What Do You Think You’ll Regret The Most? The Things You Did Or The Things You Didn’t Do?

Think about it. When you look back on your life is it your mistakes that haunt you to this day or is it the opportunities you let pass you by?

I think for most of us we automatically go to ‘mistakes’. Only because they are tangible entities. Blunders we can recall. Missteps that caused pain, to ourselves or to others. Egregious gaffes that lurk in our memories, reminding us that our potential for monstrous miscalculation is always just a breath away.

Yeah, we can beat ourselves up over that shit for a lifetime.

But what about the things you didn’t do? The dreams you didn’t pursue? The compromises you chose that, in the end, still didn’t … and don’t bring you satisfaction.
I read somewhere (my favourite line when I can’t remember) that one of the most common death-bed regrets is ‘opportunities missed.’ Not ‘mistakes made’ but the stuff we didn’t do that we really wanted to do and for whatever reason didn’t do and now we’re about to die and guess what? We’ve run out of time.

So why didn’t we do those things? What held us back?

I would wager the number one answer is fear. I mean, sure you could say I never went to Italy or drove a Ferrari because I didn’t have the money and if those are your death-bed regrets, good for you. But what if you didn’t go to Italy because you were afraid of traveling alone? Or you didn’t drive a Ferrari because that’s a frivolous pursuit and your money is better spent on the mortgage? What if you didn’t go after your dream job because you were certain you wouldn’t get it? Or you didn’t ask that girl out on a date because why the hell would a girl like that go out with a guy like you?

What if?

Years ago my son wrote a song called “Say HI”.  He no longer likes it but I still do because it contains this one brilliant line – “one yes and a million nos is better than zero of both.”

What if you just said hi? What if you threw caution to the wind and went for it – whatever IT is? Maybe if you just believed your gut and believed IN yourself and you believed that you deserve a shot at anything and everything, maybe just maybe IF you believe, you’ll find the gumption to go for it? Even IF success is not guaranteed. Even IF you might fall on your face or get your face slapped or lose face or face the future knowing you tried and failed. Maybe even IF you fail, the knowing that you TRIED will be enough?


Which leads me to my point. Sometimes inaction is even more determental than action. Sure if you take action you might make a mistake and it may not work out and you might get your feelings hurt and you might even regret taking that action.

But you know what happens when you take no action?

Nothing. Nothing happens.

Absolutely nothing.

Life as you know it stays exactly the same.

Except … and here is the big BUT …

It doesn’t. Because inertia will lead to change as assuredly as enterprise. Allowing yourself to get stuck and then stay stuck because you’re afraid of what un-stuck might look like just leaves you stuck. In muck. Muck of your own creation. And once you’re in that muck you’re going to find yourself drowning and then Holy Shit! you’re going to have to scramble like hell to get out. IF it’s not too late. Because no one can thrive in muck. You might be able to exist. For a bit. But you will never thrive.

F and T have been together for ten years. F changed her like completely (geographically, socially and legally) to be with T.  T changed nothing except to sacrifice half his bed. F wants to move house. Escape old memories, make a fresh start in a location she loves. WITH T! T keeps saying he is amenable but he keeps doing nothing. Year after year he has yet another excuse why nothing can be done at this moment. T is terrified of change and T believes that if he does nothing it has GOT to be better than doing the wrong thing.
So F and T are now living in perpetual limbo. Except they are not. Because F is already plotting her escape. F has already come to the realization that T’s inertia is debilitating. To her and their relationship. F doesn’t want to escape. She has just come to accept that T’s fear may well hold him back from change of any kind. And that is not good enough for her.

P has been married for 40 years. He knows his wife is not his soulmate because he has had a soulmate and he knows what soulmatedness feels like. But P gave up his soulmate to keep the peace. To keeps his family unit intact. To do the right thing.

Is this going to work out in P’s favour? On his death-bed will P say “Thank goodness I did the right thing?”  Or will P always wonder what his life might have looked like and felt like if he had chosen his true love?

