Present in the present

I see the pain in my son’s face over the pain he has caused someone else. He wishes he could take what he has said and done back, but instead he covers his regret with bravado.

And me? I try very hard not to go old-school on him and lecture. Because some things cannot be learned through someone else’s words. Some things we learn only by doing.

What I would like to tell him, and may when he is better able to hear it, is this: There’s a Before and an After. Most of us don’t see a clear delineation in our daily life. When living a Before, you just think of it as what will always be. Even if at some level we know change in life is a given, we fool ourselves into complacency in our Befores.

I’d like to share with him the regret I still feel–even now–three decades later, over a thoughtless slight. I was exiting a movie when I saw a friend, with his new girlfriend. He had just broken up with one of my best friends. Thinking I was being oh so loyal to my gal pal, I gave him a cold stare and walked out of the theater with nary a word to him. He managed to look hurt and surprised at the same time. Despite all of the fun-filled evenings we’d spent together over the past year, I treated him coldly.

A month later, at 18, he died. While away at college, unexpectedly. I did not get to attend his funeral, as my grandfather’s burial was the same day hundreds of miles away.

Ouch. What I wouldn’t have given to have that night at the movies back to do it all over the right way.

The last time I talked to a good friend from my hometown days, we were at a park in that same hometown. She was recovering from a mastectomy and chemo. We thought she had many years ahead. The conversation would have been very different had I known she would be dead a few months later.

When my parents were sick and dying, every conversation felt like the last one. And I realized you can’t cram a lifetime full of unsaid things into one—or even a dozen—conversations.

So I learned from all of the above. And other, less drastic, incidents. I’m sure you have your own. What would you say or do differently if given a last morning to wake up again with an old flame? What would you share with the teacher who has passed on? The one that made you see in yourself all the good you were missing?

Love letter and rose
What would you say if given one last conversation?

Here and now. That’s all we have. While I don’t want to wax eloquent to a friend about how much she means to me as we get pedicures, I can be truly present. Drink the champagne, laugh at her antics, listen sympathetically to her as she talks about her daily trials.

When I am with my peeps, I try my best. I try not to do and say things I might regret later. I try to be sure I do and say what needs to be done and said to let people know they matter to me.

Mostly, I try not to be arrogant enough to assume the future will mirror the present just because I will it to be so.

I stay in the here and now, fully present, fully participating. First time, last time and every time in between—that is my goal. Methinks it’s a good one.




35 Comments Add yours

  1. I lost a friend recently. I had not seen her for about six years and was going to visit her later this year (she lives in another state). Too late now. Yes, I have regrets. All we can do is try better with those we have left.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am so sorry about your friend. it boggles the mind how someone can be here one minute and gone the next. A hard fact to keep in mind as we live. I had a similar experience. Wrote about it here:

  2. These are great lessons that it’s all too easy to forget. I think your approach of mindfully being with those you care about is a great way to avoid those regrets later on.

  3. Aunt Beulah says:

    Such wisdom in the line, ‘Mostly, I try not to be arrogant enough to assume the future will mirror the present just because I will it to be so.” And how difficult it is to do; perhaps because thinking about change can be frightening.

    1. candidkay says:

      I so agree with your last thought. If we all truly took in how little control we have over the course of events, we’d be paralyzed with fear.

  4. srbottch says:

    Me, too. You’ve reinforced a feeling I’ve been having that j need to make amends with someone, or, at least restart a civil relationship. Your stories at giving me lots to do lately. What’s up with that? 👍

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh boy. Didn’t mean to add to your Honey-Do list:). But I’m glad I did if it means amends. Those can only be good . . .

      1. srbottch says:

        I think that’s a sign of a good story, when you’ve caused a response in the reader, don’t you? Give yourself a pat on the back, Kay (did I get that right?).

      2. candidkay says:

        I agree! I always say I feel I have done my job if I made you laugh, cry, or think differently. Many of my readers do you call me Kay because of the name of my blog. My real name is Kristine. But you can call me either, being such a loyal blog reader:).

