No Regrets – The Importance of Taking Action

The other day I was scanning through CNN on my iphone, when I came upon a Jane Fonda interview in which eighty-five year-old Jane wanted to “clear everything up” before dying. That caught my attention. The interviewer was probing into Jane’s take on life, regrets, and more. Jane has always been of interest to me. Back in the 1970’s during her years of notoriety as “Hanoi Jane” she was a popular figure on the college speaking circuit. Visiting Hanoi as she did was against American foreign policy rules. It turned her into a controversial figure, a sort of anti-hero. College students were intrigued by her and our college booked her as a speaker. As the chair of the speaker’s bureau, I had the responsibility for hosting and introducing her to our packed auditorium. Before I could get lost in that old memory, I began to watch the interviewer who was inquiring about her regrets in life.
.Jane Fonda began to talk about motherhood and the mistakes she felt that she had made with her three kids. “I was not the kind of mother that I wished that I had been to my children. I have great, great, children; talented, smart. I just didn’t know how to do it.”
Wow. A knot settled in my stomach. That was a lot for her to admit. My parents did not know how to raise me and my sister either. The interview was hitting home. I continued to watch as she explained that since her children’s childhoods she has studied parenting and has since learned what she should have done, that she had not done then. These days she says she is practicing “showing up.” She is trying to get things done now while there is still time.
A few weeks ago I wrote to you about the many losses I sustained in December and that it caused me to take action understanding that I have NO TIME TO WASTE. I booked a trip to Panama Canal and am leaving this week, made a date and visited a retired colleague friend and his wife whom I had not seen in seven years, and bought airline tickets to bring my niece out from Chicago for a visit. I had not seriously interacted with her in 23 years. I am taking action. I do not want any regrets.
Years ago, Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen’s book, Loud and Clear (2001), really resonated with me. In that book Quindlen admitted her own regrets which were similar to Jane Fonda’s. Anna regretted that while she was raising her three children SHE DID NOT ALLOW HERSELF TO BE MORE IN THE MOMENT. She confessed that she was too other focused. Now grown she can only look at old childhood photos of those children, but in so doing she does not feel any real recognition. Her regret is that she did not pay more attention, that she was not there in the moment with them.
For many of us our lives have been or are on “turbo thrust.” We have a lot to do and stay busy. Busy or not, I am dedicating this year to finishing up “unfinished business” so that I have no regrets. My long weekend visit with my thirty-eight year old niece was pure joy; and getting to know her remarkable fourteen year old daughter, Scout, was stunning. Some of you may know that when this niece, Kelly, was just four years old, it was necessary to accomplish an intervention to protect her from further abuse. It was life upending for me, certainly the hardest thing I will ever be called upon to do. I risked my marriage, my career, and my life, and we got her to safety. She is currently finishing a master’s degree in social work, policy and administration.
When Kelly was fifteen, I took her on a trip to Ireland. As the later tumultuous teen years came, she moved out of state and we mostly lost contact. During our visit last weekend I discovered that the Ireland trip was life changing for her. She has saved the shampoo bottle and the trip itinerary folder all these years. She had transferred all the photos of that trip onto her phone and shared them with me. On top of all that she has taken her own daughter on the same trip and photographed her in all the places we had visited. I got to see a video of Scout kissing the Blarney Stone as we had done long ago! Sometimes we have no idea that something we offer can be life changing for another. Kelly has been teaching her daughter to be a citizen of the world, one of my most important goals for my loved ones. Had I not taken an action and brought Kelly and her daughter out to my home, and spent many quality hours with them, I would not know any of this, and I would have continued to live with “unfinished business;” and I would not enjoy a solid relationship moving forward.
What about you? Do you have some things hanging that could use closure? Do you feel like there might be some regrets bugging around the periphery of your consciousness? We have time to finish unfinished business, to take action and get some of the “bucket list” items accomplished. My husband, Ken, at 80 says he has no regrets about events in his life, good or bad. The things on his bucket list are things he would like to do again! My heart is full for the actions I have recently taken. What do you need to do? I love hearing from you. My best, donna