Once in a while I’m visited by Regret. He’s most invisible in the beginning, as I wake into a new day. In these moments I feel something is different because I’m not fighting a creeping sad that threatens to call on grief the second I break through that cocoon. I imagine a day that doesn’t start sad is normal for a lot of people, but for me, it’s how I’ve come to know something different is happening.
Regret usually starts by doing something to make me smile. As subtle as if I have discovered the funny in every day life, though I left my sense of humour at a Zellers diner in 1998. But because I welcome laughter and joy, it’s easy to forget the fact that I haven’t laughed spontaneously for weeks.
When Regret comes by, everything goes smoothly. Me and my daughter get along great. She’s always in a good mood when Regret is around. She acts like she’s forgotten that anger exists. I’m convinced she doesn’t know what antagonism is or attitude, even. The sarcasm magically disappears. It’s nice. And there’s no viscous narrative in my head. I don’t worry about how fat I am or how much I haven’t accomplished in my life. The near constant background thrum of ‘you’ll never be loved you’ll never be loved you’ll never be loved you’ll never be loved’ doesn’t set the timing for my day.
Somehow, when Regret comes by, the atmosphere in my apartment changes. There is no attack, no blame, no judgement. And none of that is allowed in when he’s here. It magically disappears. This, too, would seem normal to others, but it’s only in the absence of this harsh wind that I remember and believe that things could be different. That they were different once.
And the crying stops. Even when I’ve spent two days in a row weepy or all out wailing between naps, tucking myself away from the world and curling up into my soft pink blanket to find some comfort (something I just learned a few years ago), the grief that kept me pinned down a few hours before dissipates. I can believe I didn’t spend the last 24 hours filling up a grocery bag with tissues. I can pretend the sudden halt of sorrow and my newly lightened heart are natural, maybe even gifted by God. Though, in my experience, God doesn’t ever hand out a free morning of joy. God doesn’t hand out a free anything to me – I have had to work for everything and I think He wants it that way.
Then something fun spontaneously happens. Like me and my daughter play a brand new game we just make up as we go along. Or I discover a fun new app on my phone so we can make comic book movies or record songs together.
When Regret isn’t near, I don’t have the energy to come up with a new game, no matter how well I’ve slept the night before. And, like many other girls my daughter’s age, anything mom thinks would be fun is usually poo-pooed. I’m not hungry, especially in the mornings, and I am caught up in thoughts like, ‘how am I going to get through today?’
Then, the second the actual feeling of regret seeps through as the morning goes so well, I start to think about my regrets. During these visits, my regret is focused on people I used to know. Men. Relationships that might have happened had I been more bold, less afraid, or maybe even if there wasn’t so much shit constantly going on in my life, no matter how far I stay away from shit.
And even when thoughts of non-starter relationships sneak in through regret, as soon as a face comes to mind, Anger steps into the corner, waiting to pounce. There are faces that Anger hates above all other faces.
This is when everything shifts. I feel angry mixed with regret and I remember the things he didn’t do to make us happen. My automatic response is to push the face away.
And then Regret changes. He’s less melancholy, less nostalgic. Regret starts to feel more like, ‘you’re not perfect’ and ‘why do you always ruin everything?’
But I don’t ruin everything. Anger does. And somehow he has created an alert for each time certain faces come to mind. Regret feels Anger and assumes it’s my anger.
Eventually, once I feel safe enough to breathe again, things get back to normal. If Anger sticks around long enough, I usually numb until I’m smooth and there are no hooks to grab onto. Sometimes that takes a few days. And I get into a groove of numb and it makes it more difficult to swim back up to sad.
If I don’t make it to sad soon enough, a fog takes over my brain. The neurones fire but mushy. This is the half-in half-out phenomenon. Trying to hide, in a way. Because I don’t really want to leave, but if I stay it’s a never ending cycle.
For some reason I can’t trace, I woke up this morning thinking about making plans to secure a decent financial future for my daughter.