Yeah, this may end up being a weird one.
I have never been a creature of regrets, or of Regret. This is not to say I am without them, or without at least the one, but I speak not of creatures possessing or possessed of regrets—too common and numerous to call out—I speak of the creature-forms that we could arguably assign to Regrets Themselves.
Pardon the play at perverse anthropomorphism, but I rarely follow any vec’t’ral, spectral sinkhole-rabbithole to an appreciable extreme without having a point to it: furrow a brow, furrow a rich patch of soil and it’s the same thing if you let it be.
And I’m used to dredging trenches in No Man’s Land while others carve runnels at roadsides and call them rivers.
A given regret is a creature, a creature who respires dative-cases and flicks genitive- and nominative- case instances over the wall into ablative distress. Time flows through its veins and chronoglobins (I am a Princely Instance of neologisms) exchange time for kinetics as the Regret employs this particular chemistry to maintain serum pH and serve its own bodily needs.
Regrets are the trickster’s trickster: even Raven, even Coyote, even Hermes could only live if they lived without, using all manner of excuses for extraordinary behavior to create orchards and meadows and caves inhospitable to the needs of Regrets beings.
One necessarily has to travel backwards…to the Past…to locate a Regret: they’re born in the future but pupate back through time and emerge from the chrysalis only when they’ve breathed in enough of the unspent energy you’ve cast off in not-deciding, in not-choosing the better path or in acting the better man or in thinking through the bigger plan or bigger picture or in willing your exhausted metaphorical muscles to hold the bow, armed, for as long as necessary in order to achieve the only Spannungsbögen that will permit you to continue to exist as your true self.
Shed any of that energy capriciously or disappointingly and Regret will be there, honored guest at that feast, to live off of what you’ve thrown away. And with each passing meal Regret becomes ever the more dependent on your particular energy, ever more the parasite.
But remember (suss out?) that Regrets live backwards: born in the future, grow and consume and grow towards you calendrically and come to full form when there is finally enough excess free energy in which to transform: that energy comes from you. The energy you wish you’d directed into waiting, into focused attention, into parsimoniousness or alacrity, into calculated perspicacity—tenebrous or transparent.
But your failure sires that Regret, and as a creature of time that lives in nothing but your past—it shows up on the scene first at your fuckup. It keeps growing larger and more menacing as your past gets more distant as you look back on it, but already existing in your present and future—its present and past.
The results? As you finally come around to realizing a Regret and identifying it and its scope and other parameters, you realize that in being ready to talk about it, the Creature Regret is out there sowing its wild oats with people who know nothing of its character or origins. People you care about. People you don’t want to hurt by exposing the Regret.
For you, the Regret is in the past, a past you desperately want to rectify or at least spread knowledge of wide and thin so that others will notice if you’re developing the same pattern again. For others, assaults on that Regret are assaults on their present, their limbs, their friends, their family, their own versions of their own history.
This is the point at which a Regret-as-Creature appears to be indistinguishable from the immature, selfish, self-involved neverlander who insists that others keep his life afloat while he carries on in his untenable, unsustainable lifestyle: Pups need feeding; slaves need decisions made for them; codependents will need-you-bleed-you dry. Those left behind have memories and little else and who wants to sully those if you can help it?
It’s classic brinkmanship going on here, and after all the soul-searching and the foot-stomping and the what-iffing and if-onlying, it comes to this: this is the real cost of the Regret: not the time lost; not the lost could-have-beens or roads-not-taken or even people you hurt or who you permitted to treat you ill.
No, the real cost of Regret is ugly, throbbing, absolutely untenable and public exposure of your own decency, your own morality, your own ethics, your own maturity: If you have yet to be dispossessed of such things—and really, why would you still be reading if you had been?—you must simply endure.
Endure the perhaps-still-present environment that brought the Regret into existence, the same people doing the same things for the same reasons. Endure the unspeakably unlivable notion that if there’s comeuppance or justice or a twisted sense of Karma, those are not yours to dispense. Endure the unfairness of fortunes that befall each and all of them and you. Endure that you are still alive: endure that you still endure.
Endure. Simply endure. Because outliving the future birth of the Regret (and then when it finally reverts to embryo and then winks out of existence) lands you in a world where that Regret Creature no longer ever was. Simply never was. No one had ever heard of him/it because he never happened.
Bad science fiction meets the most concretely beautiful Buddhist core spirituality, and you emerge in that new land. The land on the other side of the crucible.
I’ve been there. And I arrive there in new, little ways almost every day.
All our worlds are full of creatures of astonishing variety. It’s all in how the light hits them. Thing is, we are light: we are what reflects off of them.