      3. srbottch says:

        Well, it’s been ‘Candace’ (I have no idea how I conjured that one. Then, Kay, because of the user name. I’ll get it right, just keep reminding me when unscrew up. Hope you had a great day with your son today. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  5. Being present is such a gift, an enormous one, and so often hard to come by. Thanks for this, and all your candid writing; I love it. 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      And thank you for stopping by–and the kind words! Here’s to presence today . . .

  6. I came back to this post today, the gentle wisdom of hard truths still pulling at my attention a day later. Lovely, Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Probably one of the nicest things you could say :-). I always feel I’ve done my job if you laugh, cry or think differently.

  7. heyjude6119 says:

    Good thoughts, Kris!

  8. Hi Kay, what a beautiful piece you’ve written. We all live with regrets. In the end the best we can do is learn from our foolish ways and aim to be better. Thanks again for being so candid. 💕 Hilda

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for stopping by and the kind words . . . am aiming to live with very few regrets from here on in.

      1. I here you! That’s my plan too. 💕

  9. Amy says:

    I love this post – poignant, wise, tender, and true. Your thoughts on this topic mirror my own. You are a wise mother, a beautiful writer, and a fine human being, too. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, thoughtful essay. xox

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). Very kind words from a very wise and beautiful woman!

  10. dinnerbysusan says:

    So true! Our community experienced tragedy earlier this year when a young man died in a motorcycle accident. It made me incredibly conscious of the way I say goodbye to my children whenever they leave the house. I try to make the words conscious; the “I love yous” meaningful and heartfelt.

    1. candidkay says:

      Reminders like that tragedy are so sad and yet, if we take the lesson out of it, I feel like some good comes out of the hurt. Thank you so much for sharing that story.

  11. Experience is the greatest teacher of them all Kay. Painful to watch, but in understanding it, done with a great love 🙂
    It’s that beautiful motherly empathy that urges you to protect…but as you said, sometimes you are being more protective by allowing them to ‘feel’ those things within that they need to.
    Beautiful share, something that can only be realised in that empathy gained from the love of your own journey. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Mark. I think one of the hardest lessons I had to learn as a mother is when to step back and stay quiet :-). Sometimes it requires duct tape and sitting on my hands.

      1. lol…I can see that now 😀

  12. Kat says:

    Oh there were many times I wished I could have turned back time to say and do the right things. I can be impulsive at times – moments when I didn’t stop to think how my actions could have impacted or affected the situation, people who care about me. Thanks for sharing, your post is reminding me to have that self-awareness and ‘be present in the present’ for others 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      I think we all have moments of impulsivity that we regret. At least those of us honest enough to admit it :-).

  13. A beautiful post and your touching experiences make us all realize there is only “now”. I just had lunch with yet another friend with cancer, this time it is back in her lungs. She speaks of work and doing, I suggest she leaves and explores her dreams. She says no, because she loves work and what else would she do. I wonder at the end whether she will think the same. I think as you say about your son, we all have to learn this lesson alone. Mine was after our son died suddenly. To me there is never enough time to say it all, but I am determined to live the best I can each day, and say “I love you” often.

    1. candidkay says:

      It takes a special kind of strength to heal from the death of a child. And I agree on your friend. I think sometimes people cling to routine so as to avoid the fear. I hope she finds peace. Thank you for sharing in such a beautiful way.

  14. George says:

    How many times in our life have we said, if only. We are imperfect creatures who search for perfection through our experiences and regrets. We can’t change the past, we can only hope our words and future choices reflect our desire to remain in the moment.

    1. candidkay says:

      Beautifully said, George. I agree with every word.

  15. It’s a delicate balance, this whole feeling and being honest but loving with a kindness that leaves no regrets. So many factors like loyalty, insecurities, past experiences… It truly takes time and mistakes to master. If we ever master it at all.

    1. candidkay says:

      I don’t know anyone that has mastered it yet:). That would be a true feat!

  16. Methinks that is a great goal too. Your son has to learn it all himself too. You have to be a bad person sometimes to remember where the line is that you don’t want to cross. It really sucks to watch and say nothing though.

    1. candidkay says:

      It is hard to stand back! But I’ve realized sometimes he needs experience to be the teacher with my words only as follow up after the storm has passed.

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