My youngest son got married last week. It was fun and beautiful and we are still riding the wave of wedding wonderfulness. We had the weather we prayed for and nearly everyone we love in one place.
Because I can only stay in a blissful state for so long before I feel unworthy, it became time to visit the regret farm — the place behind me where I go to cultivate weeds of “should have,” “if only” and “why didn’t I?” When did I say my characteristic stupid thing and whose life is thus permanently altered? I should have made a toast at the rehearsal dinner, I shouldn’t have danced so much at the wedding, If only I paid more attention to that person, I didn’t tell the photographer to get so and so … blah, blah, blah.
This is my old behavior, what I did before I found recovery for myself. I used to need perfection and control the outcome of everything — or so I thought. When I relay my mistakes and the earth-shattering consequences I think they have, my 12-Step sponsor says to me tongue in cheek, “Wow. You have a lot of power.”
In some literature from Hazelden I pulled the quote, “Our desire for perfection is often the need we have to be beyond criticism.” Ouch.
We parents of children in addiction or recovery wish we had done all kinds of things differently. We blame ourselves for the way things went — how we enabled, denied or missed it completely. We think that what we say or don’t say will stop his or her drinking as if the addict will pause, jaw dropped and exclaim to us aghast, “THANK YOU! I never thought of it that way! I think I’ll stop using drugs now!”
My new behavior is to remember that I’m human and I make mistakes. Dancing a lot at the wedding might not be a mistake. So what if so and so isn’t in any pictures. How would I go about changing that? And how do I go about changing that we didn’t realize Ted’s problem until it was utterly out of control? “Even God can’t change the past,” someone said. The point is that He uses it. It belongs to Him. It’s His story and I know better.
This is good for any parent, especially those of adult children , whatever journey our children are or have been on.
If we are honest with ourselves and others, we all have regrets and like my mom has said , “As you and your children grow older, I pray you will find healthy ways to live with your regrets.”
Thanks for this post and the “weed killer” :)
I love “healthy ways to live with your regrets.” For now I choose, “I did the best I had with what I had.” Some things I just didn’t possess to give to them. I’m hoping they can learn it from all the others God puts in their path. Thanks, Lynn.
I think I’ve been sharecropping on “Regret Farm” since I was old enough to hold a shovel. My kids are young, but I still enjoy mulling over my inadequacies when I see them make poor decisions ….. I take responsibility for their hatred of vegetables … funny how it always comes back to me.,
The great NHL coach Jaque Lemaire once brilliantly described the role worry has for him and his staff: “Worry is part of our life. We wake up, we worry. We go to bed, we worry. And when we dream, we dream about being worried.”.
What would my life look like without regret or worry?
Ah, the swiss cheese awareness of giving up what we don’t need. What will fill the holes? Fun and scary to throw that out to God. BTW, guilty as charged re: kids and veggies. But I didn’t serve much water and they all drink it. Pray they marry veggie freaks.
Awesome post Sarah, I am proud of you for dancing your butt off at your son’s wedding !!
Would that I could dance my butt off, but I appreciate the affirmation and you’re right. I think it was the right decision. Love.