When you get a text message at a quarter to midnight saying “Are you still awake?”, what are you going to do? That’s right. I rang back.
My friend has a complicated life. I’m used to being the soap opera around here, and it is rather odd to find myself the stable one while my friend ricochets from situation to situation like the ball in a pinball machine.
He has some choices to make and, for once in my life, I didn’t have advice to give.
I am great at giving advice.
No, really I am.
Sometimes it’s advice, sometimes it’s an opinion, sometimes it’s a suggestion, and one of the things that makes me a good person to ask for help is that I am always really clear on which it is. I’ll even give people advice that I really don’t want them to take, if what is good for them is painful for me. For some reason that’s the one set of advice I have a 10/10 take-up on. Oh well.
So I told him about a couple of ways that I make sure I end up with as few regrets as possible. Coward that I am, I don’t like the idea of regrets.
The first is to kick start some hindsight. Imagine yourself five, ten, fifteen, twenty years in the future, or at the far end of your career, or the far end of your life, and look back on the situation you are in. What would you wish you had done? What would you regret the least? A powerful question that. (Ha!) Use it wisely.
It’s an odd thing to do the first time you do it, but it is so powerful and so useful that it can end up becoming habitual. It helps you get some perspective on the thing and sort out the short-term gain or pain from the lasting consequences of your decision.
The second is to take time to notice that the decision you are making is the right one, given the circumstances you are in right now. This is something that good abortion and adoption counsellors do. They take the time to make sure that, whatever happens in the future, the woman knows now that the decision she has made (to terminate the pregnancy, to give the baby away or to go through with the whole thing) is the right one given the situation she is in and the information she has available.
This one makes it easier for you to forgive yourself for your own mistakes because you know you did the best you could at the time.
The third thing is to be aware when a decision really is not your call, and you are just a factor in someone else’s decision-making. Deluded fools that they are, they think the world revolves around them. Don’t they realise? You see, you can have all sorts of reactions to the consequences of another person’s decisions but unless you caused them to take that decision, regret cannot be one of them.
So there you are. Aphra’s guide to regret-free decision-making. Mind you, you may still make completely lousy choices. You may still lie awake staring at the ceiling and aching with pain. But at least you’ll have got there really really carefully.
Grandmama, Grandmama, here’s this lovely egg. Listen up while I teach you how to suck it.