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“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future.”
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I was sitting here reflecting, as most writers and those of us who think too much when life gets to be too much do and I came across this tangle of regrets.  The moments I just lay in bed and pull the covers up over my head in hopes that reality isn’t really real.  The moments when I have a thought of a mistake and wonder – what in the hell was I thinking?  How did I end up HERE?

Then of course, as one regret sneaks up on me quietly, the rest continue to show up.  How many mistakes could I have really made in the last 20 years?  Was it just one or two wrong decisions?  Or has it been dozens? How do I cope with those and tuck them away?  Or should I just sew them into my days and assume the position, wearing them with a sort of pride?

I’ve managed to live with them.  Some are newer than others.  Some are created at the reading of what others say or think.  None of us is impervious to criticism.   But it’s not always the direct criticism.  It’s the things we see being tossed around by those we look to for a word from time to time.

Moving forward is really the key.  But here are the five ways I’ve gotten better at moving past regret quicker in the last year:

Deal with the likely fact you’ll have a couple over your lifetime.

I rarely meet people who don’t have any regrets.  When I do, usually they’re speaking from a place that they no longer regret something.  They’ve moved on.  I also have lost all pride in asking people how they managed to move past something – especially when they’ve been open about what they regret, how they have managed to live life after and how they used it.   For the most part, if you’re breathing, you’ll regret one or two things.  It’s ok.  It just means you’ve been living, you’ve taken chances and hopefully working towards a better life.

Learning to forgive yourself for ‘stupid’ mistakes or ‘bad’ decisions.

Regret and unforgiveness go hand in hand. I’ve found when I can look at myself in a moment of decision and think about how I was thinking and then figure out why I made the decision, I realize sometimes I just wasn’t equipped to handle some of the things I’ve come up against. Given a few choices of how to fix something, we often choose what fixes things right now – not what mitigates damage in the future.  As we mature, we tend to make better long-term decisions.  I know now, at 17, 21, 25, 32, etc there is only so much you know.   Forgiving ourselves helps us not to hold onto it.  

Making actual moves to improve your life.

This can appear in many forms.  An actual move, a new job, starting a volunteer project or working in a hobby you’re passionate about.  Closing the gaps on the things left undone. Getting to a place where we don’t have to ‘look back’ all the time and have a space to enjoy the now and plan for the future is key.  When I started writing, when I began to do what I’m good at and share, it changed everything for me.  This is an important step.  It’s not about talking about things all the time, it’s about taking action.  Movement.  You know, the “Git up, Git Out” theory as brought to us by the good brothers OutKast.

Regret can be used as a learning tool.

I keep saying this, but I started writing 1) because I had a passion and 2) I felt like I had things others could learn from.  Funny enough, when I go back and read some of these posts, I find actual gems.  Guess what?  There’s beauty in ashes.  We have to learn to build from mistakes.  Absolutely no one is perfect.  It doesn’t give us the license to be awful human beings, but it does give us a point of where we may need to improve.  Improve more and enough of your already wonderful self and next thing you know?  The sting of regret isn’t as bad as maybe it was on the realization on day zero.


I come back to this often.  Mostly because I know and understand the benefits of it.  If you realize you can’t deal with the guilt, the regret and aren’t able to manage it, the important thing is to find someone else to talk to.  Sometimes it’s your family and friends, but sometimes you need a professional who can hear the story from a new angle.  It may even take you a while to open up to find the right person.  Maybe you’re not comfortable with talking to anyone and admitting either 1) your mistakes or 2) that you’re having trouble dealing with them.  Listen, you absolutely have nothing to be ashamed of when you’re asking for help.  If your arm was broken in three places wouldn’t you go and have it reset?  Your answer needs to be yes. My point is, our mind and emotions are just as important as any other limb or organ we have checked.  Not to mention, with the rate so many Blacks are suffering and going untreated, I believe it’s time we ask for help when things seem to be too much.  I’ve been… so there, it can’t be that bad can it?

John Wooden says, “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.”   I have to agree with him on this one.  The point is regret can hold you captive.  Don’t let it.  Start the year in expectation and hope.

I’m curious – how have you manged to move past regret?

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13 thoughts on “Mastering Regret : Flashing Lights

  1. Maris

    A lot of my writing is therapeutic; I write through a problem and share because every story should have a conclusion. It forces me to explore past the hurt and regret to ask myself what the lesson was. If there’s a lesson, then I let regret go. I may still be hurt, I may have some healing to do, but I don’t feel guilty or regretful. Now moving past the pain? I may need a novel to write thru that, lol!


    1. Rae Post author

      LOL!!!! I feel you on that Maris!!! I do a lot of writing or at least mental writing that gets mulled over a thousand times…writing is really a good indicator of where I’m at. If I can’t finish it, I don’t think I’ve worked through the situation yet. I love the “if there’s a lesson, then I let regret go.” <<<<<<< That’s a real word right there!!! If you choose to write that novel on the pain, then make sure to let me know.


  2. Rhymes with Juliet (@MsShonnerz)

    I’m getting sick and tired of you preaching my life, Rae!

    With my move in September, birthday in October and most recently approaching New Year’s Day, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the past few months. I have a legion of regrets, big and small, and thinking about them is exhausting and paralyzing.

