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No Regrets January 28, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Fiction, Gratitude, Happiness, Health & Wellness.

IMGP4187Barb heard a knock on the door and looked up.

David, hat in hand, stood framed in the doorway.

“David!  Come in . . . it’s so good to see you.”

He hung back.  “I figured you’d never want to see me again.”

“I do want to see you.  Very much.  Please come in.”

He looked at Barb and frowned, “This is all my fault.  You’re stuck in here because of me.  If I hadn’t dropped you . . . ”

“It was an accident.”

“You make it sound like I spilled a glass of milk.”  He nodded at the chart at the foot of the bed. “What do the doctor’s say?

“Well . . . the psychiatrist is frustrated.  He’s waiting for me to be angry.  Or sad.  Or angry.  Angry would make him happy.  He wants me to grieve.  To rail against fate.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Besides the fact that I’m getting a kick out of doing the unexpected?”

“Yeah, besides that.”

“I don’t know.  I’m just not angry.  The psychiatrist is sure I’m in denial.  He scowls when I smile and shakes his head when I laugh and tell him about my day.  He scribbles madly on my chart when I say anything positive.”

“So you’re driving him crazy.”

Barb grinned. “Yes.  And I take great pleasure and pride in that.”

“Maybe you are in denial.  Maybe it just hasn’t caught up to you yet.”

“Maybe.  But I don’t think so.  I think I’m in a state of acceptance.  At peace with the “what is.”  Any day could be my last.  If this is my last day, why would I want to spend it crying over spilled milk?”

“This is NOT spilled milk, Barb.  You’re paralyzed from the waist down.  I ruined your life.  Forever.”

Barb reached out and touched the back of David’s hand, “No, you didn’t.”

“How can you say that?”

“Easy.  Even in a wheelchair, I’m not as crippled as those who allow emotional scars to eat them alive.  People like that walk through life without seeing the good.  They are blind to the present moment.  Being paralyzed may keep me from walking, but it’s not going to blind me to the wonder and delights of life.”

“I just want those 5 minutes back.  If I hadn’t been showing off . . . ”

“Let it go, David.  I forgive you.  Forgive yourself.  Let go of the guilt.  Let go of regret.  You’re my best friend.  I don’t want you to destroy your life.”

“You mean like I destroyed yours?”

“Shall I be honest?”

“Yes.  Give it to me.  I can take it.”

“I would not choose to be in a wheelchair.  But I don’t get a choice in that right now.  It is the “what is.”  How I relate to that issue is the issue.  I can crawl into a ball and cry . . . or I can look for opportunities to laugh and smile.  I can hang on to anger . . . or I can embrace peace.  I can choose to be sad . . . or choose to be happy.   I choose happy.”

Barb reached out again and covered David’s hand with hers.  “I want you to do the same.  For me.  Be happy.  Live life with no regrets.  Find whatever joy you can.  Don’t take life for granted.  Life is good, but life is short.  Bad things happen.  Laugh when you can.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Is happiness an inside job?  Are we buoyed up or dragged down by the thoughts we choose to think?

Is Barb right?  Does hanging on to pain, regret, guilt, fear, anger, and sadness weigh us down more than losing the ability to walk?

Quote to Ponder:  How refreshing the whinny of a pack horse fully unloaded! ~ Classic Haiku


1. ericjbaker - January 28, 2014

Philosophically, I certainly agree with the idea that being angry about things you can’t change is a waste of time and energy that could be spent more positively elsewhere. But I’ve never been in Barb’s situation and I’m not sure I would handle it so well. Ot at least it would take quite a while to come around to that state of mind.

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

Well put, Eric. I would hope to arrive at a place of acceptance and peace, but expect that I would first shake my fist at the sky a few times first.

2. jannatwrites - January 28, 2014

She has a great attitude. I’m not so sure I could reach that state of acceptance without lingering in denial and anger first. It’s like when my best friend was diagnosed with MS when we were in our early twenties, I was shocked. She seemed to be handling it well, though. Some time later I asked if she was okay. “Aren’t you mad?” I’d asked. She responded with something like, “what good would it do?”

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

When faced with health challenges, we tend to go through the various stages of denial, anger, bargaining, etc., before we reach acceptance Some cycle through the stages faster than others. The sooner we reach “acceptance” . . . the better. Lugging excess baggage around is exhausting.

That said, I expect it would take me some time to process losing the use of my legs ~> the contrast serves to put my “petty” grievances into perspective. When we practice accepting the “what is” every day, we are stronger and more resilient when disaster strikes.

3. suzicate - January 28, 2014

I agree with Eric. It’s a wonderful idea, but not sure if I could be as gracious in that situation…I’d like to be though.

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

I agree. It would take some time to get to be a Buddha Barb.

A good friend and a true accident would be far easier to forgive than a drunk driver who shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of the car in the first place. I would have a harder time letting go of the anger against someone who displayed reckless disregard for my safety . . . or against someone who hurt me “on purpose.”

