I admit I tuned in to the Reunion Show for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Part 1 was bad enough.
I was in and out of the room while both were playing in the background, but as with any of these “Reunion” shows, I stop and listen closely when host, Andy Cohen, asks if anyone has regrets.
Enter Edith Piaf.
Sometimes, we own up to our poor decisions or at the very least, our questionable ones – words that slip out and we don’t realize their hurtful impact.
Actions – or lack thereof – with far-reaching repercussions.
Sometimes, as in the song made famous by the well known French singer, we claim “Je ne regrette rien” – I have no regrets. Whether we genuinely mean it or not.
Usually, our Reality TV personalities do the same, stating that they don’t regret being in the public eye, despite bearing the brunt of blog fodder and worse. From a monetary viewpoint, one can only imagine that they’re raking in some bucks or promoting their prospective products. In a tough economy, even the rich need to strike it, well… richer.
And of course, there’s the seemingly irresistible pull of those fickle fifteen minutes (weeks?) of fame, and being famous for being famous.
Yet sometimes, actual reality encourages our Reality personalities to extricate themselves from the public eye (a number of them have) or, to admit to regrets racked up in the process. Cue Brandi Glanville, who readily recognizes she speaks without thinking and doesn’t always use the best judgment.
Sure I have regrets… You just have to own it and keep on movin!
And later, she says:
I take responsibility for my temper… Everyone has a breaking point.
In contrast, others on this particular franchise appear less willing to take responsibility. Well – not in front of the cameras, anyway. And naturally, we have no clue what really goes on behind closed doors – anyone’s closed doors, including those we presume to know who flash across our television screens.
Je ne regrette rien
I used to think – like Piaf – that I had no regrets.
In reality? When being brutally honest – with myself?
Stating that I have no regrets is only partially true or, more precisely, a matter of context and positioning. With increasing years under my belt, I’m acutely aware of my own missteps and less than stellar choices. I know my reasons, of course, and therefore cut myself a little slack. But no regrets?
Do I regret my original career choices? Not exactly. The adventures were illuminating.
Do I regret my marriage and the hollow years of going through the motions? The decade that has come after, filled with turmoil and real-world consequences that still leave me wobbly and worried, even now?
I claim no regrets because of the gift of my two children. But if not for my sons, might I say otherwise? Then would I fully own up to many regrets, and a powerful sense of waste and loss? Might I include my own mistakes in judgment?
Short of a trip through the time tunnel complete with selectively picking and choosing those events we would retain or toss out – (with no Butterfly Effect we cannot control – of course) – wouldn’t we all indulge in a healthy helping of hindsight to redo, undo, and do over if we could?
Tossing aside the fertile features of any such fantasy, in the Real World we may choose to downplay regrets or never give them voice. But that doesn’t mean we don’t live them – and live with their consequences.
Instead, we euphemistically manipulate mistakes into opportunities. We put a positive spin on our destructive decisions. We package up our past and present in ways that enable us to live with damage.
We offer a brave face and a market-ready mantra: “I might do a few things differently, but no – I have no regrets.”
Telling It Like It Is
At times, discretion is the better part of valor. We hold our tongues or pull our punches to protect others, and ourselves. To manage unruly or painful emotions. To go on.
But telling it like it is when it comes to assessing our behaviors – and expressing regret – doesn’t have to translate to a show of weakness, a lack of confidence, or disorienting vulnerability. Perhaps we could view regret (and its moodier cousin, remorse) as something else: awareness.
Unfortunately, our culture of insistent public positivity encourages some of us to state that we never have regrets, and even – to convince ourselves that’s the case. We march on, resolutely, occasionally offering an apology (but changing nothing in our behavior), more often keeping mum (and hoping to do better?), and in either case, we could potentially rely on those regrets – articulated or not – as a guide for change.
So what about owning up to what we say in anger or hurt, to what we do when pushed to the edge, to losing it, to blowing it, to letting it all hang out, to being ugly, a bundle of contradictions, messy in our humanness?
Who among us doesn’t screw up or act out? We may not need to publicize it, but can we admit it to ourselves so we can do better moving into the future?
As for regrets, I won’t say that I have none. I only wish I could sing my joys with the same depth of passion as Piaf, whose rejection of regrets may be at least as much a plaintive insistence on living life fully, and not a refusal to own her sorrows.
Her last words according to some, as she was dying at age 47?
Every damn fool thing you do in this life, you pay for.
Click the image of Piaf to access a 1961 clip of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien on Youtube.
Click Real Housewives images to access originals at BravoTV.com.