Thursday, 22 September 2011

Je ne regrette rien

The sky was perfect earlier, gold, pink and lilac with clouds the colour of a Russian Blue cat. A reward for putting up with days of damp, uninspiring weather.

I'm not sure if it's the change of season, but I keep getting the sense that something dramatic is about to happen. It's not a sense of impending doom, or a stomach-churning excitement (I was probably 10 last time I had that) rather a feeling that something unprecedented is looming.

When I was single, before having children, I would agree to go out with friends [on the weekend] early in the week. If, by the weekend, a feeling of nervousness or foreboding overcame me, I'd cancel the night out  - sometimes just hours before. My auntie used to do the same to my mother, causing untold frustration.

I regarded these feelings as warnings or premonitions and trusted my instinct so much, I let my moods dictate every choice I made. Of course, I'm more realistic now and realise that self-fulfilling prophecies were what I was creating - not accurate predictions.

The last time I had an exceptionally strong feeling I wanted to stay in was around 13 years ago. I had arranged to go out with some girls I used to work with, it was a netball fundraising event. The girls scared me, they were loud, brash, and shared a camaraderie I have struggled to achieve with groups of females; it fascinates me but I'm not sure I'll ever feel that 'sisterhood' thing.

I should have felt comfortable, I looked OK (I very rarely felt OK about my image) and was enjoying my life at the time. Something was gnawing away at me, I couldn't shake it off and it hung over me like a cloud the colour of licorice. We got a minibus into Cardiff, and I started to cry uncontrollably, embarrassingly - this was out of character for me - even after 4 pints. I suddenly felt frightened and lonely, it was all very strange.

By the time we got to the nightclub, I started to perk up, I pulled myself together and danced the night away.  Two ridiculous looking blokes lurked around most of the evening, one 6' 5", the other around 5 '5" (apologies to those who don't work in feet and inches any more!). The taller bloke pestered me non-stop, I did my best to ignore him, but was polite - he seemed harmless enough.

As the end of the night drew nearer, I was bombarded with phone-number requests, it's hard to believe how much times have changed since then. Now it would be a mobile number or "are  you on Facebook?" (no, by the way). I refused to give my parents' phone number out, but did divulge my surname, which is on the first page of the phone book, and there is rarely more than one other entry of the same name.

That was all he needed to get hold of me the following week.  Friends and family admired his persistence, and encouraged me to go on a date. I'm not about to suggest I was forced into this union, and of course I could have called it off any time, but there was a strange bi-polar pull throughout this relationship, it really did feel out of my control at times (maybe the excessive alcohol consumption played a part).

I went on a few nice dates before I was just used as a plus-one for engagement parties and trips to the pub, I was treated like an accessory.  I was unhappy early on, but kept on going - there may be some truth in 'treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen'? I struggle to think of a reason why I didn't just call it off.

A few weeks in, I went to Ibiza for a fortnight with a childhood friend. My friend had met a guy a few months before and was besotted (they eventually married last year) and I think she would have liked to cancel the holiday. I made the most of it, shared drinks with some familiar faces from home, befriended the most gentlemanly group of Scottish guys I've ever met, and forgot about home. My friend pined, moped and went through the motions of 'having fun'. I had a whale of a time.

Coming back to a cold, wet Wales after a fortnight of parties in the sun was a massive anti-climax, back to reality with a bang. I had planned to knock the relationship I'd started before the holiday on the head, but it picked up where it left off.

Nine months later my fist son was born, and the unhappiest 2 years of my life ensued. I enjoyed motherhood, despite the obvious shock that comes with the arrival of your first child. I didn't say that just to make it look better, I genuinely felt complete with a child of my own to care for. He was a placid baby, quite clingy, an erratic sleeper (isn't EVERYONE'S first?) and a fussy eater, other than that, a dream child.

The relationship was horrendous though, and I had such reservations about becoming a single mum, I stuck it out and endured some very bad times.

Of course, I don't regret going out that night, because everything that is right with my life is right because of what followed on from the chance meeting of two totally incompatible people. I learned lessons quickly and painfully, but learned them nevertheless. Our son enjoys one of the most successful shared-parenting arrangements I know of, and I believe his life is richer for it.

I made a series of decisions, none of these experiences were 'fate'. It would be all too easy to keep blaming mistakes on something ethereal.

This week though, I have asked Rob on more than one occasion - whose idea was it to have these kids? The nights have been difficult, with the little ones now sharing a room, and the youngest wanting to jump in bed with his brother - musical beds at 2 am is not fun.
Obviously, I wouldn't change a single thing - my sons are a source of pride and joy (sometimes).

