Gosh there is a whole whammy of self-help out there.
Also lots of lists. Of the ‘five things you should know’ variety. But clearly don’t.
I have paid these lists a little more attention than is good for me. Particularly those hideous masochistic ones like five ways to tell if your partner is cheating on you and five things you should never eat again and five things not to say to a person in crisis. Unfortunately I read all of these after the fact.
I’m taking an interventionist approach. So I read ‘five regrets of the dying’ and perpetrate a new level of guilt warfare on my psyche. After reading it through a couple of times I realise it isn’t really about regrets. It’s about wishes. ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I’d been brave enough to express my feelings, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends and I wish that I had let myself be happier’.
And wishing is a state of hope, even if takes us to the saddest, darkest places. It is for the living to have regrets, so if we are good at time management we can get to work on them with a reasonable chance of return. A regret investment.
Channeling the self help counter culture, not embracing the ‘have no regrets’ part of me, I get to work on my list. I chew through a block of chocolate and most of my Zen in the process because I’ve called my self delusion in for a show down.
I cut. I edit. I rearrange until I realise I’m still doing one of the things I regret. I look longingly at some of the regrets in the recycle bin. Some of them look longingly back at me and whisper seductively, ‘you want us, in all our melancholy stickiness, you know you do’. And I do. I know I do. One in particular won’t go without a fight. I was 7. I teased a girl named Wendy Breany. I called her a fatty bombardi. She cried. But there it is. In the bin.
I settle on the final five;
I regret eating animals,
I regret believing in a hierarchy of forms,
I regret not noticing pain. Mine, my child’s and my worlds,
I regret not chasing beauty to her lair and
I regret only discovering Florence and the Machine last week.
Tonight I’m letting myself go. I apologise to Wendy Breany. I have been tormenting her with regret for way too long. She needs to be free. Likewise the chances to be kind, brave and just. And to be an aerobics instructor. I savour the taste of this glorious nostalgie. But before I get too comfortable I remind myself that this sweet romance with lament cannot go on forever. At some point I will have to start thinking like a good economic rationalist and get to work on my investments.
I start making another list. Tofu, soya milk, lentils……