My good friend called me over and told me that his ex-wife was in town. The next time I saw him, he told me that he done things he should not have done with his ex-wife but he said it in a joking manner and made light of it. I gave the wrong response . . . I laughed. The very next time I saw Paul was when I was visiting him while he was sick. What’s the first thing Paul does? He yells at me.
“I’m mad at you.”
“Mad at me? Why?”
“You’re supposed to be my friend.”
“I am your friend. We’re still good friends. Everything’s ok, right?”
“Well you’re supposed to be my friend but you don’t look out for me. You let me mess up with my ex-wife.”
“Well . . .”
“You don’t hold me accountable. I mean you’re the one who is supposed to jump out there and slap me when I’m going to make a mistake. You’re supposed to rebuke me when I do wrong.”
I wanted to argue with him. I felt an indignant response rising within me. I didn’t even know he was going to meet his ex-wife. I didn’t know the details. I didn’t get enough info. I didn’t know what to say though, so I did what I usually do when I don’t fully understand but hope to understand in the future.
We went on to talk about other things, but I always remember that day because it was my second lesson in friendship (my first was when I was a kid but that’s another story). You see, I can call some of my extended family crazy if I want. I can say that they impose their ideas and thoughts on me, but one thing is for sure. They will do anything to stop me from hurting myself. But where are your friends like that? Where are my friends like that? Where were they when people around me were making really bad decisions? Why couldn’t someone slap some of my friends and say “you will regret this—wake up—this is not you doing this!”
So that’s what I do. I fight. I slap my friends. I yell at them. I do. Because I’ve seen friends who regret decisions they made in their life and none of their close friends said anything to them. They all just said “Well, if that’s what you think is best,” or “I understand,” or “I’ll pray for you,” or similar responses. I don’t want friends like that. Or at the very least, in addition to those friends, I need other people who will throw cold water in my face and say “I know you. I know your thoughts and fears, hopes and dreams. And if any of that which you’ve shared with me is true, you are going to regret this.” I need the group of friends who surprise me when I come home one day and they’re all standing waiting for me near the door with a sign that says “This is an Intervention.” Then we all laugh and I say “Guys, there is nothing wrong with the fact that all the socks I wear have holes.” We all laugh. Then suddenly I’m the only one laughing, and they say “Yes, there is . . . sit down.” Even though I think my holy (wholly) socks are fine, it’s nice to know that when people think I’m crazy they will say something.
That’s what Paul taught me.
So I say things.
In the past week, I’ve had one good friend tell me she barely knows me. Another friend said she gets so overwhelmed with all that happens, not knowing where to start, so she decides to share nothing. A third friend said I choose other people over her. Some days I don’t get life.
The first friend who said she barely knows me said this in response to a question she didn’t want to answer but dealt with her situation. Why did I ask the question, even though it’s personal? Paul taught me to get in my friend’s face. When I asked she got upset and said she wouldn’t share things with someone she barely knows. I was shocked to hear we barely know each other. We have hung out a lot including salsa dancing and classes. I have helped her so much. However, I found out how she really thinks of me. I found out I was only there for convenience when she needed something—advice, proofreading, guidance, dance partner, etc. Well, there is no need for me to keep that relationship going. I’m always still there for her, but that’s all I’m good for.
My second friend is still a good friend but I realized, most probably, I’m also not considered to be a close friend by her. Even when I’m overwhelmed by all the happenings in my own life, I still tell my close friends. That’s when I would run to my best friends the most. So I’m not one of those people for her, though I thought I was. So I try not to initiate contact as much and let her contact me when she wants if she wants. It’s been a dry spell.
I’ve lost so many friends due to splits. Ask anyone whose ever had a divorce: one of the toughest parts of a divorce is the friends. Very few friends have an ability to remain friends with both people. Usually friends chose or are forced to chose. So sometimes, even when you’re quite amiable with an ex-spouse, you find out that a particular friend who you thought was a friend to both of you, was just a friend to the former spouse, not you. And that is hard to deal with especially when you try to contact them and they don’t want to talk (social cues and EQ are important here).
