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.