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Prompted By Regrets

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I can think of lots of things I should regret…or that you might think I would regret. I married a drug addict, for one. But if not for him, I wouldn’t have the same beloved daughter I have, or the same beloved granddaughters. I do kind of regret that I didn’t demand child support or alimony when I left him, but I knew I’d never get it and didn’t want to deal with what it would take to even try, and frankly, I didn’t want him to have a say in raising our daughter. And now I’m proud that I did it my way, on my own. But then again, I wish I’d chosen a better man to be her father. It gets kind of twisty.

But that whole subject speaks to something much larger, and something much more nebulous, my only real regret: I regret that I didn’t have more self-esteem, more sense of self in general. For reasons I now only partially understand, I learned not to ask for much, not to expect much. Maybe it had to do with the perversely humorous plaque hanging on the wall in my parents’ bedroom as I was growing up: “Before You Ask, the Answer is No!” Maybe I took it to heart. Maybe that would explain why I didn’t aim higher. Why I didn’t go to university, become a boss instead of a secretary, and even decades later, an attorney instead of a court reporter. Didn’t I deserve bigger, better, more?

To tell you the truth, I’ve always been mystified by the “because I deserve it” attitude. Is it a good thing to feel you deserve anything? Or, don’t we all deserve the best? Maybe it’s just semantics.

In any event, it’s taken me years (and the writing of a memoir) to figure myself out. Now I’m just grateful to have finally learned to make better choices. And in retrospect, I don’t regret one thing…because each thing led me to exactly where I am today. And THAT’S a good thing!

Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: funny, moving, well written


  1. Dave Ventre says:

    A revealing tale! I’m an Adult Child of an Alcoholic Parent). Al-Anon lists twelve traits of ACOAs (because they are in love with the number twelve). I have eleven of them! A corrosive lack of self-confidence is embodied in most of their dirty dozen. I know two people whose parents were sober but cold and/or abusive, and they suffer from the same suite of problems.

    • Thanks, Dave…you’re right on the money. Add to that early childhood abandonment and a big, fat family secret (just that Daddy wasn’t my bio dad—-no big deal, right?) and I was the poster child. I wish I had discovered Al-Anon early on…now most of my friends are in it.

      • Dave Ventre says:

        I’m not IN Al-Anon; never been much of a joiner, and their insistence on an underlying spirituality leaves this atheist science-nerd cold. But I can admit that groups like that probably know some stuff.

        Our big family secret was that my Mom’s second husband, who married her and raised us as his own, was in fact my (but not my 13 month’s younger brother) biological father. When I learned that tidbit, it explained my maternal grandfather’s deep dislike of me. When he called me “a little dago bastard” he was merely being literal 🙂

        • I’m not in Al-Anon either, but I’ve found it interesting that the people I gravitate to these days are. Not because of the spiritual aspect, but because of the shared experiences that make us who we are. And “ouch” re your grandfather. The whole idea of family secrets is, well, a mystery. Why go to all that trouble when we can all handle the truth when push comes to shove.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    As you say, life gets kind of a twisty. Continuing to grow and appreciate the trade-offs is wisdom, and who wouldn’t want that instead of carrying on thoughtlessly? I agree that writing can be very enlightening. Your writing is always spectacular.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Very poignant and meaningful story of your choices through life, Barb. And even before I got to your last paragraph I was going to tell you that you had nothing to regret and much to be proud of. So glad you realize that, too. Hurrah, you!

  4. Cogent, credible, thought provoking, and sobering. I salute you for your graceful way of addressing an uncomfortable topic.

  5. Marian says:

    So moving, Barb, and I wonder if my low self-esteem, similar to yours, comes about through the “children should be seen ….” attitude of that time. Did you ever feel you had a voice in your own family? I know I didn’t. All that said, you are so right about your journey and it ending up showing you what an amazing person you are!

  6. Suzy says:

    Barb, you’ve written a wonderful story about why, ultimately, you have come to realize that you don’t regret anything. A perfect response to this prompt! Your title reminded me of the beautiful Judy Collins song – not sure if you had that in mind or not.

  7. That’s a good thing indeed Bebe, and because of who and where you are now, your Retro friends know you!

    Can’t wait to read that memoir!

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Barb, you always reveal so much to us, your Retro friends. You don’t hold back here either. As others have noted, you’ve been on a journey of finding self-worth and (I hate to use this term, but here it is) self-actualization. I’m thrilled that writing your memoir helped you along that path and now you’ve learned that you regret nothing. We can all learn from your example, rocky though that road may have been.

    • It’s too bad that terms like self-help and self-actualization have become so cliché as to be shunned when they’re really such positive concepts. Don’t we all like to feel like we’re still growing, learning, becoming? The older we become, the more we become who we are. Or something like that. LOL.

  9. Laurie Levy says:

    You made an important choice overall, which is to regret nothing (or at least not dwell on regrets or what-ifs). Your memoir will be very interesting and writing it is a perfect way to come to terms with life choices and their impact on who you are today.

    • Thanks, Laurie. It really is about not dwelling on regrets…we all have them, including me, but just like sadness, I think they add to the depth of our existence. I had a friend who burned all her photos from the ’60s and ’70s…now that’s regret! I don’t trust anyone who is (1) perfectly happy and (2) has no regrets. LOL.

  10. Susan Bennet says:

    So beautifully expressed, Barbara. I believe the only worthwhile regret worth having is the one we feel when we have hurt others. And the fact that we feel regret for this is a redeeming sign in itself. It sounds to me like your twists and turns in life have led you to a good place. Congratulations.

    • Susan, your comment gives me great pause. As evidenced by all our stories, the word “regret” can cover a broad spectrum of circumstances, some within our power, some not. Your narrow definition is the one I choose to think of from now on. Thank you so much for this!

  11. For you and your twisty path to being here now.

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