Posts Tagged ‘Woody Allen’

File:David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell.jpgPerhaps it’s timely, especially post-election when losers and supporters of all stripes and kinds are still nursing wounds and regretting so much about ‘what might’ve been.’

And it’s almost too convenient a topic to bring up the ‘woulda-coulda-shouldas’ now that the airwaves are full of L’affaire Petraeus of which, Petraeus friend and former spokesman Steve Boylan says the now ex-CIA Director mea culpas “he regrets it on so many levels.” Or as we once said about a hapless high school buddy at his shotgun-wedding — ‘a moment’s pleasure, a lifetime of regret.’

So talk about timing, on Sunday there was another one of those occasional articles that crop up now and then about life regrets writ big and small and particularly about remorse and repentance that comes at life’s end.

Written by a Jewish rabbi, scholar and author, Erica Brown, “Death: A Nice Opportunity for Regret” detailed an exercise Rabbi Brown conducted where she asked her students to list their small and large regrets on index cards. The responses were insightful, even poignant.

“We rarely connect regret to death, but then we rarely connect death to anything because we’d rather talk about grocery shopping, gardening and taxes. Reading my students’ regrets helped me understand the connection between regret and death,” she wrote.


Even “Ol’ Blue Eyes” who while doing things “My Way,” had his regrets, even if they “were too few to mention.“Regret,” it’s been said, “is insight that comes a day too late” — although Woody Allen famously wagged that, “My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” And Arthur Miller summed it up thusly, “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” 

We try to avoid it but “the feeling of regret” has a way of catching up to us. Fortunately, most of the time, our regrets are private ones.

Some people have regrets about financial matters, like buying a house or overspending. And others, like professional golfers have their own share of embarrassing regrets.

And yes, even lawyers, have their own share of prosaic regrets, like attending law school or becoming a lawyer. Just 3 years ago, a LexisNexis survey revealed 21% of law students regretted the choice.

George Costanza, who some of you may have now discovered is one of my most quotable philosophers, once decided “to do the opposite” rather than “sit here and do nothing and regret it the rest of the day.”

Our top regrets.

But as for inventorying our final regrets, well before we utter those final words or write them down on classroom index cards, reflection confirms what studies categorize as our biggest life regrets. They’re neatly compiled into “common domains” like regrets about education, career, romance and parenting.

A few years ago, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware came up with her own list, gleaned from those about to slip their mortal coils. She identified them as the “Top five regrets of the dying.”

As a nurse involved in hospice care, Ware had the perfect vantage point. She cared for patients at the end of life and then blogged about their deathbed revelations at her blog called “Inspiration and Chai.”

Ware’s top 5 list resonates with truth:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Transforming regret.

In her essay, Rabbi Brown notes “You can’t eliminate a regret, but you can transform one.” This, of course, presupposes there’s time sufficient for transformation — never a given when you don’t ordinarily knowabout that day or hour.”

It’s been frequently said that at the end, not many of us will regret not having stayed longer at work “or not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.”

In discussing what he called Habit 2, “Begin with the end in mind,” the late Steven Covey memorably asked readers in his best-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, to create “A Personal Mission Statement.

The way to do this, according to Covey, was to start at the end — by envisioning our own funerals. “Imagine that as your casket is being lowered down into the ground and your family and friends are standing around watching. What are they thinking about? When they think of you and your life, which statements, images and memories come up to their minds?

“What do you want them to think, imagine, and remember? It is precisely these statements, images, and memories which should be your principles.”

By living in the moment but cognizant of where we’re headed, at the end — at least we might get to that place once said about living. “Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.”


Photo Credits: General David Petraeus, Commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, with author Paula Broadwell, via Wikipedia Commons image is a work of a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made during the course of an employee’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the publicdomain.


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A well-meaning soul this week forwarded a list of New Year’s resolutions for lawyers. It was the usual paltry paeans of pabulum to professionalism. Or as the Brits may have once said, “Pip, pip, cheerio and all that rot.”
                                                                                                                      Such resolution lists make their creators feel good but are otherwise of little effect. Lofty admonitions for improved professionalism are applauded by the self-satisfied paragons of ethical virtue. But they’re ignored by those uncultivated by such concerns. And then there are the others who think it’s something for ‘the other guy’ to worry about.

Or they misread the obvious even when it’s right in front of their noses. Reminds me of the old joke about the two Irish ditch diggers digging a ditch directly across from a house of ill repute. Suddenly, they see a rabbi walk up to the brothel’s front door. He glances about and ducks inside. “Ah, will you look at that?” one ditch digger says to the other. “What’s our world comin’ to when men of th’ cloth are visitin’ such places?” 

                                                                                                                                                                                 A short time later, a Protestant minister walks up to the same door and slips quietly inside. “Do you believe that?” one exclaims. “Why, ’tis no wonder th’ young people today are so confused, what with the example clergymen set for them!”
                                                                                                                                                                             Not much later, the two men watch a Catholic priest approach the door and quickly enter. “Ah, what a pity,” one digger says, leaning on his shovel. “One of th’ poor lasses must be ill.”
                                                                                                                                                              Showing up.

“Half of life,” Woody Allen said,“is just showing up.” So at the end of another year, rather than invoke the same old tired retrospectives or conjure up another list of empty resolutions, I ruminate instead on the messiness of life – – – the half of life that happens after showing up.

On the verge of a New Year, friends will get divorced. Some will lose their homes. Others will face daunting business reversals or will have to work past difficult professional challenges. Some will continue facing fearful illnesses and others will deal with the tragic eventual loss of loved ones. Paraphrasing what either Bette Davis or Art Linkletter said about old age – “Life is not for sissies.”

And examined or unexamined, it’s messy. And you don’t have to be Socrates to know that.

And while the messiness of life means as C.S. Lewis wrote, that hearts get “wrung and possibly broken.” It beats a tidy life free of entanglements, which while“casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless” – – – is no life at all.

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