Don't look back - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Because I am someone with more than a passing interest in the work of the great Jane Fonda, the cover story from this month’s issue of Glamour made its way to me last week. Fonda is on the cover an amazing 60 years after she first graced that page.
In addition to being a life retrospective of one of the world’s greatest actors and activists, the article serves as a commentary on aging. (That’s right - the countdown to turning 40 continues for those who were worried.) The headline that made the rounds, pulled from the article itself, was that upon turning 60, Fonda undertook a “life review”, saying she didn’t want to “get to the end with a lot of regrets.”
Another article from a few years back with similar keywords shows that Fonda regrets not sleeping with Marvin Gaye when he was up for it. And while the rank-and-file residents of the world like you and I might not have a sexual encounter with Gaye on our list of regrets, the idea of regret is an interesting one.
In Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson’s sprawling 1999 movie, a character played by Jason Robards is on his deathbed and his big speech is about regret before he passes on (made all the more gripping by the fact that Robards was terminally ill while filming).
So often, it seems like when someone has an opportunity to look back at something: a life, a career, a years-long project, an education, etc., they focus on regrets and missed opportunities rather than accomplishments and positive turns of fortune.
Fonda, when she still had time (she described turning 60 as entering the third act of her life) took stock of her life and threw herself into the things she wanted to do so she wasn’t left lamenting regrets instead of celebrating achievements. (Think of the famous Wayne Gretzky quote, “you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.)
As I’ve tried to shift my perspective a bit in recent years, I’ve actively tried to focus on the positives in life; enjoying what I have instead of complaining about what I don’t, basically. It hasn’t always been easy, but I can safely say I live my life pretty free of regrets. (Marvin Gaye died before I turned two, so that one wasn’t really an option for me, I suppose.)
That’s not, of course, to say that my life has been perfect. No one’s life is. But really, regret is just like worrying (something I’ve been guilty of my whole life), in that it doesn’t change anything... under any circumstances.
Could Jess and I have gotten married earlier? Sure. Could we have five children now instead of one? Sure. But there’s just no sense in lamenting things you can’t change.
I guess this is something that’s worth passing down to Tallulah as she learns more about life, opportunity and, yes, regret. Right now, I doubt she regrets much. She’s pretty focused on her toys, her family and her food. But surely those days of regret will come and it’s on me and Jess to ensure that Tallulah knows that, with few exceptions, whatever she’s battling will not be the end of the world.
No doubt, we both want Tallulah to live her life without regrets, to seize every opportunity that presents itself and to look back one day and know that she did all that she could in the time that she had. We’re not all that lucky, but that is a parent’s hope for their child.
As for me, reflecting back on nearly 40 years of decisions, actions and reactions, I don’t regret much, not just because there’s no point, but because I feel like I’ve lived life the best I could with what I’ve been given.
We could all travel more, do more and be in better shape, but the trick is to focus on what you’ve done, rather than what you haven’t.