cocktail party photo

 

Where I live, on a large island floating in the Salish Sea, there aren’t many urbane, urban-style cocktail parties. That’s a good thing, to me, because COCKTAIL PARTY is on my list of things I don’t do.

I used to be able to make small talk and feign interest with a fake smile. When I couldn’t manage that any longer I learned to create small parties inside large ones. At the last cocktail party I ever attended, in the penthouse suite of a large hotel, another guest and I (nursing our third drinks as I recall) huddled in a corner and figured out how to solve most of our country’s social ills. He, a Michigan State Patrol officer, and I, a non-profit grant writer, decided we would use all social service funding only for people under the age of three. We could lavish them with all the nutrition, health care, education, and interpersonal communication training they needed, and we’d teach them how to become exceptional parents for the next generation. Anyone over the age of three when our brilliant project began would simply have to fend for themselves until society had righted itself. We thought we had a damned fine plan. But that was thirty years ago – I think I’m wiser and kinder now. And I don’t do cocktail parties any more.

Another thing on my list: I’m an adventurous eater; I’ll eat anything – with just two exceptions. I’ve known for decades that I don’t do SARDINES. I literally can’t force one to pass my lips. Then this past summer I discovered another “don’t do.” Anna, my eldest granddaughter, just graduated from college and came from Michigan for a lovely visit. She’s a fan of microbreweries, so we went pub-hopping. Turns out I like the “pub” part, but not the HOPS in the beers and ales. Not even in “hopped cider.” It makes me feel ill. Just can’t do it.

Also, I don’t do UGLY. I know beauty is subjective, but if an object isn’t beautiful in the eyes of this beholder, I don’t want it at all.

And I don’t do UMBRELLAS. They’re more of an encumbrance than a protection, even – and especially – during a windy downpour.

Finally, and most importantly, I don’t do REGRET. Regretting has two cousins: worrying and second-guessing. Worry is regretting today something that might happen tomorrow (and as a friend says, “it’s a waste of imagination”); second-guessing is worrying today about whether one should be regretting something that happened yesterday. Pretty silly tail-chasing, I think. It’s not that regret, worry, and second-guessing never cross my mind – they do. But I let them go as quickly as possible. To grasp them, collect and nurture them – that’s a waste of precious energy.

We all have to make choices all the time. We all have to make decisions. The grown-up thing to do is take responsibility for those decisions, perhaps making an apology or two along the way. Some choices will turn out as you expect and some won’t, but eventually all decisions, made with good intention, will get you to where you’re supposed to be. It may not be where you expected to be, and it may have taken a very circuitous route to get there, but you will arrive where you are meant to be, having learned what you were meant to learn. No cause for regret. I believe that with my whole being.

I’m glad the social changes the trooper and I planned at that cocktail party didn’t see the light of day, and I probably deserved the headache I had the next morning. But I don’t regret having played with the idea – it led to other ways of thinking about marginalization.

I don’t regret anything that has happened in my life, even the really, really awful things. All of them have molded me into who I have become. And I like who I am. I don’t regret myself at all.

I simply don’t “do” regret, any more than I “do” umbrellas, ugly, cocktail parties, hops . . . and sardines.

sardine photo

20 replies
  1. Gary
    Gary says:

    In 1968 I was studying with Swami Satprakashanadra a purveyor of Vedanta. One of his favorite talks was the four paths to enlightenment. One of those paths was jnani yoga and within that teaching the technique of neti neti or not this not this. Essentially this was a practice that eliminated all the qualities and expressions of the Divine until at the end of the day you ended up with no –thing.

    Who would of thought that small talk cocktail parties and sardines were steps along the path to realization. But then you knew that all along…….

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Nope, I didn’t know that for sure.
      All I know is that I don’t like sardines or cocktail parties!
      When I write a blog post about the things I DO “do,” will that take away all the spiritual points I gained in writing this post on what I DON’T “do”?

      Reply
  2. Allan
    Allan says:

    Great list. While I do do cocktails, I’m not big on urbane cocktail parties – at least not anymore. Good thing, given I live on the same island. I do some sardines — preferably fresh or skinless and boneless. Not big on hopped beer but do like me some dry cider. Umbrellas? Not in Puget Sound! I wear hats. I appreciate not doing ugly, but only when it applies to attitudes, behavior or esthetics, not to people’s appearances. And while I sometimes feel remorse, I am not sure I do regret anymore.
    A great list, and as Dot Read said, a great writing prompt.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Great distinctions, Allan. Not allowing people’s appearances to compete in the ugly/beautiful dichotomy is important. I’m not sure when or how remorse becomes regret . . . is it a matter of time? Depth? Clinging to vs letting go? I think this may have to be a red-wine-in-front-of-a-winter-fireplace kind of discussion. But in the meantime, I agree about rain hats – very useful, provided you don’t mind hat-hair – which no one on Whidbey Island seems to!

      Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Possibly I got his number at the time – I’m sure we’d have made plans to expand our amazing project! But I assume that he, like me, sobered up by the next day and went back to our ordinary corners of the work world. And he, like me, would now be about 30 years older. However, if I should find his number, I promise I’ll pass it along to you.

      Reply
  3. Eileen Grostic
    Eileen Grostic says:

    So fun to read your wisdom, Cynthia! I love your thinking, as to social service funds and helping little ones to be all they are meant to be. How blessed to love who YOU are and be all that you are.

    The sardines and hops are just too funny — you are such a lady! Thanks for sharing your words.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Thanks, Eileen. This blog is a fun way to stay connected. I never know what I’m going to write until I start writing. So far I’ve kept my commitment to myself to write one a month – over 40 now . I started it to promote my book, when I first got a publisher, and now I’ve decided it’s more fun to just think out loud once a month, and get great responses from folks around the country!

      Reply
  4. Dorothy Read
    Dorothy Read says:

    This is a great reflective prompt for a writing exercise, Cynthia: “Six Things I Do NOT Do.” And how cleverly you turn it into a thoughtful message on regret. Your blog is always a worthwhile read.

    Reply
  5. DAMIAN TRENSHAW
    DAMIAN TRENSHAW says:

    What and interesting and diverse list of things you don’t do. You GO Girl. Personally, I don’t do “I Don’t Do” lists, preferring to think of things I do do and that’s a mighty short list.
    Love you;
    Bo.

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I’m thinking of following up this blog post with one on the things I do do – and it’s a very LONG list! One of the healthiest things on my list will be “whinging.” “Whinge” is a word used in Britain more than in the US, and it means the same thing as “whine,” but it’s a sort of sophisticated whine. I think it’s a great thing to do from time to time – whinge eloquently, and then get on with your day.

      Reply
  6. Ted
    Ted says:

    Bravo, Cynthia! I’m with you on everything except sardines. I’ll take the sardines and you can have the cilantro. I don’t do cilantro. Tastes like soap to me. Otherwise, your writing and your presence is a breath of fresh air, and much appreciated. Abundant blessings to you always!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Cilantro tastes like dirty socks to me, but I’ll still eat it from time to time. But not sardines. In fact, I’d rather eat actual dirty socks than sardines!

      Reply
  7. Anna
    Anna says:

    Happy to have helped you find one of your “don’ts”! How interesting, though, after all of the similarities we found we have, your “don’t” is my “do”?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      I guess that’s what makes our world interesting, my dear. And isn’t it wonderful that neither one is a deal-breaker?!

      Reply
  8. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    I don’t “do” internet acronyms, but a new acronym has just materialized for me: SOACA (standing on a chair applauding)

    Brava, Cynthia!

    Reply

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