Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Regret and Goals

My "teacher shoes." I was given these second-hand when I was fourteen, and I've been using them for twelve years. Still haven't found any more comfortable.

When I was fourteen my family started teaching a dance class. Free, Friday nights in the gym at the church, anyone who wanted to come. We didn't know much--just basics of Swing, Waltz, and ChaCha--but the closest ballroom studio at the time was at least two hours away, so our class was a unique thing. Some nights it was just my best friend dancing with my brother and me dancing with hers. Other nights we had 30-40 people.

One night a man in his early thirties showed up. He hung near the doorway, his eyes constantly darting toward the exit. My mom went and welcomed him; she and my dad had met him a few times, but didn't know him well. She knew, however, that his wife had recently died of complications with diabetes.

He said he might just watch a little; that he wasn't sure why he was there. As always, we made it our mission to make sure he didn't run.

He didn't say much as I walked him through the basics, but he worked hard and caught on quickly. Gradually, under a stream of praise and reassurance, he started smiling more and watching his feet less. He also stopped shooting glances at the exit.

He came back the next week, still nervous, but more determined. And then he told us.

"My wife always wanted to learn to dance. She asked me to learn for years, but I never did. Now I'm here." Our dance class was the first non-essential thing he'd gone to since his wife had died. He said, "Maybe I'll remarry. And maybe she'll want to dance. I want to be ready."

Regret. But it led to action.

He did remarry, and while I don't know where they are now, I'd be willing to bet that if his current wife says she wants to try something, he does anything in his power to make it happen.

I've been thinking about regret lately. Things I regret, like times I said something unkind or didn't follow through on a feeling to help someone, but also things I might regret if I let fear or laziness get in the way.

Recently I've been hammering out some writing goals. Word-count goals, submission goals, self-imposed deadlines for when I'd like projects finished by, that sort of thing. Along with almost instantaneous regret for things like wasting too much time on Facebook, I've also run into some unexpected doubts. Not doubt in my work, but doubt in my own desire to publish. This was prompted by a couple things, including reading posts on the Amazon/Hachette battle where authors are being used as cannon fodder, and also reading up on some plagiarism and general nastiness that's been happening on the indie author front.

I've always wondered if I had a thick enough skin to handle things like scathing reviews (I know everyone gets them), but I'd decided publishing would be worth it--but reading up on these and other author issues made me start to question whether I even wanted to bother with publishing.

And then I thought about regret, and what it would mean for me to give up this dream I've had since I was at least twelve. And I don't want that. That stomach-twisting, mind-spinning regret would be worse for me than any number of bad reviews, any comments by trolls, any headaches over queries and rejection letters, any hassles with publishers.

"What if I had" is a question that can't be answered.

So, at least today, I'm not going to ask it. I'm going to let the threat of regret scare me into action.

My current word-count goal is 500/day (these days it's enough to challenge me). This post puts me at 609... but I still need to work on my book. ;-) What goal are you working on today?

7 comments:

  1. That's a sad story, but it has a good "ending". Fear and regret can both cripple. Keep on keepin' on, beautiful.

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    1. Thanks for your constant encouragement. :-)

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  2. Lovely resolve. Even though it's kind of sad, I love the story of that man learning to dance. It motivates me to act now. I might not have a later.

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    1. I've never forgotten the look on his face; the regret mixed with determination. It was a good lesson for me. I'm glad you appreciated it too.

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  3. My biggest fear is that I'll look back at my life with regret. And even though I know that regret is going to be a part of my mortal experience, I try every day to do what is important. Sometimes that means I practice my dancing, sometimes I write a lot, and sometimes the important things are snuggling with my little ones or spending some time listening to my teen's latest drumline composition. I hope that I can live every day without regret.

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    1. Good goal! It's such a tough balance to find, but worth working on, I think.

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  4. A friend and I were talking today. She said that bad things don't happen, they are just experiences to help us grow. I was reminded that what makes things bad is our attitude toward them. My goal is to ponder more and to apply the things I learn to my daily life.

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