I'll carry on drifting, making a variety of decisions based on 'gut feeling' and others on rational thought. A parallel life will run in my head - more than one most probably.

As long as I don't repeat past mistakes, I'll live my whole life without regret.

Any regrets?


  1. I know just what you mean about having a 'feeling' or that sensation that something is about to happen - for better or for worse! Not a pleasant thing really! Funny how the struggles we go through shape us so much and affect everything that comes after. I'd like to say I have no regrets but there are a couple of times I've wondered whether everything would be different if only I'd made another choice. Idle musings though - I refuse to dwell or it'd drive me mad! :-)

    Jem xXx

  2. Hello:
    Hindsight is a useful, but rather elusive, item. With it, so many of us might well have acted differently and made different decisions but on this point, we always argue, we did what we thought to be right, or best, at the time. And so we are sure it was with you. Perhaps the events which you relate here really are part of life's rich pattern. Whatever, we are sure that you have emerged as a stronger, more experienced person and that, possibly, is all that matters.

  3. Yes, children are the enemy of sleep. In a typical night in the Steerforth household, my wife falls asleep in my oldest son's bed whilst putting him to sleep; I fall asleep an hour or two later. At 1.00 my wife wakes me up as she gets into bed. Two hours later the youngest son wakes up screaming that he's scared. At 5.00, the oldest son gets into bed with us and kicks me so much that I end up moving to his bed...

    The annoying thing is that even when I'm alone in the house, I'm now trained to wake up several times during the night.

    Re: regrets - although I regret some things, I've wouldn't want to lose the lessons I've learned from making those mistakes.

  4. It's very damaging to live with regrets. I put my past mistakes down to the inevitable behaviour of who I was then dealing with the circumstances of the moment. I did what I did because of who I was and what I was faced with. Experience teaches us that what we decided was not necessarily our finest hour, but making the best out of things is one way to mitigate our errors.

  5. I'm trying hard to live my life without regrets - I do tend to hold onto guilt about things I've done or not done, probably long after it's been forgotten by the injured party. I guess that makes me self aware at least. That said, I have no regrets about any of the major decisions in my life - that's an achievement so far, right?

  6. Oh, and now you've put a song in MY head. I'm wandering round the house doing my Edith Piaf impression now. It's pretty good.

  7. Interesting...I've had to make a number of major decisions in my life and sometimes it took me a long time to make them. I have no regrets, apart from missing my best friend's wedding - and she forgave me - and possibly not joining a company that was just starting up in Dublin called Microsoft !

  8. The only thing I really regret is turning down the chance to be in a play when I was a teenager, I still have a strong feeling that was a missed opportunity or a path I ought to have gone down. But I love where I am in life now, despite the first child-induced horrendous insomnia, so alls well and all that, and most of us have a million decisions we made we're really proud of, that easily counterbalances the apparent stupidities x

  9. Lucy - I've had the same feeling the last few days. Just been reading the BBC news websites, stories of spontaneous combustion, the speed of light being exceeded and satellites falling (reminds me of that Billy Bragg song, New England - is it wrong to wish on space hardware?) as well as all the other stuff that seems to be increasing in speed and seriousness. I've cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom this morning. That pulled me out of it. But the feeling is back now.

    Regrets. I don't think so! Maybe sitting through 'The Phantom Menance'. Fatalism is anathema to me, so I don't think 'everything happens for a reason'. We make decisions and stuff happens as a result. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I would much rather make mistakes through actions than not act at all.

  10. My Mum lived by the motto "No regrets" and it was even brought up at her funeral service.
    She always encouraged us to trvel, try new things, be different, be daring and speak our minds. Life, she said, was too short for hesitation and procrastination.

    All my life I've rushed headlong into everything, from becoming a flat mate to a man I'd met hours before, quitting a dull relationship to live abroad with a gangster, accepting lifts from strangers, walking out the highest paid job I've ever had ....the list is scary.

    When I was about to undergo my hip op my blood pressure dropped to such a level the crash team were called in, as my life briefly flashed by all I could think was, I've had a hell of a good life but I've never been to Bombay. That was recified as soon as I'd recovered.

    Genius Loci put it beautiuflly, I would much rather make mistakes through actions than not act at all.


  11. Oh and there must be something in the air, with young ones not sleeping. I woke up at 3am to find our daughter in our bed, and she coughed in my face and against my back for the rest of the night. Nice!

