ve been staying in a country house that looks like the gardens of Versailles – it seems like a dream if it was 200 years ago.
I’m staying with a family who is completely fluent in English, but they all speak French at the dinner table. When I try to speak English, I feel as if I’m interrupting. I was even told not to speak at several dinner’s because speaking English was something that, like a typical American, showed I thought I was the center of the universe; nothing could be further from the truth with regard to my intention. So I stopped talking. And I attended dinner because that is all that is expected of me. What is there to eat? Well…
I have been served foods that, despite my open mind and adventurous spirit, are beyond easy to swallow so to speak. Sardines. Rabbit. Cow tongue. Some type of snail that is not really a snail (and apparently there is no English equivalent). I’ve eaten liver, baby lamb, baby cow. If you don’t eat at lunch or dinner, you don’t really get to eat at all.
I’ve had allergic reactions with my skin – my daily contacts feel like glass halfway through the day, I’ve been the pharmacy twice for allergy pills due to hives and bumps that itch that have taken over various regions of my body, and it is difficult to breathe because it has been 95 degrees without air conditioning during the day.
I’m behind in work because I’m exhausted from the heat and the new schedule. I’m expected at the meals but not given a time that the meals are served. I feel anxious and depressed much like a prisoner, trying to stay positive when I cannot really do the things that an adult should be able to freely do in their day to day life when they aren’t actually on vacation.
Despite all of this, I’m not complaining. I’m simply venting. I just need a little empathy. I feel a little downtrodden. I agreed to go to France to find a wedding venue. The tickets were booked for 17 full days. While I can work from anywhere, the temperatures and lack of a decent working place (no desk, inconsistent Wi-Fi, opposite working schedules of all of the people I work with on a daily basis + unempathetic hosts to the fact that even as a woman I work) have put me behind. I’m having to make some big decisions regarding what to do with a tenant who destroyed a property I own in the Midwest that I rented out when I moved to NY. The tenant basically destroyed my place and is threatening to take me to court for the damage deposit that frankly does not even come close to covering the costs for repair. I have a dog back home who has been aging rapidly…and he’s my best friend in the whole world. His caretaker sent photographs today of a wound that somehow became infected after I left. I keep thinking, “Why didn’t I say goodbye?” “Why didn’t I make sure my tenant took better care of my place?” “Why am I so trusting?” “Why is being an adult so hard?”
My eyes are nearly swollen shut from sleep deprivation and tears. I feel sick to my stomach and am physically and emotionally exhausted. When John woke up from a nap next to me and saw me in tears, rather than giving me an empathetic or compassionate response, he said, “Why didn’t you call the vet yesterday? You knew your dog might be getting sick for over a year.” And “Why didn’t you deal with the tenant before all of this happened?”
For the first time I felt like we were speaking different languages. With matters of the heart, when you love someone, should you ever ask them “Why didn’t you…” or “Why don’t you?” Isn’t the purpose of having a partner to make life – which is already quite challenging on a daily basis – a little less difficult? Why push someone down when they are already so obviously struggling?
I am grateful that I’m able to admit my vulnerabilities in being human. I feel pretty alone right now and a Microsoft Word document definitely cannot hug me back. It’s 7:30 PM and I’m supposed to be getting ready for a dinner and birthday celebration in a city in France that I couldn’t even point to on a map. But instead, I’m going to take tonight to dwell – with gratitude – on the things I DID do and the things I actively decide to DO on a daily basis. Ultimately it is these choices that make me a decent human being with a good heart. As I crawl into the hotel bed, I send thoughts of love to the people who have supported me, who have encouraged me, and to the things that have nourished my soul – my dog, advice from grandparents, hugs from loved ones, and knowing that it won’t be long before I’m back to the familiar comforts of my own bedroom, my own bed. I will go to sleep with a clear conscience knowing that my good heart and pure intentions are something that will never keep me up at night. As for the other worries, I will put them to rest as best as I can and accept the uncomfortable feelings that come along with being human…why I did not maybe doesn’t matter as much as why I continue to do what I do, after all.
PS- John said he was sorry after we had our discussion. Sometimes you just need to take time to get all of the emotions out and take a deep breath. Good communication and admitting when you’re wrong or saying you’re sorry (Link to Post 11- Hugging your Vulnerabilities) makes a world of difference.