I do not believe in living with regrets, or with the miseries of “What if’s” or “If only’s.” At my age I’m too busy being grateful for being here. But not so busy that I can’t still learn from my past and pass on a lesson or two to others who might utilize them far earlier than I did.
For instance: if from the beginning I was told I was born not with original sin but with original blessing, what other turnings would my journey have taken? That insight, thanks to Father Matthew Fox, came in my early 60s and has made a difference in my faith ever since.
Or, if in my early teens, in my high school years, if I had started thinking for myself instead of memorizing answers to just get on with the process of my education, how much more questioning would I be? That came clear early in graduate school when I asked a prof what it was he wanted from a particular assignment. He said, “Don’t give me what I want, Charlie. I probably have that already. Give me what’s inside you.” I got an A on my paper and have been trusting that bit of advice ever since.
And, if I were warned about how dangerous the myth of perfection is for the human self, and if I were told instead that ordinary was a more realistic foundation for growth and betterment, would I have gained a healthier sense of who and how I was? As a young teacher I took part in one of those sensitivity workshops that were all the rage back then. One of the participants, learning I was a priest, said to me, “It must be hell having to be perfect all the time.” I almost replied, “It sure is!” but caught myself and said instead, “Who’s perfect?” And my sense of self began to change.
Finally, if I had learned early on that when one buries a feeling, it’s buried alive, I might have saved myself and others much grief. It took therapy (and recovery) to tell me I had a million hiding places in my head but that honest feelings from the heart spoke the truth of me. I eventually learned many of my feelings were some of the best teachers I had for accepting self, for becoming better and for helping others.
Way back when is very much with me, telling me I’ve more to share and always more to learn.