  12. I have those wierd feelings too, sometimes I'll cancel things because something doesnt 'feel right'. To my knowledge nothing bad has happened on those occasions but hey it might have not happened becuase I prevent it ;o)

    As for regrets, I dont have any. I have made plenty of mistakes in my past but I live and learn and they have made me what I am today. Maybe i should regret that cream cake ive just eaten though....

    Scarlett xx

  13. Jem - that's the hard part - we'll never know what 'might have been' unless we decide to stay in, and all the people we were going to go out with are involved in an accident. That'd have me thinking along 'Final Destination' lines then!

    Jane and Lance - I like your way of thinking. Hindsight is only useful if you use it to make better choices next time.

    Steerforth - what a tired bunch you all must be! I can vividly remember the feeling of fear rendering me paralysed in my bed as I 'saw' devils and lions in the patterns and shadows. I wouldn't have dared get up though. I still get irrationally frightened when home alone, like you, my sleep is more disturbed when I have the chance to sleep peacefully.

    Sarah - yes, it can be very damaging to live with regret - bitterness is not a nice trait at all. I do regret some things, because even at the time I was thinking 'this isn't right'. I wonder if it's a sort of weakness that stops me from listening to the voice within.

    Lakota - you're doing just fine if you don't regret major decisions you've made. I'm sure you'll look back on pictures of yourself wearing bum-less jeans one day and think "what was that all about?". But, if you've got it - flaunt it, I suppose.

    Looking for Blue Sky - the wedding of my friend mentioned above was the scene of some of my most regrettable behaviour. I got rather 'excited' after far too much alcohol and put on a bit of a show. It's all caught on camera and I'll always be the talk of the day, stealing the bride's thunder. How she forgave me so quickly, I don't know. Microsoft - never heard of them.

    Max - I have a similar regret about not pursuing my love of drama/acting.
    I can't stand singing and dancing on stage, but loved all the serious plays we did. The frustrated actress emerges quite regularly - with a mixed reception!

    Ben - Rob was going on about that speed of light being exceeded thing - inconceivable to me, crazy stuff.
    Maybe you all behaved yourselves more than I did, so have less to feel regret about. I had to sit through some crap when I worked with kids - tears of boredom trickled down my face during a production of Sleeping Beauty on Ice - honestly!

    Vix - when is the autobiography coming out? I could've guessed you would have no regrets - you live life YOUR way and leave so many of us green with envy. I reckon you'de be a good life coach.

    Scarlett - I wouldn't have thought you'd get those feelings too, don't know why. Most older people seem to say "I wish I hadn't worried about things when I was younger". More cream cake, I say (it took ALL my strength to just buy a cake for the boys today. I had a KitKat instead - not the same!

  14. I could quote you a whole load of philosophy about regret and why it's illogical to want to change the past, even if we could. Take war - horrendous - and yet without, say, the First World War you wouldn't be here - none of us would, social patterns would be different your Dad and Mum wouldn't have met... So CONCEPTUALLY we would rathe rit hadn't happened - but ACTUALLY, we would not want tio change it, unless of course your life was so unbearable you'd rather it happened.

    I was married in my twenties and later divorced. Do I regret that? Well, CONCEPTUALLY perhaps - but would I change those events if I could wave a magic wand? NO. Because to do so would mean I would not have met Jane, I would not have my three sons... We can't just change one little bit of our lives - all bits are connected, the good and the bad - but then I guess you know that.

  15. Mark - I suppose the main thing that stays with me is that strong feeling I had - what was it?
    Yes, small insignificant choices (such as crossing the road - my parents met because my mum and aunt decided to cross a road they didn't usually cross) lead to major life-changing events. We would be foolish to waste time obsessing over the choices made in our lives, but I do find myself going against gut feelings quite often - as if to pry and prove something to myself, or challenge an imagined pre-determined path (which of course, could have been 'the plan' all along. It is an infinite loop of thought).
    Mistakes made with your eyes wide open are always going to be tinged with regret.

  16. hmmm.. i don't really regret anything major, but like lakota i feel guilty about things and tend to go over and over stuff that has happened. i guess the only regrets i have (and they are slight) is that i didnt take more risks when i was younger or be a bit braver.x

  17. I so want to be looking for items for you hun, but you got to start hinting what you are into so I can shop :o) Mwah Scarlett xx

  18. Sian - then you'd be like me - wishing you'd been more sensible!

  19. Funny reading this now. Should have seen it coming I guess. History has repeated, but a bit longer drawn out. Let's hope you don't waste any more years with the next one.


Sorry I am having to filter comments at the moment