Our trip to Costa Rica has not gone as planned. To be honest, the plan was very sketchy when we boarded the plane to come here, but I had several guidebooks and I felt confident that the “plan” would come together on its own. But our stay here has been less about seeing sights than about discovering things about ourselves. Indeed, most of the discoveries we’ve made about ourselves involve imperfections and weaknesses. Though I wish that our Costa Rica trip would be “perfect” and I wish that I were “perfect”, in reality, these newly discovered weaknesses of mine are great souvenirs, I think.
At home in Nebraska on the weekends, sometimes I think I will go mad if I don’t have something that I have to do. Usually, we go to Colorado to do something out of this inner need that I have to constantly be in motion. I expect when we travel overseas that I will experience some peace; an escape from regret, so to speak. I am already out on my weekends here. I am already doing something even if I don’t leave “home”. Right?
Regret is adaptive. It can be instructive. It can help you avoid making the same mistake twice, for example. But it can also be paralyzing. It can keep you from making decisions in the first place for fear of making the wrong ones. I live in this place right now all the time. I live at an intersection between here and there wondering which way I should go. There are no landmarks. No light to indicate that one direction would be better than the other. And I have no personal preference in terms of the direction I should take. I have a constant state of regret rather than an inner sense of what I want to, what direction I want to take.
So I make crazy rules about right and wrong and then wait for something external to buffet me one way or the other. I wait for the wind to blow and then I go in the direction the wind blows. Or I start walking in the direction that I’m pointing after it starts to rain heavily. I wait for a wild animal to come down the road after me and then I run away from it. In this reality that I’ve set up for myself I don’t move toward anything because I want to. I move away from unpleasant things or I move with the flow of something else and I keep hoping I’ll end up where I want to be. But right now, I can’t even imagine where I really want to be (metaphorically, of course). That internal feeling that motivates me out of excitement is completely suffocated underneath the weight of feeling like I might regret what I did or did not do.
And I keep feeling lost and negative about where I end up, which causes me more distress and more regret about my “decisions”. My decision-making skills have become muddled by this profound sense of regret that pervades my everyday life. I don’t have this regret because I’ve done something terribly wrong. I just had some expectations about some things in the past that were way too high. I was painfully disappointed and hurt by the results. Instead of readjusting my expectations, I think I chided myself and made rules about not ever doing those things in that way ever again.
I am roughly at the halfway point in our trip. Five weeks have gone by and we have five weeks left. Rather than make a goal to see a certain number or set of Costa Rican things, or visit Nicaragua, or whatever, a better goal is to get this regret problem under control, I think. Because in a way, I think that I’m blind to almost everything that happens to me anyway until I do. And I’m not choosing to do what I really want to do anyway. I’m choosing what I think I should do (according to some of those crazy rules I’ve created for myself to follow).
Recently, I ran across an MP3 called “Living without Regret” as I was searching for something else, probably for a client, but the idea of living without regret stuck with me. It resonated with me. If I could do that, I could do anything.
Or, I could do nothing. (Which would also be nice.)