Handsome recently told me about a fascinating movie he’d just seen. Hard to describe, but in many ways, it was fundamentally about the nature of regret.
We dogs don’t deal a lot with regret. Or rather, we don’t deal with it for long. We’ll regret something we did because of its immediate consequences (whether that’s the punishment sort, like when I steal food off Handsome’s plate and he yells at me and makes me go outside, or the cause-effect sort, like where I stick my nose too far to sniff inside a hot oven and… OW!), but we don’t carry regrets on for days, or months, or years, the way you do.
So I look on the whole concept in a different way than people would. And what I see is… mixed.
Okay, first let’s talk about the good. A person does something thoughtless or awful, that has terrible consequences. They drive drunk and cause an accident with permanent injuries, or they say something hurtful that someone never gets over. And having realized the effects of their actions, they make a change. They stop driving intoxicated (or maybe stop drinking altogether), and hold back on comments that might be taken in the worst ways.
Well that’s great! They’ve grown, matured, learned… they make themselves into better people, more useful citizens of their community. Regret has prodded them to self-improvement. Fantastic.
And then there’s the bad. A person does something they regret, and it damages them forever. A breakup goes badly, and the instigator says “I hurt someone I cared about, and feel awful, so I never want to try romance again. I’m too harmful.” Or on a more general level, someone does something they regret and never feels good about themselves after that. “I’m just not a good person. I make mistakes that go bad.” You know the type – the person who never stands up straight, only smiles with a nervousness, and can’t accept a compliment. It’s not their breakup or mistake that’s ruined their life; it’s their regret that’s done it.
But then there’s another sort. Let’s call it “Dramatic Regret.” The person who wears their regret, makes a show of it, lets it define them by choice. You know them too. The girl who is always telling her schoolmates she shouldn’t have broken up with that guy, the young man who’s always putting on a show about what a bad person he is for having punched his dad. The regret might be real, but, again, these folk tend to make their regret into a new set of clothes for themselves!
Of course, what’s the very best is when regret leads one to simply act in a way that undoes it. I know that’s not always possible, but when it can, I’m for it. When Handsome accidentally steps on my toes, I yelp, and he collapses down, hugging me, apologizing, and kissing the tops of my feet to make them feel better… it works! Sure I don’t want him stepping there again, but all the pain has gone away, and I’m fine!
So, about this movie. It was hard for Handsome to describe to me, and it’ll be even harder for me to relate, but it’s about a good woman with a bland husband, a rebellious daughter, and a distant father, trying to get through her difficult working day, while facing economic difficulties. But suddenly she’s enabled to see all the different possibilities out there – of her past choices and her present. It’s confusing, and surprisingly violent, as she confronts all these different realities. But in doing so, she grows to learn more about who she is.
In other words, to grow, she is forced to face countless regrets. Even for things she didn’t know were choices she’d made.
If you’re able to see it, I recommend this movie. It’s called Everything Everywhere All at Once, and while it’s being compared to superhero multiverse stories, it’s really more unique than that.
But if you miss seeing it, or you think it’s not your type, that’s okay too. It’s YOUR choice, and you don’t need to walk around in regret about it!
What I want most is for you to look at yourself, at your own life, right now. And see what regrets you have. Are any of them fixable, like Handsome kissing my toes? Or “growable,” like the driver changing their drinking habits? Or if not, are any of them unfair, just pulling you down? Maybe you can let those go. (Or are any of them ones you choose to indulge, for attention-grabbing reason? PLEASE let those go!)
As a human, you have a huge brain that holds incredible amounts of memory and imagination. You will never be able to live with no regrets. But if you handle them right, and carry just the ones that you absolutely have to, then maybe, just maybe, you can live as happy and constantly-refreshingly-happy a life as a dog.
And that’s something you will NEVER regret!