Sunday, July 17, 2011

Un-Ringing the Bell

I've heard the saying, "You can't un-ring the bell."  Basically, there are some things you can't un-do, words you can't take back, decisions you can't un-make.  To me, it translates to regret.  I work hard to live my life with few regrets--regret is a time-waster in my world.

But if I could, what would I un-do?

Un-do my snarky comment to my 6-year-old this morning when she was being ill-mannered and too sassy, only my tone was too harsh and made her cry?  Un-do the long, arduous day I spent at the in-laws house yesterday?  Un-do the last 2 years of financial worries?

Decisions are a big deal in life and I know so many people who are stuck on one decision (or a few decisions) that snowballed into life-changing circumstances and they now bemoan their fate, going on about how if they could "just go back to that one moment and change what I did."  And why?

Aren't all decisions life-changing, no matter how big or small they are?

I mean, in simple terms, the strawberry milkshake and cheese curds I ate yesterday could be the very things that start clogging my arteries, resulting in a heart attack in 27 years.  The blistering sunburn I got at 22 (because I thought I didn't need to re-apply my sunscreen after 7 hours outside at baseball games) could lead to skin cancer next month.  Ignoring the chronic UTI symptoms I had 2 years ago could have resulted in bladder cancer taking over my life instead of being caught early.

I believe in the concept of "the butterfly effect".  I don't remember the original quote or who it's attributed to (and I don't feel like looking it up right now), but the idea is that the flutter of a butterfly's wings could change the weather halfway around the world.  It's not just about the flutter of the butterfly's wings, but all of the circumstances surrounding that nanosecond.

We don't make decisions in a vacuum.

This is not to say that I don't have regrets--I have a few--nor does it mean that I wouldn't change things if I could.  But what else would I be un-doing if I went back and changed things?  How many lives would be affected by my life-changing decision to go back and change a decision?  Everything I do on any given day changes the course of someone else's life, in addition to my own.  That's a lot of responsibility to live with on any given day.

Oddly enough, I often give more thought to things I wish other people would un-do than I do to the things I wish I could un-do, and even then, it's usually because I've been hurt or angered by their decisions.  I recognize that they have their reasons for their decisions, but it's usually hard to see it in the moment.

I know I wouldn't un-do a friendship that has been way too much work.  I wouldn't un-do my beautiful daughter, no matter how sick she's been or how hard her first few years of life were or how scary it is to wait on so many medical test results.  I wouldn't un-do a first, hesitant kiss in the dark or awkward hand-holding afterward. 

I wouldn't un-do any tears or laughter or heartbreak or anger.

Even if I don't see how it's helpful to me, I can hold fast to the hope that somehow, somewhere, it is or will be helpful to someone.

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