Do you know the famous French song “Non, je ne regrette rien” (“No, I do not regret anything”) made famous by singer Édith Piaf? If you don’t, take a listen here, I’ll wait….
I first encountered this song years ago when I was studying French. I thought the song was pretty, but I did not really think much about the words.
I thought again about this song today, as I was listening to Nora Ephron’s memoir, I Feel Bad About My Neck. Ephron mentions this song (quote reprinted below):
“I loathed being sixty-four, and I will hate being sixty-five. I don’t let on about such things in person; in person, I am cheerful and Pollyannaish. But the honest truth is that it’s sad to be over sixty. The long shadows are everywhere—friends dying and battling illness. A miasma of melancholy hangs there, forcing you to deal with the fact that your life, however happy and successful, has been full of disappointments and mistakes, little ones and big ones. There are dreams that are never quite going to come true, ambitions that will never quite be realized. There are, in short, regrets. Edith Piaf was famous for singing a song called ‘Non, je ne regrette rien.’ It’s a good song. I know what she meant. I can get into it; I can make a case that I regret nothing. After all, most of my mistakes turned out to be things I survived, or turned into funny stories, or, on occasion, even made money from.”
I am, at present, both “cheerful and Pollyannaish,” and even though things do not always go my way, I (mostly) regret nothing.
Things I Never Regret
- Big life decisions. Life is too big and complicated to think “if I had only blah, blah, blah, then my life would be so much better blah, blah, blah.” If something didn’t happen — it did not happen! Thinking that things could have happened any other way can be mentally exhausting (I have seen this sort of anguish play out in others). Maybe this next bit is a maladaptive thing to say, but I much prefer to fret about the future than dwell on the past.
- Apologizing. Feeling sorry is an icky experience. Even if I do not fully understand why I am at fault, if a sincere “sorry” will smooth things over, I will certainly take the highroad.
- Declining an invitation, I was not interested in. Sometimes I’ll accept to be nice, but I won’t beat myself up for not trying to people please.
- Paying someone a compliment. Little things can go a loooong way 🙂
- Looking weird for carrying a UV umbrella when it’s sunny. Skin health is mega important. Haters gonna hate.
- Wishing Someone a Happy Birthday!
When I do regret things, they are often minor and not terribly memorable.
Little Things I Do Regret
- Little Insults. Some things slip out in the heat of the moment…they don’t make me feel good long afterward.
- Not double checking. It takes like 30 seconds to check a bag to make sure you have your wallet, keys, sunglasses, phone, ID, etc.; I will always regret forgetting to bring an item simply because I did not check my bag. P.S. This LITERALLY happened to me this morning when I forgot my UV umbrella….
- Not capturing enough memories. Sometimes I regret not writing something down, not taking enough photos, or simply not paying enough attention.
- Any tiny embarrassment. I have a low tolerance for being uncomfortable.
So, in the end, je ne regrette presque rien (I regret almost nothing) and I hope you do too, Dear Reader.*
*Unless, of course, you have committed gross crimes against humanity not limited to terrorism, acts of genocide, war, or have even committed minor injustices, offenses, verbal, emotional, sexual, physical, psychic, supernatural, or telepathic assaults on others, have abused your position in office, have systematically oppressed or discriminated against people for their race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, national origin or otherwise, have maliciously broken promises, have left a giant mess, because it was “someone else’s job to clean it up,” lied with an intent to cause injury, given false testimony in a court of law, stolen from others or establishments, betrayed someone close to you, or have told a young child that “Santa isn’t real” before he or she was ready to hear those words.
In any of the above cases — I implore you to seriously think about what you have done… shame.