Making amends can help loosen the weight of the past.
We all struggle with regret and making amends. It can be hard to climb out of the canyon of lament at how our lives have unfolded, and to discern what can and can’t be done as we move forward. The word regret comes from the Old French word regreter, “one who bewails the dead,” and this goes further back to the German root meaning “to greet.” We always face these two phases of regret: to bewail what is dead and gone, and, if we can move through that grief, to greet the chance to do things differently as we move on.
I regret the years my father and I wasted while we were estranged. I regret having fallen backward on my dear dog’s right paw when she was five, which broke a bone under a tendon. I can still hear her yelp. I regret that 1,500 copies of my second book, my epic poem Fire Without Witness, were destroyed without my knowledge. I can hear the characters trying to run off the pages as they burned.
I’ve learned that regret is like striking a large bell in an empty field and then running through the wild grass trying to gather the sound of the strike back into the bell. It’s impossible. All that’s …