… on the importance of looking back

Recently, whilst surfing the vastness of the inter webs, I ended up looking at a series of tattoos that people probably wished they hadn’t gotten. Some had misgivings right away, and some later in life when their cute, sexy, lower-back butterfly morphed into something resembling Popeye’s face.

My favorite of the bunch (Popeye’s face was a close second):

“No Regerts”

It’s just so… because it’s such….

It’s an efficient nugget of comedic gold is what it is.

But it also got me to thinking.

You know… about the whole ‘no regerts’ thing.

It’s almost become cliché to, when asked if we have any regerts (I don’t ever intend on spelling it correctly again), mix together an almost-palatable word salad that goes something like this: “Well, not really. I mean, everything has led me to who I am today so…. no. Not really. No. I mean maybe… but no.”

Let some folks wax philosophical on that point and it can go on for so long that you get stuck in the salad and miss the whole meal.

It falls into the ‘I am who I am, made up of all of my good, and bad, and ugly’. The logic goes something like, ‘…hence, to have regerts would make me somehow less accepting of who I am’. Or – and this is a biggie – that to regert anything makes one – gasp! – less authentic.

So I thought, and then thought some more, and where my brain finally landed…

Not only do I totally have regerts.

I love my regerts!

I mean, some make me wince (hence, the ‘regert’ part)…

But here’s the thing.

Revisiting our regerts, and mining them for lessons, is a good and healthy thing. That being said, diving into them with weights chained to your ankles and drowning in them would be a bad thing. So don’t do that.

But insisting that you don’t look back and/or don’t have regerts?


In her book, Big Magic, Liz Gilbert addresses our tendency to view fearlessness as a feature. She says…

“… the only truly fearless people I’ve ever met were straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds – and those aren’t good role models for anyone.”

I feel the same way about folks who are truly regert-less, … straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds.

Might as well toss a run o’ the mill narcissist in there for good measure.

I love how Brené Brown (the five-time New York Times Best Selling Author and professor and researcher on shame, resilience, and empathy) shares her own feelings on ‘no regerts’, based on her years of research…

 “No regrets doesn’t mean living with courage. It means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life.”

Those three sentences, when I first read them, doinked me on the head. They helped me realize why, when someone stated – often with great pride and confidence – that they didn’t look back or that they had no regerts, it felt like my brain was chafing.

We can’t truly do good without processing the bad. And, to be of any use, the elements – the experiences – of our lives need to be accessible… right there on the shelf.

They are the ingredients for so many recipes…




And the salves for as many wounds…




If we deny our regerts… leave them alone in the dark… I think they become, somehow, forged… the shame that forms around them strengthening both shield and spear.

Wakes of wreckage inevitably follow.

But, since the person has no regerts nor willingness to ‘look back’, they don’t understand why.

A friend described the confusion as, “It’s like being the coral reef and wondering why all the ships are continually wrecked and broken around you.”


Who wants to be that coral?

I have an idea.

If you’ve stored yours away, why not take those pesky regerts out of their boxes, blow the dust off, and put ’em on a shelf where you can find them easily if you need them. They are not there to haunt you. They are there to teach you.

As for looking back, do it.

Shockingly, we can still move forward whilst remembering and reflecting on our pasts (and taking those pesky lessons from them). It happens every dang day.

Even nostalgia has a great reputation as of late (well, at least as of a 2006 research study, according the New York Times). I can honestly say that without my nostalgia for my Nana’s infinite patience with my rugrat-aged self and cousins, I would not be the non-homicidal mother and Practice Grandparent I am today. I’m just sayin’.

We are an amalgamation of who we are, and who we have always been. Mistakes are inevitable, as are regerts.

When someone makes the point that they are not normal, because they are imperfect, all I want to say is, “Wait. What makes you so special?” (But I don’t because they are clearly feeling vulnerable and I don’t want to hurt their feelings).

We are all imperfect.

Which means imperfection is the norm.

Let that sink in.

Imperfection. Is. The. Norm.

Kind of makes the shame connected to imperfection a little silly, doesn’t it?

Our regerts and our backstories are all a part of life’s perfectly imperfect collection.

We can bear their crushing weight invisibly, insisting they don’t matter to us at all…

Or we can carry them more lightly, and openly, as part and parcel to our bag o’ tricks for living and breathing and laughing and crying and loving and learning and tripping and falling and picking ourselves back up and dusting ourselves off… in this world… in this life.

We get to make that call… to hide or be seen.

Oh, also?

I’ve heard you can get tattoos fixed and/or removed.

Like, I heard that Johny Depp got a tattoo when he was dating Winona Ryder, and it read ‘Winona Forever’. Then, when they broke up, he realized he really didn’t really have ‘Winona Forever’, so he had the tattoo fixed to read ‘Wino Forever’. On the whole, I’m not sure whether Winona or the wine was less healthy when it came to ‘forever’, but I give Johnny props for creativity.

Anyway, I was thinking that the person – or perhaps people – who have been surprised by their tattoo reading ‘No Regerts’, might want to look into having those fixed as well. I’ve kicked around a few designs, considering the letters, their shapes, and placement.

I’ve arrived at…

‘Yes Regerts’ 

What do you think?

(I’m considering it)

Thanks for readin’.

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