A year or so ago. I’m walking through Queen Square in Bristol somewhere around lunch time, when an earnest young woman with a clipboard approaches. I try to avoid eye contact, but she’s not having it.
“Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
Yes I do. I’m in a hurry. And you probably want money. I’m too polite to say it of course.
“Do you have any regrets?”
Wow. Didn’t see that coming. I gawk at her for a moment. She must get that a lot. Then I hear myself say.
“You know what? I don’t think I do.”
It’s her turn to gawk. In the ensuing confusion I head off to my meeting.
Regret’s a funny one isn’t it? If I said there was nothing about the past I’d change in an ideal world I’d be a liar. But some of the things you might think I’d want to change I really don’t. Being married for example. It was unpleasant for all concerned, but my children wouldn’t be who they are if I’d married someone else, and I really wouldn’t want them to be different. Likewise my subsequent relationship. It looked like an utter disaster. Worse than the first, if that’s possible. But so many good things came out of it, both directly and indirectly. How can I regret fleeing half way across England to escape Charlie when I found so many wonderful friends in my unexpected home?
The older I get the more I question the value of regret. If only … The truth is I can’t change what happened even a split second ago. It’s over. Gone. I’ll never get it back. There’s no point in trying to grab it. Change it. Mould it to the way I think it ought to have been. All the time I’m doing that I’m missing what’s happening now, and building fresh regrets for the future.
Today has seen the passing of Stephen Sutton. Described as inspirational, Stephen spent most of his teenage years battling terminal bowel cancer. As good a reason as any for regret you’d think. A short life filled with bitterness and if only … Like hell. Instead he went for packing a punch. He crammed as much as possible into the short time he had. Did as much good as he could. Measured his life by achievement rather than time. Quality rather than quantity. I’d rather measure [life] in terms of making a difference, he said, and I can’t help but wonder how the world might look if more of us thought that way. What if …?
What if … The art of the possible. The dream. The inner voice. Asking if the dull and reasoned life we live is really the only way. My beautiful niece Michelle lost her life in a road accident almost two years ago. She’d packed more into twenty-one years than many people do into three times as long. She had a what if … approach. Live life in colour, she said.
So … what if I let go of if only? Stop clinging to the past. Seize the present with both hands. Live it to the full. In colour … Who knows? Not one of us knows how long we’ve got. So what do I have to lose? Thank you Michelle. Thank you Stephen. For the reminder. For the inspiration. Life is precious. Glorious. Fragile. And uncertain. Measure it in terms of making a difference. Live life in colour.
I’m blogging to raise funds for a charity close to my heart. I’ve given up NOT being a writer for 125 days in support of One25’s work with vulnerable women in Bristol. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, you can find out more about what I’m doing by visiting One25’s website at http://www.one25.org.uk/. You can also support them by visiting my fund raising page at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=JeanMutch where you can make a donation and suggest an idea for a short story or a post on the blog. Thank you.