Please bear with me through these opening paragraphs as I explain how I came upon the subject of my post. I work in downtown Washington DC and I live in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Interstate 395 starts at the southwest corner of the Capital beltway and transverses from Northern Virginia northeast into Washington. I395 includes some High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes (HOV) that require each car to carry at least (3) passengers. My normal mode of transportation is to use what we call the Slug Line.
This is a system whereby folks who need a ride into town line up at various locations around the metro area and drivers who need additional passengers pull up and state their intended destination. If the next person or persons in line are going to that location (or near it) they will get in the car with the driver and get a free ride into town. The driver gets the benefit of using the HOV lanes which can save him/her up to 30 minutes of commuting time.
I used to think the term Slug Line came from the fact that we are begging for rides and therefore are no different than a slug – the lowest form of life. But the Slug-Lines.com website explains how the name came about. Check it out if you are interested. I work at 18th and F Streets NW in Washington and there are a couple of drivers who travel to 18th and G Street which is the World Bank. When I ride with them I only have one block to walk. If they don’t show up I usually ride with a couple of guys who take me to 14th and New York Avenue. From there it is a 6-7 block walk but it takes me on the north side of the White House just across the street from Lafayette Park.
This morning my 18th and G drivers hadn’t shown up and so I took a ride with the guys going to 14th and New York. After making the loop through the parking lot we were just pulling on to the main road when I noticed that one of the 18th and G drivers was just pulling in. “Dang it!” I thought to myself. “I could have saved myself a longer walk if I had just been more patient.” As we drove down the main road on our way to I395 I thought about that missed opportunity more than once. Then I caught myself. “What’s the big deal?” I thought. “It’s not that long of a walk, the temperature and the humidity are OK at 6:30 in the morning and you get to stroll past George and Laura’s place!” But I still regretted missing my 18th and G Street ride.
I recalled that I have often stated publicly – in talks and other conversation – that I try to live my life without regret. This usually relates to my personal relationships from my earlier years. I know I could have been a better father. That doesn’t mean that I used to beat my kids but I could have been more patient. I used to care more about my career than the growth and development of my sons and I hardly ever took the time to enjoy the moment. But I try not to dwell on those things too much. It seems to be a waste of time. I can’t change the past. I can only determine what will happen now and in the future.
And so I wonder if regret is a good thing or if we should avoid it. I remember when I was 13 and my grandmother died of a sudden illness. I recall thinking then that I should have said some things or done some things to let my grandmother know how much I cared about her and loved her. I vowed to do better in letting my other grandparents know how I felt. Now that they are all gone I wonder if I did do better. A close friend died of sudden cardiac arrest seven years ago. We worked closely with the youth of the church and, in fact, he died at Youth Conference. I was with him and his wife when he was struck down. I spoke at his funeral and tried to say all the things I should have said to him while he was alive. A few months later I shared an experience with another acquaintance at church. This fellow is not a member – he is a devout Catholic – but he attends church with us and his family are all active members. He also participates in his own church. He is probably the best “Christian” that I know. His daughter was married in the temple but they held a reception with a ring ceremony for my friend’s benefit. At the reception he and his daughter danced together and they played the song “Butterfly Kisses” and I thought to myself, “There goes Frank giving away another one of the treasures of his life so that someone else can be happy.” A few days later I wrote him a letter and expressed heartfelt feelings about him. As I wrote the letter I thought of my other friend who had died suddenly without hearing – or reading – my sincere feelings.
I suppose if we are compelled to do better in our lives, to correct some incorrect behavior, then regret can play a positive force in our life. But if we dwell on matters that can’t be changed it may weigh us down unnecessarily with burdens we can’t handle.
What part does regret play in your life? What good or bad has come from regretting your actions?