I was once told by my therapist that she believed one of the issues keeping me from living happily was the fact that I was constantly worrying about what had gone wrong. What had I done, what had I said, why did this thing or that thing happen…I was mired in self-blame with a constant loop of my past conversations and interactions running amok in my head. Everything was my fault. That was the only way I could have any control over the sadness; if I didn't do or say the bad thing or the bad words again, then from now on, everything will be all right. The worst thing about regret is that it makes you duck the chance of suffering new regret just as you get a glimmer that nothing’s worth doing unless it has the potential to fuck up your whole life.
Stop, she told me. You need to let go of that constant pressure and start fresh. Nothing that has happened to you up until now matters in the least.
(can she tell that to the Visa people?)
I want to believe that's true. I've worked really hard to come to terms with my divorce and what it says about me as a person. I've struggled to let go of the term "depression" and just live one day at a time. Slowly, I've stopped looking backwards to rehash and started to see that surely there is some good in the world that would not exist today if not for me. For a while I floated along feeling profound about how things were; a sense of some sweet dimension of loss and sorrow conquered. I still had my self-esteem intact, and while I sometimes had to think about the possibility that the future I was striving for was of such a magnitude that I might be disappointed, I was only too happy to remember that I could only be myself, do my best, and let whatever happened happen, without blame. It's been working. I've been happy. I've been calm. I've been successful in my work, in my home, in my relationships.
The past, however, is not so eager to let me go. Recently it loomed — heavily, destructively, heart-breakingly large — and people got hurt. I got hurt. I am hurt, and I don't know if there's any way to fix it. What if, in this case, I am the one to blame for what happened in the past, but not for what's happening in the present? Do I suffer regret? Do I ask for forgiveness? Do I get angry and tell people to just get over it and start living in the present? Do I sit silently in my pain and do nothing, knowing that I've caused pain?