Regrets? I've Had a Few

Never Let the Sun Set on a Quarrel

Posted Jan 16, 2016

Frank Sinatra making handprints in cement at Graumans Theatre, Hollywood. Wikipedia Commons.
Source: Frank Sinatra making handprints in cement at Graumans Theatre, Hollywood. Wikipedia Commons.

Drop the name "Sinatra" in almost any conversation and people will know you mean Ol' Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board, leader of the Rat Pack. Some of the lyrics to his signature song "My Way" can move me to tears. "Regrets, I've had a few … " for example. 

Sinatra may have had "too few to mention," but I have a string of regrets as long as the chain of cash boxes worn by Jacob Marley's ghost, and it includes not doing, as well as doing, a lot of things. Come to think of it, missed opportunities––the roads not traveled––may even outnumber mistakes.

Well, nobody's perfect, so why bring all this up now? It might have come to mind because January is the time we think about New Year's resolutions, whether last year's that were never kept, or this year's that probably won't be kept, either. I wonder why we bother to make them at all. It may be to demonstrate a sincere desire to improve, which is commendable, but what if we fail to abide by our own promises to do better? So much for improvement.

Then there is Mark Twain's solution. "Always do right," he said. "This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." Given that not many of us "always do right," why not concentrate on getting rid of regrets we may already have, and forget about resolving to do differently in the future? Sounds good, but in my experience such a thing is easier said than done. Maybe the only real way to get rid of regret is to go back and correct what we did wrong in the first place. Foolishly, I dreamed of doing exactly that in a period of temporary insanity that followed the untimely death of my husband many years ago. It was then that I tried to make a deal with the Devil: my soul in exchange for granting me one wish, that of resetting the clock to a date when it would still be possible to make amends, and tragedy could be averted. Not surprisingly, the Devil turned thumbs down on my proposition. 

Of course there is no guarantee that a second chance, even if we could get one, would not also be wasted. Human nature being what it is, how likely are we to make the same mistakes over and over again? With age, so they say, comes wisdom. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that. Now I know exactly what I would do, given the opportunity to do some things differently. It may sound simplistic, and a bit corny, but I would begin by heeding that old rule of thumb: Never let the sun set on a quarrel. In other words, the sooner an apology is issued and accepted, the better. If left unresolved, an argument can escalate into a power struggle. Hurt feelings can lead to irreconcilable differences. Angry words can precipitate a family feud. 

No one could have told me all that when I was young. I had to learn it for myself, through bitter experience.

So, when there are no second chances, and it's too late to make amends, what then? Obviously, we have no choice but to live with our mistakes. Regrets must be added to the list of things that refuse to go away. On that point I was shocked to read recently that virtually nothing goes away anymore. In the days before we had computers, records were kept on paper, then burned or thrown away when they became obsolete. Try discarding something today and you will find that even your computer Trash, which you thought you had emptied, has gone into a "cloud" somewhere, along with a history of your credit card purchases, Google searches, and calls you made on your cell phone. I expect it's the same with regrets. Mine will be around for at least as long as I walk this earth. After that I won't care if they are still up there in "the cloud."

In the song, Frank Sinatra tells us, and "not in a shy way," that he was proud of all that he had done, and done it "My Way," but was that true in the singer's real life? Larry King, who had once interviewed Sinatra on his program, described him as a lonely, unhappy man.