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Four Things You Can't Recover From - 7/27/2009


I recently attempted to gather all the “important” papers I carry with me from my office to my home and back again, from the four briefcases I alternately use. When combined with the three stacks already on my desk, I had a pile fifteen inches high. I know, because I measured it.  

The top paper was titled, “Four Things You Can’t Alter or Recover From.”  I don’t know where the list came from, or who to credit, but after reading it, I  needed to write this article.

The first ‘Thing” was “A Stone After It’s Thrown”.  Think about it.  Once you’ve attacked or  estranged someone, it’s very difficult to pull them back inside your circle of friends.  Probably because stones are typically thrown impulsively, during heated confrontations.  They either spew forth like hot lava from an erupting volcano, or can be kept contained.  When the latter occurs, your feelings fester and build pressure.  In the end, you emotionally explode, or wind up harboring resentment toward two people: yourself, for lacking the courage to be forthright and the  other person for not righting a wrong he may be ignorant of.  There is a much better way to handle anger.  Be honest.  Tell people who hurt you what you feel and how you’d like to resolve it.  If they’re willing to participate in a meaningful exchange, you both win.  If not, you can go your own way feeling positive about yourself.

The second irretrievable thing is “An Occasion, After You Missed It.”  Imagine someone inviting you to a party on a Friday night after a difficult week at work.  You’re tired, and would like to crawl into bed with a good book.  In some instances, it may be appropriate to indulge yourself.  Stay home, eat some leftovers, finish that pint of your favorite ice cream in the freezer, find out how a book ends that you’ve been reading for weeks and get to sleep earlier than you otherwise might.  But, if your decision stems from fear, (i.e., you’re reluctant to go because you don’t have anything to wear, you won’t look as good as the other women, you’ve lost or gained a noticeable amount of weight, or you’ll feel embarrassed because everyone else is a couple) you need to alter your decision.  I promise you, other people there probably share your concerns, but they screwed up their courage and attended in spite of them.  Also, you’re bound to later meet up with friends whose conversation will be about the wonderful party, the great food and music, and how they wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  But, you did.  You let your fears govern you and the result was an opportunity  missed, which you can never recapture.

The third consists of “Words, After They’re Said”. Words identify you, often erroneously.    If they’re vitriolic,  they will alienate you from others, who will view you as hostile.  They won’t see that you’re frightened and feel the constant need to protect yourself but, inside, desperately want to be loved   If they’re ingratiating, saccharine words, they will only depict how emotionally needy, or dependent you are.   People won’t see the genuinely good person inside who strongly wants their acceptance.

The fourth is “Time, After It’s Spent or Wasted”.   No matter your age, review your life.  Then ask, “how many regrets do I have?  How many times have I said, ‘I wish I had, but I was too frightened to take advantage of the opportunities that were afforded me?’”  You may have dated individuals who cared for you, but you were scared to enter into a close relationship.  So you became “too picky” and never had to face your fears.  Similarly, you may have stayed in a job or a marriage you were dissatisfied with and lamented not leaving.  In either case, you risked nothing, gained nothing and lost yourself.  It’s a sad waste of a life.  

I could go on and on, in terms of opportunities missed; events never fully enjoyed, or times you wasted being angry over inconsequential issues.  The fact is, you exercised the choices you thought you had.  The decision to leave, to avoid expressing your feelings, or to ask for the love you wanted, was always yours.  

If you’re fortunate, and the number of years behind you are less than, or close to the number of years you have ahead, there’s still lots of time to make your tomorrows significantly better than your yesterdays.  But, no matter you age, you needn’t resign yourself to spending the rest of your life the way you  “wasted” the first part.  Resolve to change.  Think about the stones you’ve thrown, the occasions you’ve missed, the words you’ve said and the time you wasted, and realize there’s a better way.  A way  I encourage you to choose, because it will eliminate your regrets.  Though you may fear it, or feel it impossible to achieve, let me assure you that you are more capable than you realize and that the life you’ve always wanted is possible, once you make the decision to live it, instead of lose it.

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