Who knows? And that’s the kicker, right? We don’t have a fucking clue? Maybe P’s soulmate really isn’t his soulmate? Maybe she’s just a fleeting fancy? A fly-by? So maybe staying with his un-soulmate wife IS the right thing because maybe some of us just don’t get to have it all? Maybe getting family is worth relinquishing soulmate? What if on his deathbed P regretted NOT staying with his family because he gave that up for his soulmate? And she turned out to NOT be so special after all.

These are all noble and reasonable questions. Is it fear that is keeping P put? Or reasoned argument?

Like I said … no fucking clue.

But this one I do know.

D wants a job. A very specific job. And this very specific job is on offer. But D doesn’t have quite ALL the qualifications for this job. So D procrastinates until the deadline passes and then D blames the deadline on her inability to go after said job. Oops. Just missed it by a hair. Oh well.

Oh well indeed. Because the truth is D is SO afraid of applying for that job and not getting it that she’d rather not apply at all. You see if she doesn’t apply there’s no way she can get turned down.

And do you know what all of this ultimately goes to?


It always goes back to EGO. MY sense of self-worth will not be jeopardized by an unknown. My sense of self-worth is tied to the tested and true. And so here in this familiar world shall I stay.

T doesn’t see a move with his beloved as an adventure. T sees it as a disaster waiting to happen. As an unknown with no clear outcome. As an upset to his neat and tidy life.
T is stuck.

P thinks he’s being a good guy. P thinks that staying with his wife is a noble act. P thinks that giving up his soulmate and doing the ‘right thing’ is honorable. P hasn’t considered that he’s not giving his wife a vote in this election (maybe IF she knew she wasn’t HIS soulmate she’d want to go find one for herself?) and he has also not acknowledged that HIS life and HIS heart actually DO count for something. His martyr-cloak is now his armour. And he will wear it proudly to his death-bed.

But what if on that death-bed he asks “What if I wasn’t a martyr? What IF I had just been true to myself?”

Because really, if you’re not true to yourself, how can you possibly be true to anyone else?

D is still unemployed. D is frozen. D is so afraid of what might NOT happen she has no clue how to embrace what MIGHT? She doesn’t see possibility. D only sees potential failure. And her fragile ego can’t handle anymore failure today, thank you very much. So D will now tell anyone who listens that she just can’t find the ‘right’ fit. God knows she is looking. It’s just not there.

D is stuck. And drowning in her own muck.

So how do you get out?

Again … no fucking clue. But for me personally I have decided that the only two words I shall henceforth heed are ‘gratitude’ and ‘adventure’.

I love gratitude and practice in consciously every day. To be grateful for everything we DO have allows us to accept all that we do not. With grace.

And adventure is how (I believe) we should approach every decision. Not adventure as in climbing Everest or sailing the seven seas. Adventure as in every new job, every new love, every new house and every new friendship IS an adventure! No guarantee how it will turn out BUT if you go into it with eyes and heart wide open you have at the very least accepted the Universe’s rules – No promises. No predetermined outcomes. No crystal balls.

Just one helluva ride.

I don’t want to EVER regret NOT getting on the horse. I want that ride. I crave that ride. I am ready for that ride even if I  get bucked off and broken. I will never regret those poor old bones. What I will regret is sitting in the bleachers. Watching some other cowgirl have her turn on some fiery steed while I eat popcorn.

I will make the decision, take my chances and live with the consequences. What I will NOT do is die wondering. I do hope with all my might that my only regret will be NOT wearing a bikini when I’m 65. Ask me when I turn 66. I’ll let you know how that goes …

About winesoakedramblings - The Blog of Vickie van Dyke

Writing is therapy. Wine is therapy. Writing while drinking wine is the best therapy. Reading while drinking can also be fun. Listening while drinking is also fun so check out my podcast! And then there's that book (memoir) that I wrote: Confessions of a Potty-Mouthed Chef: How to Cheat, Eat and be Happy! My life has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. Maybe something here will inspire you too? ~Vickie
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