Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Greatest Fear

“Sometimes I think all relationships exist in their own little universe and are subject to their own law of gravity. For a long while, that gravity pulled us together even against our collective will. It demanded that we be together and drew us in while we fought the strength of our growing bond. The thing is, as relationships shift and move, grow and shrink, the effect of that tug can change as well. Gravity, like magnets, can push us apart just as easily as it can pull us together. Chances must be grabbed and pounced on when they present themselves. Moments are there to be lived, experienced. Wait too long and those chances, those moments, disappear and are never heard from again. Then you are left like me. A big, gooey pile of regret. A broken person who might never fully recover from being a total ass. I don’t know what our alternate future would have held. The future where I embraced what we had and let him love me. Maybe it wouldn’t be any different than the reality we both live in now, but part of me will always wonder.” 

The above is an excerpt from my memoir, Gravity. It will very likely never see the light of day, because even posting this piece makes me a little nauseous.** I did it because it highlights an experience that embedded in me one of my greatest fears in life – regret.

You can tell me that I shouldn’t look backward, I can’t change the past or see the future, or that I might need professional help (heard all three on various occasions), but the fact is, I don’t want to live with regrets. I want to be ninety years old, surrounded by my great-grandchildren, and be able to honestly say I don’t have any major regrets in the way I’ve lived my life. It’s made me jump off cliffs and bridges*** and go away to college. Those are some positive experiences. My ever present fear also, on occasion, works against me.

Regarding my professional goals, it works to my advantage. Looking back, I’m not sure when I knew I would be a writer, but it probably started in middle school. I would make up stories all the time (which my parents called lying – always see the negative, those people). Before I left for college I wrote a couple of screenplays and started a novel. I still have them, and boy, are they hilarious. I got involved in theatre, wanted to be an actress. Got a degree in film. It took me a while to realize writing is the right outlet for my creativity. Sure, it’s scary to let people read and critique my writing. For me, it’s not as scary as the thought of not trying at all, of never knowing. So I write. I let people read it. I hope one day, lots of people will read it. Whether they love it or hate it, I won’t regret the journey.

In relationships, this fear of regret paralyzes me. I can’t make a move, can’t decide what constitutes the right thing. Most of all, I have trouble figuring out when to let go. Knowing when to throw in the towel, when to say goodbye, might be just as important to a relationship as knowing when to get involved in the first place. I tend to try very hard; so that if it doesn’t work out I can say I gave it my all. Try and ensure I don’t have any regrets years down the road. But what if I stay too long? Might that be something to regret as well? Wasting years when you know in your heart that the two of you aren’t a good match? What if you are just going through a rough time and things could change?

That’s the place I am stuck in at the moment. I’ve been here before. The last time, my Uncle Gary told me “sitting on a fence will give you a sore crotch.” Not pretty, but useful enough advice. I’m going to get off the fence. I am. As soon as I figure out which path doesn’t end in regret.

What are your thoughts, your biggest fears in life? Am I over-analyzing, or letting my past dictate my future? I would love to hear back from you, and promise a light-hearted post in the near future.

**After I wrote this post, I entered a BlogFest and posted another moment from Gravity. Consider yourselves lucky (or not) because you got to see more than one snippet.

***That photo is the *actual* bridge I jumped off. What an idiot!


  1. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Change used to paralyze me, but I learned to see it in a new light. If you don't embrace change and let things go from your life, you'll never bring new things in. Change is good. This is my personal litany when I start freaking out over upheaval. Change is good. Change is good.

  2. Oh, Trisha. I feel like the two of us could probably talk for hours. Before I met my husband, I was The Queen of letting bad relationships go on way too long. In fact, I started a novel about one of them and wrote almost 200 pages of it before taking a hiatus. I might finish it one day, but probably not. It centered around a relationship I had with a British guy (Rule #1: Never date someone who lives on a different continent) and I let it go on for about 6 months too long. So if you ever want to talk... you know where to find me!

  3. I believe that over-analyzing leads to the paralysis you speak of, especially where matters of the heart are concerned. But which is worse...a regret over a path not taken...or the regret that comes from making a bad decision? You can debate until the moon comes up on that one, but from where I stand a choice made, guided by intuition and instinct, tempered by facts and experience, can never be regretful, even if it turns out to be the wrong one.

    Step boldy forward, but don't be afraid to change directions. :)

  4. Monica - Thank you. Change is good. I'll try it. :)

    Anne - Yes. You, me, Harley May, and a few bottles of wine. I feel certain this would turn into an excellent evening. Thanks for the advice. And the offer.

    DL Hammons - Embracing the fact that you might make the wrong decision. Interesting thought. Thanks for the comment.