One friend has made me feel guilty for the past two and a half years. The funny thing is I’m not sure I did anything wrong, but I still carry this guilt and I want to offload it somehow. So in trying to grow in spiritual health and intelligence, I’ve realized I carry it, which is the first step. Now I must deal with it and drop it off somewhere because I don’t want it. But guilt reminds me of one thing that is true and cherished in my life—regret.
I’ve talked about regret many times before, and you know I have regrets. Yet there are many people that say they have no regrets. I’ve thought about this and realized, in a majority of cases, people say this because of the learning process. If someone makes a good decision, she is happy with a good outcome and learns from that. If someone makes a bad decision, she is not happy with the bad outcome. But she is happy with what she learned from the bad outcome and through the bad situation and possible pain. She will therefore make a better decision next time. This silver lining of learning causes people to say “no regrets” in most of the situations around me. The funny thing for me is that by basing regret on what you get out of it, you normalise and neutralise all situations because you always get something good out of it – whether it’s the good outcome or the good learning from a bad outcome. So people are not really differentiating or distinguishing between situations so every situation involves no regret. Rather, for me, I have a limited time on this earth. I don’t need or want to make every mistake that I made. I would rather learn as much as possible from the mistakes of others around me so that I can get ahead, start further along the track, go further and farther and make more advanced mistakes, mistakes and subsequent learnings. In other words, you had better believe, if I could go back in time, I would do things differently. Yes.
In fact, my guess is that people who have no regrets actually have done many things to regret. They just aren’t aware of it, perhaps. My second problem with regrets is the subjectivity of them. Sometimes you have a person who regrets something and then he changes his mind later. For example, I have never dated a single person—not one—who regrets the decision to break up. Not one. They all fit into two groups. One group is a happy group because the decision to break up with me was a good decision for each of them, and that group has never looked back. Good riddance (to me). The other group is more complex. People from this group will say, “I regret breaking up,” and they mean it . . . that is until they find someone else and get married. At this point, there response changes because the end always justifies itself. It’s like that wonderful Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayer” from his album No Fences, arguably one of his best albums. In the song, he thanks God that his prayer to be with a particular past woman didn’t come true because he ended up with his current wife. The end justifies itself. So every person that has ever said “I regret the breakup,” changes the thought when she meets someone else and gets married. Why? It’s really hard for people to truly be thankful and cherish who they have in the present while regretting something in the past. They see them as contradictory.
For me, though, it’s separate. I can have a wonderfully happy daughter, and still regret the irresponsible actions that led to her birth. That doesn’t mean she is bad or wrong or negated in anyway. She is a wondrous joy (hopefully) that came from a bad situation. It simply means that if I had to do it over again, I would have had her at a later period or after marriage or when I was able to take care of her. Yes, it’s true she might have been a different gender or she might have come out with a different personality but I would have loved that child as well. One doesn’t negate or diminish the other. In the same way, I can marry someone and have a wonderfully happy life and still be fully aware that if I were back in time I would make different decisions that would help and encourage and bless the people I dated in such a way that relationships would last, instead of hurting people or leaving people unsupported so that relationships crumble. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and it in no way negates the wonderfully amazing person that I find in the aftermath of past relationships.
I guess the biggest reason regret is important to me is that you can’t have character without it. In the movie, Big Kahuna, Larry and Phil (played by Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito) are marketing representatives of an industrial lubricant company. Bob (played by Peter Facinelli), a research and development person in the company, accompanies Larry and Phil to a trade show where the entire film centres on their hopes of landing a big account with a rich businessman, called the Big Kahuna by Larry. The trade show is almost over, and they are unable to get a meeting with him when the Big Kahuna invites Bob to an exclusive party. Phil and Larry wait in the hotel room, anticipating Bob’s return to hear how he hopefully convinced the Big Kahuna to open an account and partner with their industrial lubricant company.
Bob finally returns and gives the jaw-dropping announcement that instead of talking to the Big Kahuna about their product, Bob instead talks to the rich man about God and religion (Bob is a devout Christian). Larry, exasperated leaves the hotel room, and Phil and Bob are left alone. This clip is the conversation occurs between Phil and Bob about character, and one of Danny Devito’s finest performances. It happens just after Larry leaves the room. Take a listen when you’ve time. I guess the biggest reason that regret is good is because it’s honest. And I value honesty.