The title is from a Sting song, and, translated, it means The Beautiful Woman without Regrets. He sings it in French, and, in any language, it's kind of a dark song. He doesn't understand her, this woman without regrets; and he cries: "tu brises mon coeur," which means "you break my heart." I've always been a bit enchanted by the song, thinking that la Belle Dame may have no regrets, but the man singing to her probably does.
"No regrets" has always been one of my mantras; it's an essential part of what, to me, is living a good life. It's a theme that I fixate on in songs like Sting's, and in books and movies. For instance, there's this beautiful scene in The City of Angels [spoiler alert!] where Nicolas Cage's character, in reference to Meg Ryan's late one, affirms that it was worth giving up his angel status to fall to earth as a mortal even just for one whiff of her hair in real life. I have loved like that, and I totally get it. No one wants to reach the end of their life and wish they'd have lived it differently. Heck, no one wants to live a day like that; yet the inertia brought about by life's minutiae -- getting the kids to school on time, meeting the deadline, paying the bills, bedtime again -- sometimes makes changing course kind of hard. If one seeks, like I do, to live life with no regrets, one has to be very brave and sometimes say: I want things to be better than what they are. And it takes even more courage to actually be different -- to make the change, to be the person we'd like to be, to prioritize living a good life over living the life we're living -- the one we think is right for everybody else, or the one that looks right to the world.
If you were to live the best life you could, what would your playbook look like? What would be your core principles, your guidelines, your affirmations and mantras and promises to yourself and to others? I've been ruminating on that a lot, and here's the start of my list, in no specific order:
- Find the funny in the everyday, and laugh out loud at it, even if everyone thinks you're nuts. After all, it's not the years of life that counts in the end -- it's the life in those years. Make them ridiculously fun.
- Be a friend to all, the kind of friend you'd like to have, to your actual friends, but also to your spouse, to your family members, to your kids.
- Likewise, choose friends wisely. Over time, friendships change; give yourself permission to let go when necessary, and be brave enough to invite someone new out for coffee. Friends chosen and kept well become family in time.
- Prioritize open family communication, even when it comes at inconvenient times that kids often pick. Drop everything when that happens and engage. If you want kids who will listen to you, listen to them. Same deal with spouses: talking early about uncomfortable stuff may help you to avoid big problems down the line. (Same deal with parents, siblings, and pretty much anybody...)
- Make mistakes, and learn from them; but when they affect others adversely, say you're sorry, and mean it. And don't make the same mistake again.
- Remember that it's always okay to push the reset button.
- Say no when you really don't want to take something on. Say yes when it's the right thing to do for yourself and for others -- in balance. Martyrdom is for losers.
- But: help when it's unexpected and most greatly needed. Notice the elderly, especially, and teach your kids to notice them, too. Hope that other kids have learned that respect when they're older.
- Find a way to serve others. The day will come when you need help, and it flows most easily to those who've given it readily. (And if that day never comes, what a blessing!)
- Prioritize yourself. Everything else is easier to take care of if self-care comes first; and much harder if self-care is the last priority.
- Remain future-focused, and not mired in the past. Let it go. Move on.
- Love is not a boomerang. Give of it freely, but know it doesn't always come back; and accept that. Self-love, however, reaps greater rewards than any love given to someone else.
- Don't lose faith: not in oneself, one's God, or one's fellow man.
- Believe that people are inherently good; and be a good example of that.
- Bite your tongue. So many things are better left unsaid.
- Be patient.
- Learn something new everyday, however you can; bonus points for sharing it.
- Soak in the beauty around you: in nature, and in people -- especially in people. Everyone is beautiful in some way.
... and yes: try hard to have no regrets.
To be clear, I've failed at this whole list multiple times over. But, I'm trying -- trying to live life with an intention: to get to the end of it and know that I've loved hard, laughed much, and lived as well as I could have. I may not be La Belle Dame Sans Regrets, but I aim to try hard -- and to not break any hearts along the way, most especially my own.
Tell me: how do you go about living a good life?