I have been invited to host a panel on How to Live Child-free Without Regrets at the upcoming Fertility Planit 2014 in Los Angeles (Happily sharing the stage with my good buddy Lisa Manterfield and, the soon to meet, Lynn Newman). I am thrilled to be invited back for a second year to be part of Fertility Planit. And I am over the moon to be considered an expert on this topic as it acknowledges that I am living child-free without regret and that is a HUGE for me to have accomplished even in the non-expert category. As I started to think about the upcoming event for some reason the word 'regret' got stuck in my head, looping over and over and refusing to be ignored. You see, on occasion I get struck by a word and I get the feeling I really don't fully understand it. Yes,of course, I know, what 'regret' means, or at least I thought I did until I started meditating on it. When I think of regret I think of the noun of regret, the "pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone." But that definition didn't resonate with anything I felt and so I though on.
I remember studying prefixes and suffixes decades ago in high school back when "Girls just wanted to have fun" and Madonna was "Like a Virgin". 'Re' means to do again or again and again or to go back to. But 'gret' what the heck is that? I don't remember the last time I gretted about anything. Well, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary the "gret" of regret comes from the work "greter, possibly from Frankish or some other Germanic source (cf. Old English grætan "to weep;" Old Norse grata "to weep, groan")". Okay, I do some grætan, grata, groaning and weeping, on occasion, when I look back. That I am okay with. That kind of looking back I can see has value, as long as your 're' isn't got you so stuck looking back that you can't look at any other direction. This kind of regret is defined as "to look back with distress or sorrowful longing; to grieve for on remembering". This kind of regret I am good with in, and occasionally partake in( as demonstrated by my previous post).
A couple of songs popped in my head as I ruminated on regret. The first song I thought of was Frank Sinatra's somewhat melancholy My Way. In that classic song Ol' Blue-Eyes says on the subject: "Regrets, I've had a few.But then again, too few to mention" Yeah, okay, I guess I fit in this camp. I feel lots of things when I look to the past: occssionally sad, disappointed, compassionate, an attempt to understand or make meaning from it...but not the kind of regret in which you beat yourself up for things done and things not done, no, not really. As much of my life didn't pan out the way I wanted it to I don't really relate to that kind of regret. I don't look at the past and think a lot about "if only I had done x, y, or z " and then feel crappy that I didn't do those things. Sure, like any self-reflective human being with a conscience, I can see that lots of things would have, should have and could have done better if I had made better choices, but I suppose that there is something self-protective in me that tells me I can't do anything about the past except learn from it and to use that information to make better decisions in my now so to be kind to myself when looking at the past. God only knows where I developed that bit of loving kindness for myself( I am guessing it came from some therapist I saw).
As for regrets about not having a kiddo of my own, the song I would sing on this subject would be Edith Piaf's classic, Non, je ne regrette rien. No! Absolutely nothing... No! I regret nothing. I have zero regret about all the money( enough to buy me a shiny new Bentley) we spent on trying to conceive and all the time and all the tears and all the pain. I regret none of it. What, I think, I would have regretted was not trying as hard as I did. If I had given it a half-harded stab at it I feel sure I would wonder what could have happened if I really gave it my all. And because I tried everything that I was comfortable trying I have zero regrets about that. Knowing that I did all that I could do, all that I could manage, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially---it helps, it is a comfort. While yes, I have the "look back with distress or sorrowful longing; to grieve for on remembering" kind of regret, I am grateful to not have the "pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone" kind.
Now when I look back at some of my romantic choices or my assortment of silly and bone-headed choices from 18-26 I do a lot of "gretting" and groaning, but no one is asking me to be a panel on how not to regret the guys you dated in your early twenties.
Please come see us at Fertility Planit at UCLA on April 4th and 5th and learn more about how to live child-free without regret. Trust me, it can be done.