4. Eric Tonningsen - January 28, 2014

This one goes much deeper and wider, Nancy. From a personal vantage, much depends on the physical challenge, which in turn, affects the emotional and spiritual state. 25 years ago last month, I was terminally diagnosed (through no fault of a friend). I chose to live. It was a long road to grow into the space within which I thrive today. Over those years I studied Kubler-Ross and her “stages,” acceptance being the last. For me (and acknowledging the difference in situations), there is a considerable difference between acceptance and happiness. I’m not in Barb’s shoes but were I, there is no doubt I’d look in a mirror and know denial. Thanks for putting the topic ‘out there.’

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

Congratulations on your recent milestone! That is awesome.

I agree that acceptance is not synonymous with happiness. But I also believe that happiness flows from reaching a state of acceptance and peace about things that are outside our control.

As long as we are resisting the “what is,” we are adding to our suffering by casting shadows over the happiness we could find in whatever situation we find ourselves.

“Hardship is inevitable. Misery is optional.”

5. colonialist - January 28, 2014

Not many people can take a serious mishap and immediately accept it. Still fewer try to make something positive out of it. Those who can do the latter will never be got down.
There was a girl Alison Botha in SA who was raped and stabbed over 30 times and had her throat cut. Holding her intestines in place with one hand and her head up with the other she crawled to flag down a motorist. She just wouldn’t give up; the perpetrators were brought to justice by her observations, she recovered to get married and have a family, and became a motivational speaker.

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

Wow! Alison is one tough cookie! I’m glad they caught her assailants and delighted to hear that she’s had such a full life since that ordeal.

I agree completely ~ getting to acceptance doesn’t happen at the snap of one’s fingers. If we practice accepting small setbacks, we’re apt to find it easier to bounce back from big ones. I play the “it could be worse game” to try to put things in perspective as soon as possible.

6. diannegray - January 28, 2014

I agree with Barb – it’s a complete waste of time being angry or upset about things that are totally out of your control. Having said that, I’m yet to master this 😉

nrhatch - January 28, 2014

I’m with you 100% ~ I bet if we ever master the technique, we’ll achieve Buddhahood. 😀

diannegray - January 28, 2014

True! 😀

7. sufilight - January 29, 2014

I think someone like Thich Nhat Han or Pema Chodron would be in a state of acceptance (I am assuming) because they live lives devoted to the practice of mindfulness which includes acceptance and surrender. For the average person, i think they would go through the different stages of grief and then perhaps acceptance.

nrhatch - January 29, 2014

Absolutely. When we practice with daily “hiccups” we become proficient enough to deal with the boulders tossed in our path.

8. Booksphotographsandartwork - January 29, 2014

Yes I don’t think I would be as happy as she was. It would take quite some time. People who are naturally like that are very lucky. This comes at a rather odd time as I was hit with a bombshell last night. Nothing that I can speak of but a bomb for sure. Just waiting to explode and ruin lives. Other people jumping up to forgive all over the place. If they truly had then everyone would have kept quiet which is not something I normally suggest. Forgiveness isn’t the first thought on my mind trust me. This is a very complicated situation. And actually I will go so far as to say forgiveness isn’t even the issue right now. And if it was can you forgive someone for being stupid?

nrhatch - January 29, 2014

Your comment reminded me of this quote:

“I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it.” ~ Edith Sitwell

Hope the bomb is defused before detonation.

9. Three Well Beings - January 30, 2014

I love the haiku, Nancy! I do think happiness is an inside job, although I don’t know if I could be as “light” as Barb. I hope so, but I don’t know that for certain. I do hear in others the weight of holding onto the pain of the past, however. And it is indeed crippling. That is how I know that accepting what is must be the choice each and every time, or the bitterness robs forever! I think moving through some of the classical stages of grief may be necessary, though, to give the mind time to process and come to a healthier conclusion. I’m sure there are those who do, but my experience tells me they are very rare!

nrhatch - January 30, 2014

Reaching Barb’s level of acceptance would take most of us MONTHS (or longer). The sooner the better ~> as long as it’s true acceptance and NOT just stuffing unpleasant emotions under the rug.

I’ve done it a few times when faced with narrower parameters.

Once I was admitted to the hospital . . . to surgery . . . with no idea what was causing the pain. They knew something had to come out, but they didn’t know what. ACK!

I flowed through anger, fear, bargaining, etc., and reached acceptance in short order once I compared MY situation to that of children in the hospital who had NO IDEA why mommy and daddy didn’t fix the problem and take them home.

My compassion for the plight of others helped me to stop feeling like a victim. I started to feel grateful that (although in pain) I was in the hospital with a team of doctors or nurses who were looking out for me. In the end . . . NO SURGERY.

And I believe that my attitude of gratitude and acceptance helped turn the tide and heal me from the inside out. No scalpel required. :mrgreen:

10. bluebee - January 31, 2014

Mmmmm – David wouldn’t get that treatment if I was Barb 😉

nrhatch - January 31, 2014

It’s hard to live life with complete acceptance. But it’s exhausting to wrestle with the “what is.”

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