Monday, September 17, 2007

column 25 taking it back

Ever wanted to take back something?

Of course you have. A sentence, a word, an action that you didn't think through? Or think about at all? We all have these moments throughout our lives. Some are bigger than others. Some can cause great hurt, after all that's why we want to take them back, isn't it?

The ones that were worst, though, were the ones that hurt others. Generally our regrets, heck I won't make any claims about humanity, generally my regrets have been things said or done that've hurt others. I don't regret the time I got hurt walking the dog, or the time I got a 2nd degree sunburn swimming. Those things just affected me, no one else got hurt. Besides in each of those cases the pain was merely physical, and physical pain is temporary.

We may want to take those painful moments back, I don't like trips to the hospital any more than anyone else, but we don't regret them. And given the choice I'd rather erase the moments that were painful that I also regret, for those are the times I hurt others.

I made just such an error. I unthinkingly said something to a friend, who I thought would take it in a different light. Instead of humor they were moved by anger. I was surprised, and then my mind worked a bit and put together the events of the day to explain what had happened. The friend in question had a very rough day. I was unaware of this when I made my comment, but as I thought about what news I'd received earlier that day I was struck with that heart-in-throat, gut-wrench of human experience.

Running errands all day I later find out that some of my friends who weren't spending their day at Logan airport had a hard day topped off by a car accident. And in this emotionally shaky situation I acted callously. Of course I was met with anger. I would have done the same thing. Wouldn't you?

So now I have to fight. But I am looking forward to it. The friendship in question is so important to me, I have no choice. I can only hope and fear and work on fixing things. When these things happen you have to fight, fight as hard as you can for the person you've hurt. For if you regret having hurt them then they are important to you. And if you want to keep it that when, then you need to realize that what you did was stupid, or mean, often both, apologize and work at it again.

It can take years. There are ones I'm still working on. There are ones I can't work on yet. And there are ones that I have given up on; the damage had run too deep for redemption. And that's the messiness of it, 'cause you can do damage that is irrevocable. Sometimes it is too late, and 'better late than never' may not apply. What wouldn't you give to take it back?

My motto, generally, is that 'you regret the things you don't do, not the things you do'. I am saddened to report that this may not be the case. It is a good philosophy for living life to the fullest, taking risks, and getting excitement from possibilities you'd otherwise not consider. But it doesn't take others into consideration, and, shit, they're what's important.

But this time I've screwed up, realized it, and now begin to fix if possible. I dearly hope that I may succeed. If not for myself then for them.

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