    If you’d asked me at 25 what my life was going to look like in my mid-30s this DEFINITELY isn’t it. My current reality and my former dreams don’t match and it has been difficult to come to terms with that. However, I’m trying to spend less time mourning the future that wasn’t and more time creating the future that can be.


    1. Rae Post author

      I’m sorry Shon… I know I stay in everyone’s business as of late. But it’s my business to stay in y’all’s business since I’m preaching my life too! Deal! LOL…. but girl, the reflections can get you – I know about this. Did I make a wrong turn? What could I have done better? Should I have reconciled with _____ about ______ and tried again?

      I am right there with you about being 25. I never would’ve put myself where I am. I have went over and over it in my head, but I feel like if I change something, it’ll change what’s coming down the pike. I think it’s better for future me (us) than I had previously imagined. I also believe due to all the fuckery I’m much better equipped to deal with things (and help others) in the future. I still mourn what hasn’t happened sometimes, but at least now I’m out of the “Stay in my pajamas all day” phase. xoxo


  3. Eva

    Yep… all this here. I see them regrets sitting on my couch filing their nails like they are just waiting to get at me. I just ignore the regrets when I can, and find someone to talk through them with once the shame of it all dies down. Oh yeah, when the regrets come over, they always bring their friends shame and denial. Thank you so much for this post – love the photo! I stared at if for a while before reading… like if I looked long enough it would come into focus. Very nice shot.


    1. Rae Post author

      LOLOLOLOL!!! The sure do come over here. I don’t know how they got keys to the house though. I change them and every.damb.time…. but you are right – you have to talk with someone – after the shame. Girl the shame has had me quiet for months at a time. Thanks about the photo! I took it last night after realizing I could actually stay home and didn’t have to be anywhere. I was so thankful!


  4. Nina Badzin

    Lots of truths here, Rae. Usually when I have a regret it falls into two categories:
    1. Saying something I wish I could take back. lesson: be careful with my words
    2. NOT doing or saying something when I had the chance. Lesson: act, do, don’t just think.

    Unfortunately those two lessons are sometimes in opposition!


    1. Rae Post author

      Hi Nina!!! Happy New Year to you! I love when you stop by! Thank you… Sis, your points on regret are so poignant. It took me a long time to learn how to say something, still express my feelings, but to be able to say it kindly (versus blowing up or just never saying anything and holding in the hurt, anger, etc). NOT doing something has to also be the author of some of the greatest regrets. But the fact that they ARE in opposition?????? Means I have to learn to discern when to use what which is also tricky in navigating life and other social situations. Thank God for grace and for patience. Less I wouldn’t have any friends or folks who love me! We’re getting better.


  5. bpcharles

    Love this. I realized that this is a lesson that I continue to struggle with and it stems from my inability to forgive myself. I am determined to move past this in the new year. It’s too heavy a burden to continue holding everything on my shoulders.


    1. Rae Post author

      It really is a heavy burden. I have struggled with it on an off for years. I’m finally in a place where I can say, you know I’m ready to move past this and feel differently.


  6. trinityizreal

    Lord…Rae, I need to print this out and put it on a wall in my room or take a screen shot and save it as my screen saver!!! #2 & #3!!! I find myself frustrated and finding it rather difficult to forgive myself because I make the same mistake repeatedly. I want to be able to say it’s okay because I’m still young but…it seems like a conundrum continuum to me. Anyways, back to your post…I don’t know if I can say I’m in a place where I have been dealing or am actually ready to deal with my regret…well, I don’t know if…on to #5, I love your command, “your answer needs to be yes.” You always tell us how it really is and then soften the sting of the reality check by saying, ‘it’s needed’ – I LOVE it. Thank you for, not only, calling us out on ours but for coming clean on yours. It’s encouraging and appreciated!


    1. Rae Post author

      Hey girl! I don’t have any choice but to come clean on mine. None. It would be difficult to write the blog about myself if that was the case. On days I can’t I think I’ll just post other stuff – or pictures. Pictures work. Many of us make the same mistake repeatedly. It’s difficult to change our patterns. I know that first hand. Until I was forced to change mine. Create a new and different way of looking at things and doing things. It’s hard to deal with regret. It is… the other thing is it prevents us from taking further actions. We get so wrapped up in what could have been, we don’t work in real time. I wasted too much time, but it’s not that I don’t think about it – clearly as the next post I just wrote today talks about it in some way you know?


      1. trinityizreal

        Hey Rae! Not being able to post things about yourself is understandable, I don’t anybody wants to share everything. Yes, pictures do work and your pictures work well! It definitely is difficult to change our patterns/habits. I tend to frustrate myself because I feel like I should be able to look at things differently but I don’t change because I can’t seem to understand my patterns/habits any other way and I know what to do to change in theory but – in practice? I, sometimes, think the principle of my patterns are higher/better than the point of/for changing…what ‘should’ have forced me – didn’t, I guess…but like you say – that causes me/us to not move forward; #truth. Yes, your next post does talk about it – I’m the one, made it to the dock in good time, watching the boat take off, saying to myself, ‘I decided not to get on the boat (that I ‘paid’ for/will pay for in more ways than one) because I looked at the itinerary and realized the activities that were being hosted weren’t what I expected/wanted, so it doesn’t even matter that I miss it’…and then I realize that, in some instances, I may have to do what doesn’t matter to me…


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