Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others’ as selfish or pathological or wrong. So it’s easy to overlook that hidden beneath all this smug certainty is a poignant insecurity, and the naked 3 A.M. terror of regret.
The problem is, we only get one chance at this, with no do-overs. Life is, in effect, a non-repeatable experiment with no control. In his novel about marriage, “Light Years,” James Salter writes: “For whatever we do, even whatever we do not do prevents us from doing its opposite. Acts demolish their alternatives, that is the paradox.” Watching our peers’ lives is the closest we can come to a glimpse of the parallel universes in which we didn’t ruin that relationship years ago, or got that job we applied for, or got on that plane after all. It’s tempting to read other people’s lives as cautionary fables or repudiations of our own.
i like it because it's self-reflexive. at this point in life, i'm glad and relieved that the "naked 3am terror of regret" mainly occurs only at 3am; 'tho i secretly fear these infrequent pangs of terror may strike more often as i age, precisely as more possibilities fade away each fresh step i take.
fear and regret - they seem to go hand in hand; or at least, i often mention them together (the other pair used to be pain and pleasure). so much to fear, so much to fear regretting. yet, what's there to fear, what's there to fear regretting? i make my decisions, i choose my path.
i'd rather this, than grow old bitter at someone else's decisions for me. i'd rather have no one but myself to blame for where i find myself in life.
at that point of any major crossroads i come to these days, i should think (and hope!) that i would be as clear as i could possibly help myself be - i would have thought through the myriad of alternatives, weighed the pros and cons, done as much research and talked it out, talked it through as much as i could, written a thousand journal entries to sort out my thoughts, justify my plans, patched any major loopholes, reconsidered my position a thousand times, changed my views a million times............
even so, the paths ahead appear blurry, unclear. little brown hoppity hares and pretty little wildflowers on the wayside, or big brown grizzly bear lumbering out who will devour me or be tamed? candyhouse? evil witch? my gawd, who knows... it might be a concrete highway out there, fast cars whizzing by... or am i on a train track? or will i walk off a cliff? can't tell! i can only imagine... and we all know life somehow never quite turns out the way we expected it to...
perhaps that's exactly what makes it all the more exhilarating.