Friday, February 27, 2009

Rolling Around with Regret

We have always made a big deal out of giving things we don’t use anymore away. I don’t believe in holding onto things for a rainy day, especially when we don’t have room at our house to store things we don’t “need.” I always ask myself this question: what are the chances someone else needs this item more than I do? Almost 100% of the time, the chances are pretty good the item needs to have a new home. If I really needed it… I wouldn’t be asking myself the question. A step beyond that is assessing the things I can give away that aren’t extras in my life. Those things are usually things I like and want but they are also things I know I don’t need. It can actually hurt to give up some of those things… but that’s what sacrifice is all about.

About every three months, we have a “clean out” day where we all go through our stuff and see what can go. Little Brett is part of that process. He is getting to the age where he fights it a little more than he used to but I think it is a good learning experience for him regardless. He will pick out the toys he doesn’t really play with anymore and we will talk about how another kid who doesn’t have much would really enjoy it. I let him bag his stuff up then we go to the mission and he gives them the bag. Most times, he is happy about it and feels good. He also sees that his mommy and daddy do the same thing… and we talk about it, so I think that makes a big difference too.

The other day Brett, who is four now, had a melt-down out of the blue. And it was the real thing… tears marking real sadness just flowed from him. At first I thought he was just “acting” but then I realized he was experiencing a brand new feeling he had never had before… it was the feeling of regret!

Right before this past Christmas, Brett had gathered some toys and books he was ready to give away. We ended up giving it to the man who helped us rake leaves one day (if you haven’t read that story – here’s the link:“The Stranger” scroll down a little.) One of the things Brett gave away that day was a Thomas the Trai
n Whistle and Wheels Couch he had gotten for Christmas in 2008. To be honest, I was surprised he was willing to give it up because it was pretty cool. The truth of the matter was, it was too small for him. He is a very tall boy and it just wasn’t sturdy enough to hold him up. I think there was more frustration for him than joy when it came to trying to enjoy it. Anyway, he decided to give it away.

Fast forward to his melt-down the other day.., it had been 4 months since he gave his Thomas couch away and all of a sudden, he wanted it back. He asked me where it was and when I reminded him he had given it away, he simply couldn’t handle it. He asked when he was going to get it back… he said he didn’t mean to give it away “forever and ever.” This had NEVER happened before so I was a bit shocked. My heart began to ache for him as I saw how deeply saddened he was over this. I gently told him the truth of how it didn’t belong to him anymore and told him how nice he was to have given it to someone in need. Of course, that didn’t matter, he was flat out upset… inconsolable. I wanted to hug him but he wouldn’t let me. He cried and cried repeating, “I want my Thomas couch back” over and over. Man did that bring up memories for me!!!! I could so relate to this four year old mourning a decision he had made. Of course, four year olds don’t understand consequences… and I have to be honest, I’m not that much different than a four year old in ways. My alcoholic brain makes consequences difficult for me to comprehend (that’s why I have a sponsor who helps me figure that stuff out).

It was painful for me as a mother to watch this life lesson play out, not able to comfort my child’s painful regret. He cried, rolling around on the floor so sadly for almost 40 minutes… then finally, when he was ready and on his terms… asked me if I would hold him, which I did quickly. It took some time for him to “get over it” but he eventually did. He went on with his day seemingly happy until dinner time when we played our around the table game “Mad, Sad, Glad” where each of us tell one thing that made us feel each feeling that day. When it was his turn, he remembered the sadness of missing his Thomas Coach and the whole thing started over. It took about 20 minutes for him to ask for a hug that time and before long, he was back to normal again.

I guess that is how it is for me when I think about the things I regret doing or not doing. The gut-wrenching sadness is overwhelming and feels as though it will last forever but, of course, it passes eventually. Each time I am reminded of it after that, the pain lessens slightly. I don’t think God wants me to have regrets that last longer than that initial burst. I think God knows my heartache and has great compassion for me, just as I did as Brett’s mother watching him work through it. I think God is willing to do whatever it takes to make me feel better but I am just like Brett. I roll around on the floor not wanting to be comforted. I want my misery! Assuming there is someone still hanging around by the time I’ve had enough self-pity, I request a hug, but it’s on my terms.

To me, regrets are sort of like the unused stuff I let pile up around the house… if they aren’t fulfilling a need in my life, it’s time to let them go. One of my favorite 12 step sayings is this, “If you’ve got one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow, you’re in the perfect position to crap all over your today.” To me, regrets are part of yesterday and have no place in my tomorrow so I have to make the choice to let God comfort me today, in His way, on His terms. His terms are so simple but I complicate them terribly… I believe His terms are… give it once and let it go. The cool thing about God is that unlike a mother who watches helplessly as her child agonizes, He can remove the pain part of regret if I let Him. The memories will remain, as a gentle reminder of what once was, but the pain that was once attached… can just flitter away. If it doesn’t, then the only one I have to blame is myself for not letting Him take it.

In closing, I believe God wants me to find rest and peace in Him. He gave His Son, to me, as a person in need. It hurt Him deeply to make that sacrifice because Jesus wasn’t just an extra chair sitting around the kingdom that God didn’t need anymore. I think by accepting God’s comfort on His terms, I am actually glorifying the sacrifice He made. When I come to Him and allow Him to lift my regret, comfort my pain and soothe my roll-around-on-the-floor restless pangs… He knows it was worth it. In short, I know without doubt that God will never want His “Thomas the Train Whistle and Wheels Couch” back, so I’m going to do my best not to waste the gift He gave me.

1 comment:

  1. Alexander Graham Bell wrote:

    "When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."

    We so often focus on the wrong things with regret, but like you said sometimes we are 4 year olds just swimming in the pain and anguish. When we let God help us he helps to shift our focus to the new doors he just opened for us.