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The trouble with regret

“Remember,” my grandmother said, “what you answer right now might change your life forever.”

Breathe in, let the air fill your lungs and give a break to your racing thoughts!

I clenched my fists, looked straight up and felt ready to apologize, but then doubt fed my ego and started poking at my brains like a grass blade piercing through the snow, in spring – fragile, but standing out in all its glory.

I shouldn’t buckle up my pride! I shouldn’t let my hard gained manhood be crushed by the thumb of an elderly.

“I HATE YOU!” I spelled it out. “I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU!” And if my voice was harsh, my eyes stressed that feeling even more.

And, with that, I turned my back to her and slammed the door behind me.

Anger overpowered any good sense I might have known at that age - a teen that thought his whole universe was made up of others’ opinions and others’ understanding of importance. But, it was the only universe I knew, the only one that mattered at least. And, in its flaws I found my comfort, my belonging, my “finally-being-cool” place.

So what if I smoked?! She had no right to toss my cigarettes away!

She used to be my idol, my therapist for any problem I encountered. With resilience, she was taking her time explaining to me, to the best of her abilities, how the world was turning. But then again, her universe was limited to her four years of school and a lifetime of servitude to others.

And, if I found magic in her words at one time, back at that moment, I felt her inability to understand my actions, shaming. She was the dumb, peasant woman that couldn’t or wouldn’t live up to the higher standards of civilization I so eagerly sought. And, I went out that day leaving her with all her well-prepared desserts and concern over my wellbeing.

My grandmother was an orphan. She grew up as the youngest of four sisters, and at five she started working the fields, the stretch of dry land her family left behind, to gain her living in this world. And, she did that for the rest of her life, with a sense of predetermination and limited opportunities. She married young too, but to her, that was her only way out of a struggle to see the morning of every next day.

She told me once that her only options were “work till you die,” or “die not doing anything,” as if the fate played a cruel joke on her and forced her to just two ways of living she saw no escape out of. She knew hunger, pain, war, and on seldom occasion happiness. But, for me, what she called joy were just some mere moments of respite. Yet, if life gave her all the reasons to be bitter, she was my definition of kindness, my ever-smiling, always-good-hearted shero. And I was her definition of hope, of life that can get better, of opportunities that she could live, through me.

I guess when she found my cigarettes a part of her hope died, a small chip that broke of her otherwise perfect image of me. She stood there and then crushed them in her fist and tossed them away.

“What’s the meaning of this? Why are you throwing your life away so easily?” she asked.

I must have muttered a swear, ‘cause her eyes betrayed disappointment. Then she told me about how every action I take has a consequence down the line.

“Remember,” she said, “what you answer right now might change your life forever.”

Regret. I hate it. As if life is constantly yelling: You’re too late! I hate feeling regretful. I hate feeling like I missed the chance to act, react, and do something. Anything.

“I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU!” were the last words I told my grandmother before she died. And looking at her as she laid down in her final sleep, her hair nicely tressed, I felt small and utterly remorseful.

The trouble with regret is that it pushes you in corners where potential futures gather - all the could-haves and would-haves. The trouble with regret is that it carries with it two persistent escorts – guilt and sorrow, and they pound your heart’s door ready to take over. And now I live with them as constant companions, torturers that even the most sincere “I’m… sorry!” is not capable of shaking off.

And, that’s the trouble with regret…

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