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Everyone has something they regret. (image via https://techneur.com/post/2315611963/regret-minimization-framework)
"It's the season of spiritual inventory and self-reflection. What do you regret? What aching, burning yearning or deep guilt has trailed you for years? Be brave. Reflect & write."
And with this writing prompt, IKAR asked members - as they do every year - to reflect on the year gone by, and submit personal stories on a particular theme; these essays and paragraphs are then published in a book distributed at IKAR during the High Holidays, providing an additional opportunity for congregants to connect with renewal, repentance and change. In 2011, it was Epiphany. In 2012, it was Courage and Cowardice. I missed participating last year. And this year, IKAR members were asked to tackle the subject of Regret. My submission is below. Wishing you all a reflective, inspiring, healthy and peaceful new year.
Regret is a trap. You regret things you've done, or according to the adage, you mostly regret the things you don't do, the possibilities that came your way but which you were too scared, cautious, or irresponsible to pursue. But if my regret had a Facebook relationship status, it would be a solid "it's complicated."
I regret things I have done and things I haven't done, words I have said, and words I haven't said. I regret trusting too much and not trusting enough. In alternating dramatic moments, I regret nothing - I am staunch, resolute and strong; and I regret everything - I am ashamed, humble and penitent.
Communally, we catalogue our annual regrets in the language of liturgy, in rituals meant to mimic release - of guilt, anger, sin and regret. But as we stand at the bank, we pitch our iniquities into water, watching waves carry them forward toward a horizon. But it's not long before those same waves return sins to sender; the crumbs land at our feet, nudging at our toes, saying "your sins have been returned for additional processing." This is the way of waves.
Regret is that same trap, the surf that ebbs and flows, always receding and always returning. We can let the regret possess us, control our past guilt, obsess our thoughts in the coming year. Or we can let it guide, instruct, but not dominate what we do from here on in. As the musical says, "forget regret, or life is yours to miss."