A lot happens as we grow older. I’m beginning to notice laugh lines, for one – mostly between my eyes, so I’ve decided I must make the “Did I seriously just do that?” face an awful lot. Lately, my friend and I have been marveling at the choices those younger than us (including our own children) are making and wondering what on earth these youngsters are thinking. It’s interesting though, and also true, that hindsight is 20-20. I remember going through such similar situations and being so certain in those moments that I was right, or at least that I had a right to make my own mistakes and with that I won’t disagree. I teach quite a bit on cognitive development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and discuss this fact in my classes all the time. We really don’t stop learning; that desire to continue exploring and learning is wired into us. It’s when we stop trying to learn or believe we have little left to learn when we find ourselves in trouble.
So making mistakes is a part of life – it’s how we learn.
Just a few days ago, one of my former students shared a picture on Facebook. It was meant to be just a fun and silly little exercise, but it really made me think – then, upon further investigation, it made me sad. The words on the picture stated that you must pick one of two scenarios:
- Go back in time and fix all of your mistakes.
~ or ~
- Get $5 million cash.
To me, it seemed like such a simple and silly question. In fact, I even asked my husband what he thought and he immediately said, “$5 million of course.” To which I replied, “Why?”
With all of his 33 years of wisdom behind him, having survived five suicide attempts, multiple medication failures, three mental health inpatient hospital stays, a heart-attack, a near-death car accident in which he went straight into a semi truck at highway speeds, and almost 12 years with me as his wife, Jeremy replied, “My mistakes brought me to where I am. Why would I want to fix them?”
Agreed, my love, agreed.
So why did that question make me unbelievably sad? I made the mistake of looking through the comments of others. Around every third person wrote that he or she would want to go back in time and fix all mistakes. That seemed like such a huge number of people who live with regret. As I continued reading, some became very detailed concerning why they would want to choose this option. Some had to do with lost loves or family members. Others blamed themselves for situations that seemed to be so far from their fault that it was nearly impossible to understand why they felt this way. Some even had to do with poor decisions that led to time served in prison.
But as I read through every single comment from a person stating the desire to go back in time and fix mistakes, there was one common thread – lost time.
I get it. Time seems to fly by faster and faster every day. I hear people say, “Time please slow down.” But here’s the thing – time doesn’t slow down, and it’s not planning on it. I also understand mistakes; I’ve certainly had my fair share of them. I could even list them out for you, but why waste time? And this brings me to my point.
Why waste the time you have left worrying about the things you can’t change? Why spend time regretting mistakes you’ve made when you could be making new memories? Why not own up to errors and move on?
So as I gain years, I’m learning to dance in the rain – both literally and figuratively. Once upon a time, rainy days terrified me. You see, Jeremy, my husband, suffers from severe depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). His suicidal thoughts used to be very affected by the weather – rainy days were the worst. So rain became a symbol of sadness and worry for me – I believe they can be for a lot of people. I spent a lot of time with worry and regret for a lot of years. I should have said this. I shouldn’t have done that. If I hadn’t said this or done that, maybe Jeremy’s depression would be gone. Maybe my husband wouldn’t want to kill himself. Maybe…
But the life lesson I have found as I get older is the fact that we get to choose our attitudes, we get to choose how we will react to everything in life, and we have little control over anything else. Some reactions come on quicker than others, but when you learn to embrace the mistakes and dance in the rain, life gets easier.
I stopped. Everything. I stopped worrying about the things I can’t change. I stopped blaming myself for my husband’s chemical imbalance in his brain. I stopped worrying about what people would think if they knew the truth. We started sharing our reality, our whole reality. We shared mistakes, the times I cursed God for giving my husband this disease. The times we felt so hopeless that we decided shutting out the world was the best idea. The times we tried to run from our pain or even spend it away. And you know what happened? Support. We are all in this together, and we can learn to use our pain to help others; in turn, we heal ourselves because we learn to not live with regret. We learn we have all made the same mistakes in different forms. Running away. Hiding mistakes. Using drugs or alcohol to mask the pain. Finding love in the wrong ways, or at least desperately trying to. We’ve all been there in some form.
Those mistakes made you who you are. It’s okay. The rain will come again; you’re not done making mistakes, but you can learn to dance through it. You can learn to embrace the rain because you know the sun will come out again. Did you notice that rain falls on everyone? And when the sun shines again, it’s here for all of us. You’re never alone.
When the rain begins to fall, we can now look at it as the miracle it is. For some, rain means sadness, but think about others. I started thinking of the farmers; we live in central Nebraska and farming is a way of life – often seeming the only way of life. For farmers, rainy days are the biggest blessings. Rainy days mean time with family. Rainy days mean healthy crops and better yields. So I learned to change the way I see the rain. I learned to change my attitude. I may be hurting and afraid, but someone else is rejoicing. I learned to be thankful for the rain. I learned to dance in the rain. There is good in everything; you just have to learn to allow yourself to see it. So when I have a bad day or make choices I feel badly about, I remember my mistakes are my rain. Somewhere, there’s good in this rain. I just have to embrace it and allow myself to see it.
Dance in the rain. You’ll find the rainbow.
~ Bailey Koch