Regret

Regret is an evil beast with a life of its own. Its one desire is to hijack an otherwise healthy, happy life, spoiling it like a finely growing web of mold on a once delicious slice of bread.

I used to say that I had no regrets, that even wrong decisions had merit and had brought me to a certain stage in life. Maybe it’s easier to wrestle with regret when you are the only one in the picture. Now I have a family, and while I still embrace the difficulties and mistakes in life as they relate to me, I have a harder time doing so with the people I love.

What if we had moved to a different town? Would my kids have access to a better education?

What if I hadn’t influenced my husband’s career choice? Would he own his own business now?

What if I had not tied the dog up that fateful night?

The truth is that having choices involves dealing with regrets. There is a quote that goes around the internet and makes a pass every now and again to remind me that “in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” I don’t know how true it is. Thankfully, I’m not yet at the end. It does kind of gel with my other newly adopted mantra, one that is meant to spur me to action. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

It gets harder with age, but I’m still resisting big ticket regret. There’s too much of life left to live to let it start to spoil now.

Smaller things however? Well, I regret that second cookie. And I should have gone to bed much earlier last night.

Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Why I Write

I write because it quiets the voices in my head, the city of unruly citizens clamoring to be heard. (Did that just sound as crazy to you as it did to me?)

I write because my anxiety causes me to stammer and lose my focus. Writing allows me the time to carefully gather my thoughts, time to sort and filter.

I write because sometimes things make me angry or upset or amazed. Writing drives the subject home like a post pounded into the soil or a root pushing its way into the earth. It make me feel stable. Grounded.

I write because I’m afraid I’ll forget… the things I felt at each stage of life, what was important to me, the small, funny, tender moments with my kids that get upended by doctor bills and grocery shopping and car repairs.

I write because it calms my demons.

Though this never used to be true, I write to be read.

Why do you write?

The Panic Of Not Knowing

Twenty-four hours can change your life, Dana thought as she sat, slumped, her face in her hands. Just yesterday Olivia was whirling around the patio in her rainbow tutu to an audience of one, Dana, who sat sipping her coffee among the dahlias. Energetically, Olivia became one with her dance. In true five-year-old fashion, she embraced life with the bear-hug of love.

Dana now looked at her daughter in the hospital bed, hooked up to machines. Olivia’s eyes were closed, her heartbeat thrumming like a hummingbird’s.

“Mama, can we have ice cream today?” she had said, after curtsying and climbing up onto Dana’s lap, stealing a sip of her latte.

Dana had appointments and meetings all day, so ice cream would have to wait. A momentarily disappointed Olivia climbed down, then, forgetting the ice cream, leaped and twirled, arms extended, into the house to get ready for school. Dana watched her go, finishing her coffee. She loved these mornings. Bill was away on another business trip, and she had her daughter all to herself. Tomorrow they would get ice cream.

Beep…beep…beep…

The sound of monitors brought thoughts back to the present and her daughter now lying here, motionless.

She grasped one of Olivia’s little hands. A tear trickled down her face as she made silent bargains with the universe. She tried a direct connection to God, though she hadn’t had a conversation with Him in years. Oh, baby, she thought, just get well. Please come back to me.

Bill was flying back early.

When the school had called her to tell her Olivia had been feeling dizzy, Dana canceled her afternoon meeting to pick her up. When she got there, Olivia was reeling, unable to stand upright. Something was not right. She scooped her up in her arms and raced her to urgent care, her soothing banter belying her gut-wrenching anxiety. The wait had been short. Olivia’s condition spurring the medical staff into action. Once admitted, things had quickly spiraled out of Dana’s control. The next thing she knew, she was sitting beside her unconscious daughter’s bed, miles from home at the children’s hospital.

Tears flowed freely now. Worry vice-gripped her heart, unrelenting. The doctors couldn’t give her a diagnosis. It could be a virus causing an immune response; though rare, they had seen it before. Or it could be something much worse. They would need more tests. The nurses had poked and prodded, taking blood samples, checking vitals. She needed Bill. She longed for his strong presence, for his arms to enfold her, for him to make everything okay.

Day turned to night. A nurse entered silently and jotted notes on a chart. Olivia had missed her bedtime story. Dana herself would have been reading in bed until the familiar lead weight of sleep forced her eyes closed. Bill’s flight would be here soon. Dana rested her head on Olivia’s bed, spent.

The sun was high in the window when Dana was roused by a hand on her back. Bill. She saw the fear in his eyes. She embraced him and lost herself in his arms, sobbing. For the next few days, they tag-teamed at the hospital. Though Dana didn’t want to leave Olivia’s side, sleep deprivation overtook her and forced her to seek the quiet darkness of a hotel bed, where she slept fitfully, cell phone by her side. The doctors still couldn’t tell them anything. Olivia was breathing on her own, but barely. When they discussed life support, Dana broke out in a cold sweat.  Nobody had warned her about the sheer terror that could overtake her as a parent.

Once again, she took up her post at Olivia’s bedside. She held one small hand and started quietly singing a song that she used to sing to Olivia as a baby, comforting verses about walking through a storm and not being alone. She sang softly. Time slowed down. As he left, Bill urged her to eat. She nodded, knowing she wouldn’t. She sang, and a peace came over her. Hospital sounds faded into the background.

They were alone in the room when she thought she felt Olivia’s hand move slightly. Her voice caught, then found itself again as she pushed the call button. Soon, little eyelids fluttered slowly, then opened. She paused.

“Mommy?”

Dana’s heart caught in her throat. There was no sweeter sound on earth.

“Hey, baby,” she replied softly, stroking Olivia’s face. Gratitude washed over her. “Ready for that ice cream?”